Housing

Authored By: Legal Services Alabama LSC Funded

Information

I owned a home that was damaged due to a disaster (such as a hurricane or tornado). Can I get help from FEMA to repair or replace it?

  • You must show that the disaster destroyed your home or made it unlivable, or that you cannot get to your home becaue of the disaster.
  • You must own no other house where you could live.
  • If you have insurance, you must show that you have unsuccessfully tried to get insurance benefits, or that you don't have enough insurance to cover your damages.
  • You must also agree to repay FEMA to the extent that you later get insurance benefits.

How can I get this help?

  • You can apply online at www.fema.gov. FEMA urges victims to register online. Many people are applying, so you may have trouble applying online.
  • You can call 1-800-621-3362. The phones are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They stay busy. Your best chance to get through is in the early morning or late at night.
  • You can go to a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) and get help to file by phone or online.
  • If you are hearing-impaired, you can call 1-800-462-7585.
  • Be ready to give your Social Security number, describe your losses, give financial information, and give directions to the damaged property.

How much help can I get to repair my home?

  • For home repairs to let you live in your house safely, you can get up to $32,400.
  • You can get a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan for more repairs.

What if my home can't be repaired?

  • If damages to your home were more than $32,400, you can get up to $32,400 toward replacing your home.
  • You may also be eligible to get 100% financing through HUD mortgage insurance.
  • Call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.

If I owe money to a creditor, can the creditor take my FEMA money?

  • No. The money is totally exempt from garnishment.
  • You should make sure your bank knows the money is from FEMA.

What if FEMA denies me?

  • You have the right to appeal. Your denial notice tells you how to appeal.

What if I don't like what FEMA offers me?

  • FEMA expects you to accept the first housing assistance it offers.
  • If you have a good reason to turn FEMA down, explain the reason fully.
  • If you turn down FEMA's offer without a good reason, you can end up with nothing.
  • You have the right to appeal.

How can I help make sure I get the help I need from FEMA?

  • Keep a disaster notebook. Write down your FEMA application control number. List all your calls with the date you called, the phone number you called, the name of the person you spoke to and what they told you.
  • Whenever you call FEMA, have your FEMA number handy.
  • If you haven't heard from FEMA, call them. Do NOT submit a new second application. This will only cause problems later.
  • Save all papers, including rent receipts, leases and all copies of letters to and from FEMA, SBA, IFGP and any other agency.
  • If you can, take pictures of the damage. Get double prints.
  • If the FEMA inspector comes to your home, try to be there. Show or explain to him or her all of your damage. Ask the inspector to write everything down, since a good inspection is very important to support your need for help.

Can I get other kinds of help from FEMA?

  • FEMA can also help you find a place to live while you repair your home. See Disaster Relief Section

How can I get a place to live now?

  • Your first step is to apply for disaster relief with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • FEMA can give you money to pay rent. If there is no place you can rent, FEMA can let you live rent-free in a mobile home or other federal property.
  • You can apply online at www.fema.gov. FEMA urges you to register online. Many people are applying, which may give you trouble applying online.
  • You also can call 1-800-621-3362. The phones are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They stay busy. Your best chance to get through is in the early morning or late at night.
  • You can go to a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) and get help with filing by phone or online. If you are hearing-impaired, you can call 1-800-462-7585.
  • Be ready to give your Social Security number, describe your losses, give financial information, and give directions to the damaged property.

What do I need to show?

How much help can FEMA give me?

  • FEMA figures your montly rent assistance.
  • You can go back to FEMA to re-certify. You may then get rent assistance for up to a total of 18 months.
  • No one can garnish your rental assistance money.
  • If you can't find a place to rent, FEMA can give you a mobile home.

What if FEMA denies me?

  • You have the right to appeal. Your denial notice tells you how to appeal.

What if I had left my husband, but he filed for Housing Assistance including me?

  • FEMA lets one person tell what people lived in the home before the disaster.
  • It usually gives one temporary housing residence for all those people.
  • You should tell FEMA that your husband lied, and that you and your children are a separate household. Then, you should get your own temporary housing.
  • If FEMA doesn't do this, you can point out that a single household can get a second temporary housing residence if the nature of the household requires it. Protection from domestic violence should require it. Call Legal Services Alabama if you need help at 1-866-456-4995.

My house was damaged, and I cannot live in it. If my home is damaged and I can no longer live in it, do I still have to pay my mortgage?

  • Yes. You must pay your mortgage even if damage keeps you from living in your home.
  • However, check with your lender. Many companies offer a grace period after a disaster.
  • Note that your lender will probably keep adding interest.

What if I cannot pay my mortgage?

