Know Your Responsibilities During Presidentially Declared Disaster or HUD-Determined Emergency
Recently, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that he’s “extremely grateful” that Tropical Depression Barry didn’t cause the devastating floods that had been projected. According to the National Weather Service, Barry was briefly a Category 1 hurricane, but the system weakened to a tropical storm and eventually became a tropical depression as a result of weakening winds. Still, after reaching land, the National Weather Service warned of ongoing dangers posed by storm surges and the possibility of tornadoes in areas including parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
This first hurricane landfall of the season was a reminder to residents of when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005 and the levees failed. It was a catastrophe that took the lives of close to 1,500 people and prompted government officials to reexamine the government response to such disasters.
Since Hurricane Katrina, HUD has acquired a great deal of knowledge on how to efficiently respond to a Presidentially Declared Disaster (PDD) and developed guidance that covers the many different aspects of servicing multifamily properties that were damaged or vacated as a result of a PDD. HUD added a new chapter to HUD Handbook 4350.1, Multifamily Asset Management and Project Servicing. It assembles guidance issued in previous notices and memoranda into one Handbook chapter (Chapter 38) and updates it with what HUD has learned since Hurricane Katrina. The chapter also applies to all HUD-insured/assisted properties in situations where the Hub Director determines that an emergency exists. The chapter can be found at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/mfh/disasterguide.
This information will make post-recovery efforts go more smoothly if an event occurs that impacts your residents and your site. HUD encourages you to review this material before an event occurs. After an event occurs, HUD has reporting obligations based on information its staff obtains from owners and managers of HUD-insured and/or assisted sites. Owners and managers are required to report physical damage to a property interior or exterior that has resulted from a fire, flood, wind, severe cold, or other natural disaster or weather event. It’s most convenient for all parties if owners and agents proactively report to HUD. Owners are encouraged to complete and forward damage assessments to HUD.
Following an emergency or disaster event (or in anticipation of one), here are the responsibilities of the various parties involved.
HUD Field Office Responsibilities
HUD field offices are responsible for:
- Assembling the assigned Emergency Response Team members;
- Obtaining the list of properties in the PDD area from HUD headquarters;
- Responding to phone calls, correspondence, etc.;
- Coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as necessary;
- Conducting phone surveys with owners/managers of potentially affected properties using the Preliminary Disaster Assessment;
- Reviewing Preliminary Disaster Assessment data for accuracy and completeness;
- Determining the Damage Assessment Code based on the Preliminary Disaster Assessment as determined by the Construction Analyst or designee;
- Completing the Disaster Tracking Report;
- Completing the Vacancy Utilization/Displaced Resident Report;
- Requesting HUD Contract Administrator Oversight Monitors to suspend full or partial Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contracts for units if appropriate;
- Coordinating the depositing of insurance funds into escrows and continued release of reserves;
- Submitting issues to the Hub Director regarding properties that haven’t submitted Recovery Plans and/or requests for extended time frames;
- Making recommendations to the Hub Director regarding enforcement actions;
- Submitting requests for debt forbearance and Section 8 HAP transfers to the Hub for assistance and guidance;
- Providing Asset Development staff with damage assessment information relating to pipeline properties;
- Maintaining completed assessment surveys; and
- Performing a final inspection to ensure recovery plans are consistent with repair needs as identified in the final disaster assessment surveys.
Owners and managers are responsible for:
- Maintaining inventory of all residents, property, phone numbers, mailing address, and emails;
- Ensuring that residents provide emergency contact numbers;
- Developing a pre-disaster checklist that’s shared with residents in case of a disaster;
- Developing an emergency relocation plan to relocate residents prior to the storm, especially at 202/811 Elderly or Disabled sites and nursing homes;
- Knowledge of HUD’s occupancy requirements and policies;
- Contacting the local HUD office following a disaster;
- Providing a status report for the residents and property condition;
- Developing tracking mechanisms to contact residents and determining the intent to return to the unit;
- Self-reporting to the National Housing Locator (owners can go to this site to list unit availability);
- Determining the extent of damage, security needs, resident property protection needs, etc.;
- Maintaining prompt communication with HUD field staff when providing preliminary and final assessment surveys to assist with recovery planning;
- Contacting the property’s insurance provider to apply for property and business interruption claims;
- Contacting the mortgagee to inquire about forbearance options;
- Contacting the assigned Section 8 Contract Administrator or Performance Based Contract Administration (PBCA);
- Applying for assistance with FEMA, Small Business Administration (SBA), housing finance agencies (HFAs), etc.;
- Determining which residents have been displaced due to unit damage or a failure of a major building system such as the electrical system, etc.;
- Tracking each displaced resident’s temporary location and maintain contact information for each displaced resident, particularly if the property is likely to have units off-line for more than 30 days; and
- Contacting FEMA for ongoing guidance and instructing residents to register with FEMA through 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or www.fema.gov.
Residents are responsible for:
- Contacting FEMA and submitting an application for eligibility. Residents affected by the disaster must make an application with FEMA, receive an application number, and obtain a letter of eligibility from FEMA, which specifically describes the type of eligibility. To obtain temporary rental housing, an applicant must present the FEMA letter, which will identify the resident as displaced and eligible for housing assistance. HUD will rely on FEMA eligibility determination when affording housing assistance relief, but residents are advised to check with the local FEMA office for ongoing guidance;
- Contacting the insurance carrier to submit renters insurance claims for damage caused by the disaster (if applicable);
- Providing the owner or manager with current contact and emergency contact information to receive property status information regarding the re-occupancy schedule. When possible, residents should provide alternate contact information for a relative; and
- Responding to owner and agent requests to return to the units. If the household doesn’t intend to return to the unit, they should immediately notify the owner or agent in writing in accordance with residency termination procedures.