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National Disaster Legal Aid

Appeal Your FEMA Decision

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Appealing Your FEMA Decision 

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you begin the interactive interview and file your FEMA appeal, we recommend that you read the following Frequently Asked Questions for an overview of the appeals process and other very important information:

Can this site help me with an original FEMA application?

No, it cannot. Deadlines for FEMA assistance applications for major disasters are listed on the "Active Disaster Quick Links" pages of this website. 

What is the deadline for filing an appeal?

Your appeal letter must be postmarked within 60 days of the date of FEMA's decision letter.

Is an appeal the only way for me to dispute FEMA's decision?

No. An initial decision letter from FEMA denying assistance is not the last word. If your circumstances have changed, if FEMA's decision does not make sense to you, or if additional information has become available that may entitle you to assistance, you can visit a FEMA disaster assistance center or call 1-800-621-3362 to ask for clarification.  The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

I sent FEMA additional documents but have not heard back and the 60-day appeal period is almost over. Should I still file an appeal?

Yes, you should send in your appeal before the 60-day deadline.  In your appeal letter be sure to include any additional information or special circumstances related to your situation (e.g. if you sent additional documents and did not receive a response). 

What if it has been more than 60 days?

If you think you have a good excuse for not appealing earlier, send your letter anyway and explain why it is late.

FEMA granted me rental assistance but denied assistance for repair of my home. Should I file an appeal?

Yes. If the damage to your home was not covered by insurance and you believe you are eligible, you should file an appeal letter. Note that FEMA disaster assistance is intended to provide resources or monetary assistance for losses not covered by insurance and other critical expenses.  It is not intended to restore a property to its pre-disaster condition.

What documents do I need to file an appeal?

Collecting the following documents before you start your appeal may make the process easier:

• Copy of the decision letter from FEMA in response to your request for assistance;
• If you rent your apartment or home, a copy of the lease;
• Homeowners or flood insurance policy and any correspondence to/from the insurer regarding denial or settlement of the claim;
• Rent receipts or other proof of payment for alternate housing (if FEMA denied rental assistance);
• Correspondence from the Small Business Administration demonstrating ineligibility for a loan;
• Contractor or repair estimates, contracts, receipts, cancelled checks, or other proof of expenditures for home repair, personal property replacement, moving and storage costs, medical or dental treatment, or funeral expenses; and/or
• Inspection reports, photographs, or other proof that your home was made uninhabitable by the storm.

Where can I find an explanation of the denial codes in FEMA's decision letter?

A list of denial codes can be found in FEMA's free publication: Help After a Disaster - Applicant's Guide to the Individuals and Households Program.

Can I submit my appeal letter electronically?

No. You must print out the letter, sign it, attach a copy of your driver's license and any supporting documents, and mail or fax it to FEMA within 60 days from the date of FEMA's decision letter.

Can I submit an appeal letter on behalf of a family member or friend?

Yes. If someone other than the applicant files the appeal, the applicant must also submit a signed statement giving that person authority to represent the applicant. Note that FEMA generally communicates directly with each applicant to protect their private information.  The Privacy ACT therefore requires FEMA to obtain written consent from the applicant in order to share their disaster assistance records with a third party.  The written consent must:

• Be in writing;
• Include the applicant’s identity verification information (full name, current address, date and place of birth)
• Be dated and signed by the applicant
• Be notarized or have a copy of a state-issued identification card or include a statement verifying the information is true under penalty of perjury;
• Include an individual identifier (e.g. registration number, current mailing address, current phone number, SSN);
• Specify what information can be released to the third party (e.g. entire case file, current contact information, amount of disaster assistance received);
• Include a third party designation.  The individual must designate, identify, and name the individuals, entities or organizations to which the disclosure is being consented.

Where do I send my appeal letter?

Mail your letter to:
FEMA - Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

Or fax it to FEMA at: 1-800-827-8112. (Attention: FEMA - Individuals & Households Program.)
Remember to keep a complete copy of your appeal letter for your records. If you send it by fax, keep a fax confirmation page to prove you sent it.

