Mortgage relief for disaster victims

By Marcie Geffner -

The federal government has declared more than 30 official natural disaster areas so far in 2011, and it is only June. The latest area declared was in Joplin, Mo., after a category F5 tornado touched down, leaving thousands of homeowners trying to salvage scraps from homes reduced to rubble.

Last year, the total of large-scale floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and the like climbed to 81. Few states are immune to natural disasters, and each event affects thousands of homeowners who are forced to cope with the physical and emotional damage, as well as the prospect of perhaps not being able to manage their mortgage payments.

Still, a disaster does not guarantee mortgage relief, according to Laura Vinton, counseling manager at Hope Enterprise Corp., a nonprofit community development financial institution in Gulfport, Miss., a town devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "Any consideration is determined case-by-case, and it's a two-way process," she says.

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