Property inspection is a vital step toward recovery for Mississippians damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
That inspection will determine if the house is habitable, how much money will be granted for minor home repairs and whether temporary rental assistance will be granted, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Homeowners, renters and business owners who are referred to the housing program should hear from an inspector within 30 days after filing for assistance, to schedule an appointment. The toll-free number to apply for aid is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing- and speech-impaired. Applicants can also file on the FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov. It is important to keep contact numbers current, officials say, so the inspector can reach you.
“You have to apply for FEMA assistance before an inspector will visit your property,” said FEMA Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer Nick Russo, federal official for the Mississippi recovery. “The inspector will check for structural damage, and also assess damage to major appliances. Homeowners should tell the inspector about any known damages, and if they have a septic system or well.”
In checking for structural damage, the inspector will examine the building itself, including the foundation, roof, flooring, drywall and ceilings, as well as the heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems and will record all disaster related damages. If you’re being considered for a grant to meet serious disaster-related damages not covered by other government or volunteer agency programs, the inspector may also survey damaged personal property, clothing and automobiles.
Home and business owners should show proof of ownership. Homeowners and renters should be able to prove occupancy. If insurance papers are available, residents should show them to the inspector. It is not necessary to wait for an insurance settlement to apply for assistance. However, it is possible an applicant will not receive an inspection until an insurance settlement has been received by FEMA.
If you have evacuated from your home and are unable to meet an inspector at your property, you can make arrangements for someone else to accompany the inspector – a friend or relative 18 years of age or older, or a FEMA community relations representative.
More than one inspection may be required, depending on the type of aid under consideration. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may require its own inspection before issuing a low-interest loan. Other organizations such as the American Red Cross and Farmers Home Administration may make their own inspections.
Inspections are conducted by companies under contract to the government. Always ask to see identification, say FEMA officials. All inspectors carry official photo I.D.
There is no charge for official inspections. Property owners who suspect fraud should contact local law enforcement authorities or the Homeland Security fraud line at 1-800-323-8603.
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