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How you document ownership and occupancy for FEMA after a disaster

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2023 | Real Estate

As you know, Typhoon Mawar recently struck Guam with powerful winds of up to 140 miles per hour and torrents of rain. The storm, the most powerful to hit the island in more than 20 years, damaged numerous homes and other buildings and left many residents without electricity, fresh water or internet access.

President Biden has declared a disaster in the wake of Mawar. This means if the typhoon damaged or destroyed your home, you might qualify for financial assistance with repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But before FEMA approves your claim, you need to prove to the agency that you own the property and that it was your primary residence.

Proving you own your home

FEMA suggests official documentation to prove ownership, most of which people have in their homes. Such documents include:

  • The deed or deed of trust to the property
  • Mortgage statement or escrow analysis
  • Policy for homeowners’ insurance, flood insurance or real property insurance
  • One or more receipts for major repairs done within the past five years
  • Property tax receipt or bill
  • Manufactured home certificate or title
  • A letter from a public official, such as the local postmaster, police chief or mayor, testifying that you are the owner and how long you have owned the property

If you have lost or cannot access any of these documents and the property was inherited, a mobile home or a travel trailer, FEMA will accept self-certification as a last resort. If your home suffered a previous natural disaster and you already verified ownership then, you don’t have to do it again.

Showing you lived there when the storm hit

To show that you occupied the damaged home, FEMA will accept a similar range of documents that prove your address, such as:

  • Utility bills
  • Bank/credit card statements
  • Your lease or rent statements
  • A statement from your employer or a public official
  • Your driver’s license or state-issued ID card
  • Motor vehicle registration
  • Court documents
  • Letters from local schools

Most homeowners can access these types of documents, though if you cannot after your home was wrecked, an attorney can help you prove ownership and occupancy. Your lawyer can also help with the rest of filing your claim so that it is complete and free of errors.