FEMA home inspections part of federal disaster assistance process
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has inspectors surveying damaged and destroyed homes in Tennessee's 10 counties designated for federal disaster assistance.
If you suffered damage from the Feb. 29 to March 2, 2012 severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding in Bradley, Claiborne, Cumberland, DeKalb, Hamilton, Jackson, McMinn, Monroe, Polk or Overton counties and registered with FEMA, you may be eligible for grants to help pay for rental housing, essential home repairs and other disaster-related expenses.
The approval process begins with an inspection of your property by an authorized FEMA inspector. Be aware that the U.S. Small Business Administration and various insurance companies may also have inspectors working in your area.
You must first register with FEMA. You can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 (FEMA), which is video relay service accessible. Survivors who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call TTY 800-462-7585. These toll-free numbers are staffed daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., until further notice. Help is available in most languages. You can also register with a smartphone or tablet at m.FEMA.gov.
A FEMA inspector will call and set up a time to see your damaged property. Be sure to keep your scheduled appointment to keep the process moving quickly. You - or someone who is 18 or older and lived in the household prior to the disaster - must be present for the scheduled appointment.
FEMA hires independent contractors to do inspections. The inspectors will have an identification badge and will have information that you provided when you registered with FEMA.
The inspector needs to know who lives at the damaged property; he or she will ask for a photo identification that could be a driver license, a voter registration card or a state-issued ID.
Next, for homeowners, the inspector will have to verify proof of ownership of the damaged property. The inspector will accept a number of documents as proof of ownership, including a deed, a title, a property insurance policy or property tax receipts.
Renters will need one of the following: a lease, a rent payment receipt, a utility bill or other document confirming the rental unit was the primary residence at the time of the disaster.
An employee pay stub and similar documents addressed to the applicant and showing the address of the damaged home can also serve as proof of residence.
Your inspector will review both structural and personal property damage. A typical inspection takes 15 to 45 minutes. The inspector will file a report on his findings but will not determine eligibility or assign any monetary value to your damage or losses.
Within 10 days of the inspection, you will receive a joint letter from FEMA and the state containing a decision on your application.
• If you are approved for FEMA assistance, you may receive a notice of an electronic funds transfer to your bank if banking information was provided to FEMA. Without electronic banking information, a check will be sent by FEMA. Along with the payment, you'll receive a letter explaining how the money can be used.
• If you receive a letter from FEMA saying you are ineligible for assistance, be sure to read the letter very carefully. The reason may be that FEMA simply needs more information such as the final settlement from your insurance carrier. The letter will explain exactly what additional information you need to send in. With that additional information, you may still be approved for assistance.
• Another letter you may receive from FEMA may contain a low-interest disaster loan application from the SBA. You don't have to accept a loan if one is offered. However, completing and submitting the application is important because doing so may open the door to other possible forms of assistance, such as FEMA grants.
If you ever have questions about your decision letter or the status of your application, you have many resources for information.
You can call the FEMA helpline number, 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585). You can also visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or m.FEMA.gov.
If you would like to speak with someone face to face, FEMA encourages you to visit a disaster recovery center in your area. For a list of centers, visit www.FEMA.gov/DRCLocator or call the FEMA helpline.