Did FEMA Turn You Down for Not Proving You Own Your Home?Posted on: January 27, 2023
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Did FEMA turn you down for not proving you own your home? FEMA can still help you even if you do not have official papers to show that you own your home, or have paperwork to prove you were living in your home near the time of the disaster.
FEMA usually asks for you to provide at least one of these:
- The deed or deed of trust to the property
- Bond for deed
- Quitclaim deed
- Bill of sale
- Will or Affidavit of Heirship
- A mortgage statement or escrow analysis
- Homeowners or flood insurance documents, payments records, or bill
- Property tax receipt or bill
- Manufactured home certificate or title
- Court documents about who owns the property
- A letter from a public official
- Receipts from major repairs or improvements within the last five years
- Statement from trailer park owner that includes how they know you owned the trailer (like they had your ownership documents on file before the disaster)
If you do not have these papers, there are steps you can take to work with FEMA.
You can write something called “a Self-Declarative Statement.” It swears that you own the property. It explains why you do not have the paperwork FEMA asked for to show that you own your home. It must say that you are saying everything in it “under the penalty of perjury.” The words “under penalty of perjury” make it a crime for you to lie in the statement.
How do I write a Self-Declarative Statement?
The Self-Declarative statement must include these things:
- Every page must have your FEMA claim number and the disaster number. Hurricane Ida is Disaster Number 4611.
- It must list the address of your damaged home.
- It must say how long you lived in your home before the disaster.
- It must have your printed name.
- It must have your signature.
The following is a sample Self-Declarative Statement. It has places to check off items or fill in information for your situation:
“I have made a good faith effort, in coordination with FEMA, to obtain and provide a copy of acceptable ownership documentation. I do meet FEMA’s definition of an owner-occupant because I: [initial all that apply]
____ am the legal owner of the home,
____ pay no rent but am responsible for the payment of taxes or maintenance for the home, or
____ have a lifetime right to live in the home under a will or inheritance or ________.
I was unable to obtain this documentation because:
[provide an explanation of why other documents listed above were not available].
I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”
[sign your name and the date]
If the property was inherited, instead of the three options to check off above, include, if true:
“As the nearest relative of the deceased in the line of succession, my ownership includes all the rights and obligations of the deceased. The decedent’s name is ______, who died on _______. I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”
[Sign your name and the date]
If the property was inherited and you are not the nearest relative, include a similar substitute paragraph explaining how you came to inherit the property.
If the home is a trailer:
Include a signed statement from the commercial or mobile home park owner if you can.
For more information:
FEMA’s policy document about this is posted at https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_iappg-policy-amendments-memo.pdf
FEMA’s own staff often forget about this 2021 policy change.
Proving occupancy instead of ownership:
If you are attempting to establish that the property was your home at the time of the disaster (occupancy), not ownership, your statement should be something like this:
I have made a good faith effort, in coordination with FEMA, to obtain and provide a copy of acceptable occupancy documentation. I was unable to obtain this documentation [provide an explanation of why you could not get documents FEMA requests or how the documents you could get did not meet FEMA’s requirements].
I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
[Sign your name and the date]
Do you need help proving that you owned or lived in your home?
Someone experienced in dealing with FEMA can help. If you went through Hurricane Ida, you might be able to get free legal help from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.
To see if you qualify for free legal aid from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, call our Disaster Legal Services Hotline at: 1-800-310-7029, or apply at our website www.slls.org/get-help/client-services.
For More Information