Responsibilities of Owners of HUD-Assisted Properties Before and After Natural Disasters

Now that we are in hurricane season, it is a good idea for all properties to assess preparedness for storms and other natural disasters. While this is recommended for any property, it is a requirement for HUD-assisted projects.

The Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has developed guidance that covers all the aspects of servicing multifamily properties that are damaged or vacated as a result of a natural disaster in a Presidentially Declared Disaster Area (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 place (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.

Owners and managers are required to report any physical damage (interior or exterior) that has resulted from a fire, flood, wind, severe cold, or other natural disaster or weather event. Once any such event occurs, owners should complete and forward damage assessments to HUD.

Following an emergency or disaster event (or in anticipation of one), here are the owner’s responsibilities:

  • Maintaining a list of all residents with phone numbers, mailing address, and emails;
  • An inventory of all items at the property;
  • Ensure that residents provide emergency contact numbers;
  • Develop a pre-disaster checklist that’s shared with residents in case of a disaster;
  • Develop an emergency relocation plan to relocate residents prior to a storm, especially at elderly or disabled properties and nursing homes;
  • Contact the local HUD office following a disaster;
  • Provide a status report for the residents and property condition;
  • Develop tracking mechanisms to contact residents and determine their intent to return to the unit;
  • Self-report to the National Housing Locator (owners can go to this site to list unit availability);
  • Determine the extent of damage, security needs, resident property protection needs, etc.;
  • Maintain prompt communication with HUD field staff when providing preliminary and final assessment surveys to assist with recovery planning;
  • Contact the property’s insurance provider to apply for property and business interruption claims;
  • Contact the mortgagee to inquire about forbearance options;
  • Contact the assigned Section 8 Contract Administrator or Performance Based Contract Administrator (PBCA);
  • Apply for assistance from FEMA, Small Business Administration, State Housing Finance Agency, etc.;
  • Determine which residents have been displaced due to unit damage or a failure of a major building system such as the electrical system, etc.;
  • Track each displaced resident’s temporary location and maintain contact information for all residents, particularly if the property is likely to have units off-line for more than 30-days; and
  • Contact FEMA for ongoing guidance and instruct residents to register with FEMA through 1-800-621-3362, or

Owners should also make residents aware of their responsibilities in the event of a natural disaster. 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 will specifically describe the type of eligibility. To obtain temporary rental housing, and applicant must present the FEMA letter, which will identify the resident as displaced and eligible for housing assistance. HUD will rely on a FEMA eligibility determination when affording housing assistance relief, but residents should be advised to check with the local FEMA office for ongoing guidance;
  • Contacting their insurance carrier to submit renter’s insurance claims for damage caused by the disaster (if they have such insurance);
  • Providing the owner or manager with current contact and emergency contact information in order 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 does not intend to return to the unit, they should immediately notify the owner or agent in writing in accordance with residency termination procedures.

Now if the time for owners and agents to be proactive. If the steps noted above have not been undertaken, doing so should be made a priority.