How to get financial help when natural disasters strike

Natural disasters can turn into financial disasters. Personal property can be damaged and destroyed and overall the disruptions can make it hard for some people to make their loan and credit card payments, for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to prevent permanent, black marks on one's credit report under these circumstances.

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According to Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride, “Homeowners and car owners with damage should first contact their insurance companies, then notify their lenders. Those residing in declared federal disaster areas will have late fees waived, and in extreme cases may even have their monthly payments deferred for a period of time. But it is important to get in contact with your lender and let them know your situation.”

According to Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, there are ways consumers can stop a late payment due to a storm disruption from impacting their credit score. The first step is to contact the loan servicer or lender and tell them you have been impacted by the storm and tell them that you would like forbearance. Under forbearance a loan servicer can choose to defer payment and to not cause other negative credit consequences such as late fees, collection calls and negative reporting to a credit reporting agency.

If you are already late on a payment you can ask that any fees already assessed be reversed. Consumers Union recommends that the forbearance details be explained clearly, in writing, including payment postponement provisions and how the missed payments are to be repaid, among other details.