How will I find out if my appeal is granted?

FEMA will send a letter to you notifying you of the result of the appeal.

How can I check on the status of my appeal?

To check the status of your appeal online, go to http://www.disasterassistance.gov and click on "Check Your Application Status." Or call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.

If FEMA denies my appeal, do I have any further right to review of the decision?

There is no right of further appeal, but if your circumstances change after your appeal (for example, if your homeowners insurance claim is denied) you should contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 to see if you have become eligible for assistance.

I shared an apartment or house before the storm and didn't have a written lease. How can I prove I lived there?

Provide copies of bills addressed to you, tax returns, or other documents that show the address was your primary residence.  If you paid rent without a lease in place, provide copies of checks, rent receipts, bank statements, or other proof of payment. You also can get a written statement from the owner of the house or apartment, or your roommate, explaining that you lived there as a renter.

Do I have to repay assistance from FEMA?

FEMA assistance for which you are eligible does not have to be repaid, however you may have to repay assistance if FEMA later determines you were not eligible to receive it.

Will I have to pay taxes on FEMA assistance?

No, FEMA assistance is not taxable.

Will FEMA assistance reduce the amount of other government benefits, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps), unemployment insurance, or Social Security?

No, FEMA assistance does not affect eligibility for other governmental benefit programs.

What can I expect after I file the appeal letter?

After FEMA receives the appeal, FEMA reviews the letter and the applicant’s file to determine if there is sufficient documentation to change FEMA’s determination.  FEMA may request additional information or may contact a third party, such as a contractor or insurance company to verify submitted information.  FEMA may also schedule an appeal inspection.  FEMA will notify you in writing about the appeal decision within 90 days of the receipt of the appeal letter.

What kind of appeal documentation is helpful to collect?

FEMA recommends the following documentation, although this list is not exhaustive:
 

Denial Reason

Acceptable Documentation

Identity not verified

  • Official government document (social security statement, etc)
  • Copy of driver’s license

Ownership not verified

  • Deed, title, or official record
  • Real estate tax bill or receipt
  • Will or proof of inheritance
  • Mortgage statement
  • Proof of insurance coverage (settlement or denial), or statement from insurance provider
  • Property tax receipts or property tax bill
  • Manufactured home certificate of title
  • Real Estate Provisions
  • Contract for Deed
  • Land Installment Contract
  • Quitclaim Deed
  • Bill of Sale or Bond for Title
  • Will or Affidavit of Heirship naming the applicant heir to the property and a death certificate
  • Receipts for Major Repairs or Improvements
  • Mobile Home Park Letter
  • Court Documents
  • Public Official's Letter
  • Proof of Ownership Self-Declarative Statement (see below for additional info)

Occupancy not verified

  • Utility Bills
  • Other Bills (Bank or credit card bill, phone bill, cable/satellite bill, medical provider’s bill, etc.)
  • Employer's Documents
  • Lease/Housing Agreement
  • Rent Receipts
  • Public Official's Documents
  • Identification Cards
  • Social Service Organization Documents
  • Local School Documents
  • Federal or State Benefit Documents
  • Motor Vehicle Registration
  • Affidavits of Residency or Other Court Documentation
  • Mobile  Home Park Documents
  • Proof of Occupancy Self-Declarative Statement (see below for additional info)

Insufficient damage/Damage not disaster-caused

  • Contractor’s statement or estimate
  • Mechanic’s statement or estimate
  • Statement from local official
  • Receipts for expenses caused by the disaster

Insurance may cover losses

  • Receipts for expenses caused by the disaster
  • Proof of insurance coverage (settlement or denial), or statement from insurance provider

Proof of Ownership Self-Declarative Statement: FEMA will accept a written self-declarative statement as a last resort from applicants whose pre-disaster residence was a mobile home or travel trailer, as traditional forms of ownership documentation may not exist since mobile homes and travel trailers may be considered vehicles and not real estate. FEMA will also accept a written self-declarative statement as a last resort from applicants living in insular areas, islands, and tribal lands, as many of these areas lack the traditional documentation and land ownership practices common in the continental United States. Self-declarative statements must be provided to FEMA in writing to be maintained in the applicant’s file, not solely viewed by an inspector. The statement must include:

