The past two weeks have been among the most trying I have seen on Staten Island following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. For those that are rebuilding or just starting to rebuild, here is some important information related to your insurance claims and mortgage payments, as well as temporary housing for those that may need it. If you are reading this, please also know that the city and FEMA are offering direct assistance in navigating the paperwork ahead of you - you can contact 311 or logon to nyc.gov or you can talk to a FEMA representative at a recovery center.
Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of what is covered by homeowners insurance. All policies are different and you will therefore need to consult yours before filing for any claims.
Generally, however, homeowners insurance covers damage sustained from weather disasters (not flooding), burglary or theft, explosion, water damage from plumbing, electrical damage, and damage to property of those around you resulting from your property.
This is important because, while some damage from the storm may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance, flood damage is covered by a separate policy from FEMA - a food insurance policy that is required for anyone that lives in a flood zone. This insurance will pay for damage to your home, anything in your home and its electrical or gas systems as a result of flooding. Again, check your policy to ensure you know what is covered.
The last thing anyone wants to think about after a storm like Sandy is mortgage payments and for those with an HUD, Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae backed mortgage, you may not need to for a few months. If you have one of these types of mortgages there are various options available to waive or forebear your payments.
Freddie Mac is offering 12 month forebearance while Fannie Mae is offering a similar program for up to 6 months. For those with an HUD loan, there are also options available to reduce the payments you will pay or refinance your mortgage to cover repairs or rebuilding.
If you have lost your home or it is not currently livable pending repairs, FEMA is offering temporary housing on Staten Island. To qualify, you must be a US citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien and the damage to your home must make it so you cannot live there (assuming it is your primary home). Your property must also not be covered by insurance, though there are exceptions to this rule if the claim gets delayed for more than 30 days or if your living expense needs surpass the maximum provided by your insurance company.
If any of this applies to you, go to one of the federal disaster websites, either disasterassistance.gov or m.fema.gov or call their hotline at 800-621-3362. You’ll need all of your personal information as well bank account information, insurance information and a full description of your losses.
If you need assistance you can also visit one of the recovery centers located on Staten Island and talk to a FEMA representative.