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Hurricane season leads to foreclosure season

Now that this year's hurricane season has begun, U.S. residents may be remembering the disasters left by Harvey, Maria and Irma, the three major hurricanes of 2017. Those in Texas were especially hard hit by the deadly Harvey, which left lives and homes in devastation.

An unfortunate side-effect of hurricane damage is foreclosure. For many whose homes were damaged in the storms of last year, the destruction created a domino effect, leaving them unable to make their payments, even after a government-ordered period of forbearance. If you are among those still struggling to get your life back, you understand how crushing a challenge it can be.

The reason your insurance company won't pay

When a storm hits a region, it may cause damage to nearly every building in the neighborhood. As a result, contractors may be overwhelmed with requests for repairs, some of which may be substantial projects. If your insurance company's policy is to withhold claims payments until you have a contractor scheduled to repair your home, you may have to wait months. Contractors under the pressure of so many projects may be unable to give you a specific date for beginning your repairs.

Meanwhile, your home may be uninhabitable, which means you are spending money for accommodations instead of paying your mortgage. Last year, even when the government issued a three-month stay on foreclosures and other delinquency actions, this may not have been enough time to work out a plan with your mortgage holder or to obtain the insurance money you desperately needed. If you were fortunate enough to adjust your mortgage agreement, it may have been a temporary solution, especially if it included a balloon payment for the missed installments.

Hope for the future

You may hope that lenders and insurance companies learned some lessons from the tragedies of last year's storms, particularly after nearly 40,000 homes in Texas faced foreclosure after Harvey came through. Some consumer advocates convinced federal mortgage agencies to suspend mortgage payments up to two years after natural disasters. They also urge insurance companies to issue emergency payments for urgent repairs.

Still, if your mortgage is through a private institution, the changes in federal mortgage policies won't help you. Facing foreclosure may mean facing the loss of everything you own and struggling against all odds to rebuild your life. If you are in such a situation, whether as a result of a natural disaster or a personal crisis that derailed your finances, you have every right to seek assistance from a legal professional who can help you explore options for foreclosure relief.

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William T. Peckham
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Austin, TX 78701
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