  • the address of the disaster-damaged residence;
  • length of time the applicant lived in the disaster-damaged primary residence prior to the Presidential disaster declaration;
  • the major elements of the following statement and additional explanation, “I have made a good faith effort, in coordination with FEMA, to obtain and provide a copy of acceptable ownership documentation. I do meet FEMA’s definition of an owner-occupant because I am (A) the legal owner of the home, (B) pay no rent, but am responsible for the payment of taxes or maintenance for the residence, or (C) hold lifetime occupancy rights. I was unable to obtain this documentation because [provide an explanation of the circumstances that prevent standard ownership verification of the appropriate owner-occupant category]. I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”; and
  • the applicant’s name and signature.

Heirship Proof of Ownership: A written self-declarative statement as a last resort from applicants whose pre-disaster residence was passed down via heirship, as often times, traditional forms of ownership documentation in these situations do not exist. Self-declarative statements must be provided to FEMA in writing to be maintained in the applicant’s file, not solely viewed by an inspector. The statement must include:

  • the address of the disaster-damaged residence;
  • length of time the applicant lived in the disaster-damaged primary residence prior to the Presidential disaster declaration;
  • the major elements of the following statement and additional explanation, “I have made a good faith effort, in coordination with FEMA, to obtain and provide a copy of acceptable ownership documentation. I was unable to obtain this documentation because [provide an explanation of the circumstances that prevent standard ownership verification].”;
  • the major elements of the following statement, “As the nearest relative of the deceased in the line of succession, my ownership includes all the rights and obligations of the deceased. The decedent’s name is __________, who died on ____________. I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”; and
  • the applicant’s name and signature.

Self-declarative statements may be written post-disaster. FEMA will not accept a declarative statement of ownership for pre-disaster squatters or when conflicting documentation available to FEMA contradicts the declarative statement.
In instances where multiple applicants claim they are the owner-occupant, an applicant who provides other acceptable ownership documentation may be determined eligible when all other applicants claiming ownership for the same address provide self-declarations of ownership. If all claimants provide self-declarative statements, the first applicant to meet all eligibility and documentation criteria will be awarded the Housing Assistance funds.

Proof of Occupancy Self-Declarative Statement: If the listed documentation in the above Documentation to Verify Occupancy chart is unavailable, FEMA may accept a written self-declarative statement as a last resort from applicants whose pre-disaster residence was a mobile home or travel trailer, as applicants residing in a mobile home or travel trailer may experience challenges with obtaining occupancy documentation. FEMA may also accept a written self-declarative statement as a last resort from applicants living in insular areas, islands, and tribal lands. Self-declarative statements may be written post-disaster and must be provided to FEMA in writing to be maintained in the applicant’s file, not solely viewed by an inspector. The statement must include:

  • the address of the disaster-damaged residence;
  • length of time the applicant lived in the disaster-damaged residence prior to the Presidential disaster declaration;
  • o the major elements of the following statement and additional explanation, “I have made a good faith effort, in coordination with FEMA, to obtain and provide a copy of acceptable occupancy documentation. I was unable to obtain this documentation because [provide an explanation of the circumstances that prevent standard occupancy verification to include why the other document types were not available to the applicant or how the available documents do not meet FEMA’s requirements]. I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.”; and
  • the applicant’s name and signature.
  • If possible, the applicant should also provide any documents from the Documentation to Verify Occupancy chart, even if they do not meet all the requirements for the document type, to further support their claim.

 

If your question was not addressed above, please contact FEMA disaster assistance center or call 1-800-621-3362 to ask for clarification.  The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.  You can also check the Individual Assistance Program & Policy Guide (IAPPG), a guidance from FEMA that provides the public with a single, comprehensive reference containing policy statements and conditions of eligibility for all forms of Individuals and Households Program (IHP) assistance. 

LAST UPDATED: November 2021 



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