The Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) is following due process in making insurance payouts to clients on Abaco and Grand Bahama who were affected by Hurricane Dorian to ensure that the funds are actually being used to repair the homes, according to BMC Managing Director Philip Haven.
The corporation faced criticism recently after some residents claiming to be clients expressed frustration with not receiving any payouts in order to proceed with making repairs more than three months after the storm passed.
However, during a press conference yesterday, Haven said, “There is a process that we have in place, and the reason why we have the process in place – it is the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation’s intention to make sure that the homes are restored to the way they were before the hurricane.”
He added, “The mortgage corporation in the past has granted checks to the customers, and we found that some of those customers have received damage from Hurricane Matthew…those checks have been made available to those customers back then [and] they haven’t repaired their homes.
“So because the homes are the security of the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation and it is our intention to restore the home to the way it was before the hurricane, we have to put these controls in place.”
Haven added, “Our requirements, as we listed, ask that we have a contractor’s quote, that they are government licensed and that they sign the contract after assessment. The reason for this is, this process has to be managed by the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation.”
Noting that its Abaco office remains closed and it has a temporary office in Bell Channel, Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama – in addition to its New Providence office – the corporation’s managing director encouraged clients to visit the corporation for assistance and sought to assure them that they would be assisted regardless of their mortgage status or whether they have funds readily available.
“As it relates to our customers who may be behind with the payments, who may be experiencing difficulties, who may be experiencing complications, we ask them to come in and sit down and talk to us. If there is something that could be worked out, we would like to work [it] out,” Haven said.
“We find that, even some of the customers in Grand Bahama who are experiencing damage, the majority of them were delinquent.
“But delinquency is not the issue because we are going to restore the home to the way it was before the hurricane regardless of the status of the mortgage.”
He added, “What we’ve introduced, we don’t usually give mobilization. But for this process…if the customer requires mobilization, the only thing they have to do is request it.
“Mobilization, in some cases, is usually 20 percent of the first stage payment. There have been some cases when we have authorized a little bit more than that, based on the customer’s need.
“What we have been doing is we have a list of requirements here but it is our mandate to return these homes to the position of what was before the hurricane, so there have been some cases that we’ve been looking at case by case.”
Haven said: “Just to give you an example – if the first stage is not completed and the contractor is running out of funds and he did not have or did not request mobilization from the customer, we understand that the contractors themselves are also experiencing problems.
“So we’re telling them you can go in and get mobilization if you’re finding it difficult to complete this stage.
“We’re also saying that if material’s not available, and the absence of material may prevent you from moving on, you can request that we come in and do an inspection and in the one-off cases we have been granting partial payment to those customers so that they could move forward with fixing up their place.”
While the corporation could not provide an amount that has been paid out so far, Haven stressed that it is processing checks daily and also using “outside-of-the-box” techniques to assist clients: in some cases providing checks of up to $15,000 directly to clients in good standing; or in the event a client requests the check be used to pay off the mortgage, those clients would then receive a check for the remaining balance.
Clients who may not wish to rebuild their homes on Grand Bahama or Abaco, as some residents have expressed, are also “welcome to come in and sit down and discuss with us what their plans are”, the corporation said.
According to Haven, once clients meet the requirements, “they go in and they see the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation, they send the request in to Nassau, we process the checks and we turn the checks around usually within 24 to 48 hours”.
The BMC yesterday posted a notice on its Facebook page outlining the documents necessary to complete the process.