FEMA offers tips to make home inspections easy

The stress of rebuilding after a disaster like the Jan. 23 tornadoes can be compounded by the process of having a stranger come out to your property to assess damages. FEMA is offering some guidelines to help homeowners understand what to expect when interacting with an inspector in the hopes that experience will be efficient and less intimidating.

Once you've applied for FEMA assistance at disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362, a FEMA inspector will contact you to set up an appointment. An inspection can take up to 45 minutes. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help ensure a smooth inspection:

  • Keeping your scheduled appointment will keep your application moving.
  • FEMA inspectors are all private contractors, and they will also wear identification badges.
  • Make sure you, or another person 18 or older that lived in the household before the disaster will be available for the appointment.
  • You must be able to provide personal identification as well as proof of ownership and occupancy (for homeowners). If you are a renter, you must have documents showing proof of occupancy. Acceptable documents to prove identifity include a driver's license or passport; to prove ocupancy as a renter you could provide a lease, utility bill, or employee pay stub; to prove home ownership you could provide a deed, property insurance policy, a mortgage payment book or tax receipts.
  • The inspector will review both structural damage and personal property damage.
  • Keep in mind that the inspector will only file a report on the damage assessment, but will not determine eligibilty for assistance or give a monetary value to your damages.
  • Within 10 days of the inspection, you will receive a letter from FEMA and the state that explains your eligibilty. It may also include a low-interest disaster loan application from the U.S. Small Business Assocation. This application is not mandatory.
  • If you have been approved for FEMA assistance, you will receive a check or an electronic funds transfer to your bank account. Along with the payment, you will receive a letter explaining how the funds can be used.
  • If you receive a letter saying that you are ineligible for FEMA assistance, don't panic! Read the letter carefully as you could still be approved. In some cases, you may need to provide further information or documentation in order to qualify. You may also receive a denial letter from FEMA if you're still waiting on a decision from your insurance carrier.

If you ever have questions about the progress of your application, there are several ways to get in touch with FEMA:

  • Go online anytime to DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • Call 800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 800-462-7585. These toll-free telephone numbers are staffed daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., until further notice. Help is available in most languages.
  • Use your smart phone or Web-enabled device to visit m.FEMA.gov.
  • If you would like to speak with someone face to face, FEMA encourages you to visit a disaster recovery center in your area. For a list of centers, visit www.FEMA.gov/DRCLocator or call 800-621-FEMA.
  • Survivors who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY can call 800-462-7585 directly; if they use 711 or Video Relay Service, they can call 800-621-3362.