BATON ROUGE, LA — Dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster can be overwhelming for families and businesses. Attorney General Jeff Landry advises consumers to use a simple checklist of options for paying bills in the flood recovery process.
“Credit card companies, lenders, financial institutions, landlords, utilities, and others may offer help to people affected by the flood,” said Attorney General Landry. “Lenders may be willing to ease some financial pressure during this difficult time.”
General Landry added that in some cases, such entities may be able to defer payments or offer repayment plans; extend grace periods; waive late fees; raise credit limits; refrain from reporting delinquency; and postpone collection, repossessions, and foreclosures.
General Landry offers the following checklist to help consumers keep their finances on track:
Ask creditors for short-term loans for living expenses, increases in credit limits, or cash advance limits until insurance or disaster relief funds are received.
Contact utility companies, including your wireless phone services, to inform them of loss in the disaster. When calling, ask them to waive their fees and allow deferred payments or a different payment schedule.
Ask financial institutions to waive ATM fees, overdraft fees, and their reporting of overdrafts to the credit reporting companies. Ask them to waive any penalties on early withdrawal of certificates of deposit.
Ask credit card companies to change billing address to temporary address, if necessary. Ask to defer some payments in the short-term and for a different payment schedule in the long term. Ask to waive late fees, over-limit and other fees, and any increased interest rates. If an increased credit limit or cash advance limit is needed, ask for it. And ask them to waive reporting any delinquency to the credit reporting companies.
Ask for deferred payments for several months on mortgage, auto, or other loans/leases. Some companies may permit mortgage payment reductions or extended deferred payments. Also ask to waive any late fees and any reporting of delinquencies to the credit reporting companies, and ask for an extension on your loan to reduce or defer your payments until you are back on more solid financial footing. Ask to avoid any prepayment penalties if mortgage gets paid off early due to the emergency.
Asking for a fee waiver or change in the terms and conditions of your account certainly does not guarantee that a company will agree to it, stresses General Landry. He said company policies and legal obligations can vary.
For more consumer tips, call Attorney General Landry’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-351-4889.