The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced disaster relief for St. Croix Island, the latest of the U.S. Virgin Islands to be declared a major federal disaster area.
There have been a string of announcements for areas in Puerto Rico and elsewhere as the damage has been surveyed and, in some cases, when additional concerns are raised by new tropical storms and hurricanes. St. Croix is now able to receive federal disaster assistance from FEMA, HUD, and the FHA among other agencies.
Home owners in presidentially-declared major disaster areas should contact FEMA as soon as possible to determine what benefits and relief are available to them.
Those who own property damaged in the natural disaster should contact their lenders and insurance agents to determine next steps in recovery, repair, or replacement of homes damaged and/or no longer inhabitable.
It is never safe to assume that your financial obligations, including mortgage loan payments, are not due in the wake of a disaster. That said, the FHA and HUD have a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures for properties bought with FHA mortgages. Additional relief may be granted after making arrangements with the lender.
It is also strongly advised not to rush into insurance settlements or give in to any pressure to do so. It may take time to properly evaluate the damage to property that requires an insurance settlement; quick decisions in the wake of a natural disaster may not be made with all of the facts.
It is better to be as fully informed as possible as to your options; there are plenty of news reports about recipients of “ground settlements” for far less than the actual cost of repair or replacement of damaged homes in the wake of disasters.
Those who need to repair or replace damaged homes should discuss two important FHA mortgage options with their loan officers. One is the FHA 203(k) rehab loan which is available to all regardless of the reason for applying to get this type of mortgage.
The other is a loan only for those in presidentially declared major disaster areas. That loan is known as an FHA 203(h) rehab loan and can be used in conjunction with the 203(k) loan. FHA 203(h) loans used on their own require no down payment and the mortgage features 100% financing, closing costs included.