  • If you are buying from Rural Housing, you may be able to get a moratorium for six months.
  • You need to show the disaster made you lose a job or caused severe damage to your home. Note that many people still call Rural Housing Service by its old name of Farmers Home.
  • Rural Housing buyers may also be able to get their loans re-done.
  • If you have any kind of FHA or HUD mortgage, you automatically get a 90-day moratorium.
  • If you have any kind of FHA or HUD mortgage, you may be able to get late charges waived.
  • If you got a written foreclosure notice due to financial hardship tied to a disaster, you may be able to get Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) payments to help you with your mortgage payments.

What if I fell behind, but now I have income?

  • If you have income and you want to keep your house, filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may help.
  • In this type of bankruptcy, the homeowner makes regular mortgage payments and also pays money into court each month toward the mortgage arrears and other back expenses.
  • If you think you may want to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, call a lawyer.

What if I live in a condominium?

  • If you live in a condominium or pay any type of homeowner association for maintenance, you must pay your maintenance fees.

What if the homeowner assocation is not fixing common areas or making good repairs?

  • You still have to pay. Otherwise, you could lose your house to foreclosure.
  • You should attend the homeowner association meetings to voice your concerns.
  • You should also talk with other homeowners and members of the board about your complaints.
  • A group of you may want to seek legal advice.

I have homeowner's insurance, but I was told it will take months for an adjuster to look at my house, and longer for a check to be issued. My house needs lots of expensive repairs. I'm not even sure I can live there until it's fixed. Can I get help to fix it? Can I get help to live somewhere else until it's fixed?

  • Call your insurance company. If you have homeowner's insurance, you will most likely be eligible for money for living expenses while you cannot live in your house.
  • Your company may give you an advance payment to cover a part of your loss.

What if I don't have homeowner's insurance?

  • You may be able to get help under the Individual and Family Grant (IFG) program to pay for necessary repairs to essential parts of your home.
  • IFG may also be able to pay for flood damage, which is not covered by regular homeowner's insurance.
  • You may apply for IFG by calling 1-800-621-3362.

The apartment I live in is in really bad shape from the storm, but the landlord told me that if I want to stay I must pay full rent. What should I do?

  • Ask your landlord to reduce your rent until the apartment is repaired.
  • You can also ask your landlord to let you move into another unit.

What if my landlord won't negotiate?

  • You cannot force your landlord to reduce the rent.
  • If your apartment is so badly damaged you cannot live there, you can break your lease. Send your landlord a letter within 2 weeks of the destruction.
  • Legal Services Alabama can give you information about breaking your lease. See Ending Your Lease and Moving Out on this website. OR, you can call our toll-free number: 1-866-456-4995.

My apartment is so bad I cannot live in it. I am going to move. I want my security deposit returned. What are my rights?

  • If you live in a Rural Housing assisted apartment, you have the right to apply to move into another assisted apartment. You will get priority.
  • If you have a written lease, read your lease to see what it says.
  • If your landlord does not give you back your security deposit, you can sue for twice the amount of the security deposit.
  • Realize that if you sue your landlord, your landlord may counterclaim for rent.

All my stuff was destroyed when the roof fell in on the place I rent. What help can I get?

  • If you had renter's insurance when the tornado hit, call your insurance company.
  • If your situation is desperate, let your insurance company know.
  • Your insurance company may give you an advance payment to cover a part of your loss.
  • Read the information in our Insurance section about how to prepare for the adjuster's visit and how to handle your insurance claim.

What if I do not have any insurance on my property?

  • If you did not have renter's insurance, see if your landlord's insurance covered your belongings. It usually will NOT cover them.
  • If your losses are not covered by any insurance policy, you may be able to get IFG money for replacement of necessary items of personal property.
  • You may apply for these benefits through FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.

My landlord told me to move out the next day because he wants the apartment for his daughter who lost her house due to the disaster. He told me if I wasn't out, he'd change the locks. Do I have to move?

  • Alabama law does not let a landlord just lock you out.
  • A landlord cannot turn off utilities or use any other "self help" means to get you to leave.
  • Instead, the landlord must file an eviction action in court.
  • Your landlord must first give you a written notice to move.
  • Please read Legal Services Alabama's information on Evictions on this website.
  • If you get any eviction court papers, you can call Legal Services Alabama at 1-866-456-4995.
  • If your landlord locks you out, you can call a lawyer about suing your landlord for your damages.

Where can I get more information?

Reviewed May 2014


AlabamaLegalHelp.org offers legal information, not legal advice. This website provides information on your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call toll-free 1-866-456-4995. You can also apply online HERE.

Last Review and Update: May 09, 2014