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Tips That Might Change a FEMA Eligibility Determination

Release date: 
July 25, 2018
Release Number: 
FS 045

There are some common reasons why Puerto Rico survivors of hurricanes Irma and María are determined ineligible for FEMA help. These include:

  • Damage not related to the event
  • No contact for inspection
  • Occupancy not verified

What Survivors Can Do

Survivors who disagree with FEMA’s decision about their applications may submit an appeal in writing providing additional information or documentation critical for reevaluating each case. Applicants have 60 days from the date on FEMA’s determination letter to file an appeal. If insured, survivors have up to a year to appeal and to provide an insurance determination letter.

Here are ways to appeal the most common reasons for ineligibility.

  • Home is safe to occupy – Include new evidence of the damage to the property and include new pictures or receipts that explain the damage. Summarize changes in circumstances or needs if additional property damage was discovered after registration, inspection or contractor’s estimate.
  • No contact for inspection – Keep your information and application status up to date. You can check your application online at or call FEMA Helpline 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585. Update your phone numbers, alternate contact numbers, address and email. Make sure you check with your alternate point of contact for any messages from FEMA.
  • Call the FEMA help line – Designate a representative or authorized party if you are unable to meet for an inspection. Request to be reinstated and provide updated information or third-party written consent.
  • Occupancy not verified – Submit a copy of a utility bill (electric, water/sewer, etc.), merchant statement (bank, credit card statement, phone bill, cable/satellite, etc.) within the period of time the disaster occurred. If all forms of verification were destroyed, FEMA may accept a signed self-declaration. This document must include the length of time the applicant has lived at the disaster-damaged location and an explanation of circumstances that prevent standard verification of occupancy.
  • A statement of occupancy can be used as a last resort.
  • A statement of occupancy is a written, dated and signed document informing FEMA the dwelling is occupied by the applicant more than six months of the calendar year.
  • It must include the applicant’s name and address.
  • It must state how long the applicant lived in the disaster-damaged residence prior to the disaster declaration.
  • It must include an explanation of the circumstances that prevented standard occupancy verification.
  • It must be signed and dated.
  • A statement of occupancy is only to be used as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.

The appeal letters should include the following information:

  • Applicant's full legal name used on the disaster assistance application
  • FEMA case number
  • Personal phone number and backup phone number where the applicant also can be reached
  • Current mailing address
  • Clear explanation of events or changes in circumstances and evidence to support the appeal
  • Photocopies of receipts for materials and labor, if applicable
  • Repair estimates, receipts, statements or invoices, if applicable

Appeals can be submitted:

  • In person: At a local disaster recovery center (find your closest center visit
  • By Mail:
    FEMA National Processing Service Center
    P.O. Box 10055
    Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055
  • By Fax: 800-827-8112
  • Online: Log in to your account at

For more information on hurricane season preparedness, visit


Last Updated: 
July 26, 2018 - 17:11