(Originally published 11/20/12.)
In the wake of the terrible devastation from Hurricane Sandy, there is help available to those directly affected.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that several lenders have agreed to offer relief to their mortgage borrowers in the areas affected by Storm Sandy. This relief can be in the form of:
- 90-day postponements on foreclosures.
- 90-day waivers of late fees on mortgage payments.
- Consideration of 90-day or more forbearance on mortgage payments.
- Waiver of interest where a refinance has been closed but not yet funded.
- Some lenders have stated they will NOT notify credit bureaus if borrowers make late payments during this time of difficulty.
If you anticipate a hardship, it is critical that you communicate this to your lender. All communications should begin via phone. Document whom you spoke to and what was said. Then reconfirm your hardship and these conversations in writing to your lender. As always, to protect yourself from the errors and snafus that are bound to happen which could seriously damage your finances and credit, it’s critical you maintain a paper trail confirming all that was discussed, offered, and agreed upon.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also offering assistance for housing needs stemming from Storm Sandy. You MAY be eligible if ALL of the following apply:
- You are a US citizen, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien.
- You have a valid social security number.
- You have losses in an area declared a disaster by the President. (These include the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and the five boroughs of New York City.)
- You have filed for insurance benefits and the damage to your property is not covered by your insurance, or your insurance settlement is insufficient to meet your losses.
- The effected home is your primary residence or is where you were living at the time of the disaster.
- You are not able to live in your home, you cannot get to your home due to the disaster, or your home requires repairs due to the disaster.
You may NOT be eligible if:
- You have other adequate rent-free housing that you can use.
- Your damaged home is a second home or vacation property.
- Your expenses resulted from you leaving your home as a precaution and you were able to return immediately after the incident.
- You refused assistance from your insurance company.
- Your only losses were business losses.
- The subject property is located in a designated flood hazard area and your community does not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. In this case you may still qualify for rental assistance or for coverage of items not covered by your flood insurance.
For more information, go to www.fema.gov/do-i-qualify-housing-needs-assistance.
Via the Governor’s Disaster Homeownership Repair and Rebuilding Fund, New York State will provide grants (not loans) of up to $10,000 to homeowners who have already qualified for FEMA grants. You MAY be eligible if:
- You live in Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, or one of the five boroughs of New York City.
- You have to rebuild or substantially repair your primary residence due to damage from Sandy.
- You have already qualified for a FEMA housing assistance grant capped at $31,900.
- Your FEMA grant did NOT cover the full cost of damage to your home, according to FEMA’s appraisal.
- New funding would NOT duplicate assistance you are already receiving from other government agencies or your personal insurance.
For more information, call 855-NYS-SANDY (855-697-7263).
Lastly, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are a primary source of money to pay for homeowner or renter repairs or replacement costs not fully covered by insurance or other sources of compensation. These funds are provided in the form of low-interest disaster loans.
- Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence.
- Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.
To begin, you must register with FEMA by calling 800-621-3362. Then apply online at https://DisasterLoan.sba.gov/ela. Or, apply in person at any Disaster Recovery Center in your area.
The devastation we’ve seen from Hurricane Sandy is truly tragic and unprecedented. However, there is help available to recover. Ask for assistance. As mentioned before, communication and documentation is critical. I appreciate how difficult this may be if your home, office, or records have been destroyed. Nevertheless, it’s critical you document every communication and correspondence with your lender and all government agencies. This is the ONLY way you can avoid further problems, delays, issues, or damage to your home, finances, and credit.
Warren Goldberg is a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist and a published author. His interviews include Blog-Talk Radio, Newsday, and the Long Island Herald. Since 1992, he’s been sharing his financial knowledge and wealth-building strategies, including how to properly use your mortgage as a financial tool. His clients regularly express their trust and appreciation by recommending friends and family call when in need of mortgage, real estate, and financial guidance.