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Tackling Natural Disasters, One Borrower at a Time

On Tuesday, Chase Home Lending announced that it had donated a mortgage-free fully renovated home to a family that lost their home during Hurricane Harvey. This was part of the lender’s initiatives in providing homeowners, especially those in regions prone to natural disasters with support to keep their properties safe and help them with recovery.

Lenders across the country are working to help homeowners and their homes stay safe as the country prepares for the hurricane season this year.

Take the example of Wells Fargo, which has reached out to customers post-disaster through its  One Wells Fargo’s Mobile Response Unit staffed with disaster specialists who provide answers and valuable information directly to impacted customers and communities on how to begin their personal recovery and rebuilding process.

“Wells Fargo believes it is critical to respond quickly to help people and communities recover quickly when facing financial hardships caused by disasters,” Rullah Price, SVP and Consumer Outreach Director for Wells Fargo Home Lending told DS News. “We recognize that obtaining assistance in the aftermath of a major disaster can be overwhelming and having a person you can talk with “face-to-face” can make a world of difference.”

Working in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Chase committed to keeping Houston Strong.

“As we reflect on the storms that hit Texas and Florida last year, Chase continues to be a part of the Houston Strong community to help with the recovery,” said Peter Muriungi, Head of Servicing at Chase Home Lending. “Relief is available and we’re here to help with options.”

Last year, the lender provided over $33 million in immediate relief, worked with customers on more than $1.2 billion in loans and mortgages in the greater Houston area and offered 136,000 homeowners at least a 90-day special protection period on payments to help them get back on their feet.

Both Wells Fargo and Chase have also kicked-off initiatives to educate borrowers on how they can be prepared for a natural disaster. While Chase is providing homeowners with proactive tips to prepare for a season of potential hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires, Wells Fargo is communicating with its customers in geographies that may be potentially impacted by using virtual channels such as email, text, ATM messages, and social media to alert them where to call to obtain information and assistance should they have sustained damage from the storm.

“When possible, we want to proactively help customers prepare to care for themselves and their homes. By using a variety of channels to reach customers, we are able to provide the information for them when they need it,” Price said.

If servicers are helping customers, DIMONT, the Dallas-based provider of insurance claims adjusting and collateral loss mitigation services to the residential mortgage industry, is looking at ways to improve the process of being prepared for a disaster for servicers.

In partnership with the National Mortgage Servicing Association (NMSA), DIMONT recently published a white paper titled Disaster Preparedness: Three Things Mortgage Loan Servicers Can Do to Get Ready for Storm Season. The report addresses the dramatic impact of the 2017 storm season on the mortgage servicing industry, compares last year’s storm season to that of 2018 and offers three primary insurance practices servicers can follow in order to mitigate collateral losses. They include ensuring appropriate insurance coverage,
communicating effectively with borrowers in the aftermath, and how servicers can navigate the complex insurance claims process.

"The delays and disconnected practices within the industry stem from outdated manual processes and a lack of transparency between servicers and borrowers. Preparation beforehand and a smooth response process during storm season will not only ensure reduced expenses and risk avoidance, but it will also help borrowers through a stressful life experience," The white paper said.

At the end though, the industry wants the consumer to know that they have their back. “We hope all our customers can avoid the impacts of a major disaster this year. But if disaster does strike, we want them to know we’re here to get them the help they need quickly,” Price said.

To learn more about how the industry is looking to rebuild Puerto Rico, an island that was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, register for the Five Star PR-18, and join representatives from mortgage banks, servicers, suppliers, non-depository institutions, and government agencies to participate in a series of collaborative discussions focused on restoring a balance of homeownership to an island still in the midst of rebuilding.

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and copy-editor, and a reporter for DS News. She is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her masters degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha, also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.
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