UPDATE: After the recent winter storm, the deadline for North Carolinians to register for disaster assistance once again has been extended until December 19, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. FEMA granted the original extension at the request of Gov. Roy Cooper, citing a continued flow of new applications for federal assistance in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
Getting back to normal after a major disaster can take time. You weathered the storm, but sustained damage to your home, car or other property. Here are the steps you should consider taking to get started on the road to recovery.
What should I do first?
Contact your insurance agent to file a claim. Be patient as insurance companies may be handling a large volume of claim requests. Take pictures, make notes and protect your property from further damage. Depending on the circumstances, an adjuster may come view the damage. The adjuster may be able to write you a check on the spot to cover the losses.
If you have damage to your home
Homeowners insurance typically covers damage from wind, falling trees and flying debris that breaks windows. If your home is uninhabitable, most homeowners or renters policies pay additional living expenses while your property is being repaired. Check with your agent or insurance company to determine what expenses will be reimbursed and save your receipts. Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Flood insurance policies, available through the National Flood Insurance Program or other carriers, do cover flood damage.
Most insurance companies will make the claim check payable to you and your mortgage company if you have a mortgage on your property. If your mortgage is with LGFCU, take the check to your local branch. They will be able to release a portion of the funds to secure your home and begin repairs. Additional funds will be released as needed to complete the repairs.
If you have damage to your auto
If your vehicle is damaged or totaled by the storm, your insurance company may cover damages if you had Comprehensive Coverage. If the vehicle can be repaired, the insurance company will work with you and the repair facility to have the vehicle fixed. If the vehicle cannot be repaired, the check for the value of your vehicle will be made payable to you and your lender if you have one. If you have a loan on your vehicle and you have Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP), contact your lender to file a GAP claim. If you financed your vehicle with LGFCU, please contact your local branch for questions regarding this process.
Federal Assistance Programs
If you live in a county that has been designated as a federal disaster area, you may be eligible to apply for federal assistance.
Mortgage Assistance. If you’re having trouble meeting mortgage payments after a natural disaster, call your Credit Union at 888.732.8562. There are also federal disaster resources that can help you avoid foreclosure. Find housing counselors and other disaster relief resources at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance. FEMA may offer grants and/or low-interest loans to help with repairs and expenses. For FEMA assistance:
- Online: DisasterAssistance.gov
- Phone: 800.621.FEMA (711 or Video Relay Service). If you use TTY, call 800.462.7585.
Disaster Loan Assistance. Homeowners, renters or small business owners may be eligible to apply for a disaster loan, or Economic Injury Loans, in one of the counties eligible for Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans, or Economic Injury Loans.
Applicants are encouraged to apply online for a disaster loan. If you do not have access to a computer or smartphone and need assistance applying in person, visit a disaster recovery center near you. Call 800.659.2955 if you have any questions.
Watch out for price gouging
When North Carolina declares a state of emergency the price gouging law is in effect. Price gouging, or charging too much during a crisis, is against the law. If you know of businesses or companies charging excessive prices, call the North Carolina Attorney General's Office at 877.5NO.SCAM, or file a price gouging complaint online.
Beware of scams in disaster areas
Cleaning up and rebuilding after a storm can be stressful. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people will flock to disaster areas. Many people might offer to help, but beware of scammers looking to make money off you during a tough time. Make sure to contact your insurance company before any repair work is done and catalog the damage to your home in case you’ll need an adjuster’s approval before repairs are done.
A common home repair scam involves a person showing up at your property and offering to do repair work. They will ask for funds upfront to purchase supplies, and once you have paid them, they never return. Don’t pay for work upfront.
When looking for a reputable repair or debris and tree removal company, do some research before you make a selection. You can check out companies with the Better Business Bureau or contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 877.5NO.SCAM. Ask for and compare multiple estimates before you make a selection.
Once you've selected a contractor and the work is completed, inspect the results carefully to ensure you’re satisfied before you pay. Use a credit card in case you need to dispute payment later.
Another common scam is that scammers may pose as utility workers, insurance adjusters and FEMA officials. Information may also be sent to your cellphone or email claiming to be from a legitimate source, but the email contains links that install malware on your device. Do not open emails from sources you do not recognize. Verify the identity of anyone who contacts you. Call the utility company, insurance company, or FEMA directly if you are in need of assistance.
Check references and obtain referrals
Ask your neighbors or friends who they have used locally to complete their repairs. Before hiring someone check references, insurance and licenses. Here are a few websites to use:
- General contractors - Visit nclbgc.org or call 919.571.4183.
- Electricians - Visit ncbeec.org or call 919.773.9042.
- Plumbers and HVAC - Visit nclicensing.org or call 919.875.3612.
LGFCU has your back
Your Credit Union is here to help. If you don't qualify for federal assistance, find out more about options your Credit Union can provide to help you get back on your feet.
Call our 24/7 Member Services at 888.732.8562 with any questions or concerns. For additional information about storm recovery, visit readync.org.