How to Handle Debt After Hurricane Irma

Although Floridians are always on watch and prepping for hurricanes, Irma is one of the worst disasters that the state has seen in decades. With the huge range and extent of the damage, it’s hard to know where to start in the recovery process. Many residents are still trying to figure out how to get groceries for their families, much less how to get to work or handle credit card payments. Small business owners are going through similar plights, trying to figure out how to allow their employees to come back to work after suffering hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to their properties. Then there are intangibles such as credit card and loan payments, and these need to be attended to just as readily as practical issues. This is where Van Horn Law Group comes in to serve Floridians who are trying to get a handle on debt after Hurricane Irma.

 


The Overall Costs of Hurricane Irma

 

The cost of the recent hurricanes in Florida come with a hefty price tag even as the government races to come up with supportive measures and victims attempt to start the recovery process. Small businesses also face steep recovery costs, mostly due to lost revenue and damages. Hurricanes Irma and Harvey combined will cost $200 billion to provide relief and rebuilding support to residents caught in the crossfire. The fact of the matter is that the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to how creditors plan to handle this natural disaster, and most are offering assistance programs. However, each program is different than the last, and you’ll need to pay close attention to keep track of what due dates can be shifted or other benefits offered to you. This can be more easily tracked and assessed by legal counsel.

 


Seeking Assistance from All Possible Sources

 

Credit cards and loans aren’t the only financial issues to be considered after Irma. If you plan to file insurance claims or for other types of assistance, doing so now, rather than later, is imperative. This will also take the pressure off some of your financial losses so you can deal with your creditors. For example, most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flooding. One that does is the National Flood Insurance Program, managed under FEMA, has paid out $204 million in claims as of September 2017, though this policy has a cap of $250,000 for damages to the structure of homes, and $100,000 for damage to personal property inside the home. If you have a policy you can file a claim under, do so. This may also impact your mortgage and other more complex legal issues when you’re dealing with property damage and the value of your home after it’s been flooded. Therefore, it’s another good reason to get in touch with a lawyer.

 


 

How Hurricane Irma Complications Impact Your Credit

 

Common sense dictates that if you miss a loan payment or are late on a credit card, you’ll be charged a fee and it can negatively impact your credit. Although being in the center of a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma certainly gives you legitimate reasons through no fault of your own to push payment deadlines and come to an arrangement with creditors, you need to take the initiative. Don’t assume that every creditor will be understanding, either. You need to be proactive, even though it’s during one of the worst times possible. The fact is that Irma can potentially not only damage your property and result in lost income, but it can also damage your credit score if you don’t figure out how to ensure that you won’t be recorded as having a late payment on a line of credit. The bottom line is that the most immediate danger to your credit as a direct result of Irma is either an inability to pay your bills because of financial losses, or lack of access to continue your life as normal. Many people are still trying to recover possessions that are underwater, or even return to their homes at all. These types of assistance programs are designed to help you get through this, but in the long run, if you miss a payment or two, it’s going to drag down your credit score. This is further exacerbated if you’re multiplying these delinquencies by several different types of credit cards or loans.

 


 

Be Prepared to Provide Documentation

 

Whether you’re trying to get an arrangement to pay your mortgage late or simply push your credit card payment due dates back a month, you need to have documentation. Obviously, in a natural disaster, documents may have been destroyed. A good rule of thumb can be to access your bank statements and other documents online and print them out in order to provide things like proof of residency or identity to creditors. For example, in some cases, major financial institutions have extended generous benefits specifically to those residing in regions declared as official disaster areas by FEMA. That means that you’ll need to prove that you live in those areas. While the institution may have your address on file where you receive your bills and statements, be prepared to support your claim if necessary. Getting together any kind of official document is a good way to start any a process that requires documentation and proof of identity or residence.

 


Beware of Scams

Some scammers have so little scruples that they’re willing to prey on people who have lost everything during Hurricane Irma, so now is the time to be most vigilant. There are Irma scammers who have successfully made off with everything from data via phishing campaigns to ripping off people donating to relief efforts with fake websites. You may be in the throes of the recovery process, but be very careful is you receive any phone calls or emails claiming that you’re eligible for some kind of assistance program. When you’re dealing with creditors, don’t ever respond to a call from a company claiming to be a creditor that you didn’t speak to first. The best rule of thumb is let a lawyer advise you how about how to go about contacting your creditors, or to let them do it for you if you decide to enlist a Florida attorney’s services. One of the most common ways that scammers steal information and money from victims is email. If you’re able to check your email during recovery and rebuilding, which many people are due to the age of smartphones, beware any messages you receive from unknown senders. If you get an email that looks legitimate and you want to further investigate, show it to your attorney. Chances are, though, that it’s not.


 

Be Aware of Deadlines

Once you secure arrangements with creditors, you need to make sure you follow through on the actual new deadlines with a payment. For example, such creditors as JPMorgan Chase offered to waive or refund late feeson home and auto loans, and credit cards, as well as overdraft fees until September 24, and the IRS extended business filings until January 31, 2018 for affected Floridians. This also includes some federal assistance programs. However, these offerings are only in place for a certain amount of time, which is why it’s in victims’ best interests to consult a professional to establish a plan going forward. The idea of temporary relief is to ensure that customers can get back on their feet in order to stay current on their payments and not have loans that slide into default. Creditors are in business to make money, not to be altruistic to victims of natural disasters. Therefore, in offering relief programs and deferred payment plans to customers impacted by hurricanes like Irma, it’s also in their own best interests. In order to maintain your credit score as well as a good relationship with your creditor, you’ll want to follow these new fee structures. You can also find out what penalties you’ll be facing if you’re unable to meet the new deadlines when the time comes. Don’t forget to stay in touch and make those necessary phone calls. However, what’s even better is to get in touch with a lawyer, and that’s where Chad Van Horn can help.

 


 

What You Should Do Now

 

Hurricanes damage more than property, and can include loss of income from missed paychecks. This leaves many people unable to pay bills, though it’s through no fault of their own. This is where you’ll want to seek legal services to make sure that your credit stays on track and you start to handle debt after Hurricane Irma. If you don’t get the fee waiver options from the various creditors that you owe money, don’t ignore the piling bills and be proactive by contacting them. Chad Van Horn will meet you with you to discuss your options and put a plan into motion to protect your credit and finances in the wake of the storm.

 

Due to the large amount of people being impacted by the storm, Chad Van Horn can only accept a limited number of individuals affected by Irma to sit down for a face to face consultancy, so get in touch today. Let Van Horn Law Group help to rebuild and protect your finances. The first step is free!

About Chad Van Horn

Chad T. Van Horn, Esq. is a South Florida business leader and founding partner attorney of Van Horn Law Group, P.A. Through a combination of dedicated philanthropy, spirited entrepreneurship and legal expertise, he applies his resources and network to helping people. Learn more about Chad Van Horn