Frequently Asked Questions for RREM
Last Updated: August 8, 2013
Qualifying for RREM
1. How Can the RREM Program Help Me?
The RREM program provides funding to help Superstorm Sandy Homeowners repair, elevate, or reconstruct their homes. RREM will provide grants to eligible Homeowners for up to $150,000. The RREM program is intended to “fill the gap” between how much it costs to repair the home and other funds the Homeowner has received specifically to repair the structure such as insurance payments, or assistance from FEMA, SBA or nonprofit foundations.
Along with the financial assistance that RREM provides, the program helps Homeowners with the construction process by developing repair specifications, providing qualified builders to do the construction work, and ensuring the quality of the work completed.
2. Who is eligible for RREM?
To be eligible to receive RREM assistance applicants must meet the following eligibility factors:
The damaged residence must be located in one of nine (9) most impacted Counties [Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex. Monmouth, Ocean, Union].
At the time of Superstorm Sandy the damaged residence must have been owned and occupied by the applicant as the applicant’s primary residence.
The residence must have sustained damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy with a Full Verified Loss (FVL) of at least $8,000 or had more than one foot of water on the first floor as determined by FEMA.
The applicant must have registered for FEMA assistance.
Homeowner must have a household adjusted gross annual income of less than $250,000.
3. What kind of housing can be assisted with RREM?
Single family primary residences and owner-occupied units in multi-unit properties (such as duplexes, condominiums and townhomes). Second homes, vacation homes and recreational vehicles are NOT eligible.
4. Are there special rules for condominium and cooperative owners?
Yes, the Homeowners will need the approval of the condominium association or cooperative for the construction plan and must have the association or cooperative provide insurance information.
5. My vacation home was damaged. Can I receive RREM assistance to repair that home?
No. RREM assistance is available only for owner occupied primary residences.
6. I’m thinking about selling my home can I apply for RREM assistance?
If you still own your home you can apply for RREM, but your eligibility for RREM does not transfer to a new owner.
7. Will everyone who is eligible receive funding?
The State was awarded $600 million from the federal government for use in this program. As a result approximately 3,500 Sandy-impacted residents will receive assistance. It is anticipated that more residents will apply than the allocated funds will benefit.
The Application Process
8. How do I apply for RREM?
Applying for the RREM Program is easy. You can apply:
On line at renewjerseystronger.org if you need help while filling out the online application our Call Center can answer your questions. 1 855-SANDYHM (1-855-726-3946).
By phone: If you would prefer you can call our Call Center and a representative will complete the online application for you.
In Person: Sandy Housing Assistance Centers will open in each of the nine (9) most impacted Counties [Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex. Monmouth, Ocean, Union] on June 8. You can go to the Center to apply in person or get information about the program.
How you apply does not affect your status or the likelihood that your application will be selected for award. Please fill out only one application for RREM assistance.
9. How are applications processed?
To ensure that everyone who applied during the initial period had an equal chance of being selected, all eligible applications were placed in an order for processing using a computerized random selection process. The random selection was completed after the June 30th, 2013 initial application period closed.
10. What is the deadline for applications?
The initial application period for the Resettlement Program and the RREM Program began on May 24, 2013 and ended June 30, 2013. Interested homeowners can continue to apply for the program but any application received beginning July 1, 2013 will be considered only after all of the applications from the initial period are processed.
11. How do I know if I have been selected for an award?
Beginning the week of July 8, 2013, Applicants will be notified of their status via mail. There are three possible statuses: 1) You have been determined to be preliminarily eligible for an award and will receive a phone call to schedule an appointment, 2) You were not selected because funds are not available and you will be placed on a wait list, and 3) You are not eligible for the program because you did not meet the eligibility criteria.
12. What proof do I need that I owned my home and that it was my primary residence?
The program will attempt to verify ownership first by doing a title search or using other public records. If we are unable to verify ownership your Housing Advisor will work with you to obtain the necessary documents.
13. How does the extent of damage my house received affect my RREM eligibility?
The extent of damage is important in several ways:
To be eligible, your home must have sustained at least $8,000 of damage or have had at least 1 foot of water on the first floor
Priority for funding will be given to applicants whose homes received “substantial” damage – more than 50% of the pre-storm value as determined by the local Flood Plain Manager or the RREM contractor.
14. How will the damage to my home be determined?
The extent of damage will be determined using a combination of factors including damage records provided by FEMA; letters from the local Flood Plain Managers, and inspection by the RREM contractor.
15. Does my income affect the amount of my RREM grant?
Your income affects your grant in two ways: (1) Applicants with incomes in excess of $250,000 are not eligible to receive RREM assistance; (2) 70% of the funding must be provided to low and moderate income households.
16. If I don’t have a FEMA number can I apply for FEMA assistance now?
No. FEMA is no longer taking applications for assistance related to Superstorm Sandy.
17. Why do I need a letter from the Flood Plain Manager?
The Flood Plain Manager is responsible for making the determination of “substantial” damage. The determination of substantial damage may trigger certain requirements including elevation of the property.
18. Information on my application has changed that would now make me eligible, how to I update it?
If your application was submitted on June 30 or earlier, you can no longer update your application on line. If you have received a letter saying you are ineligible, you may it submit a formal appeal.
19. How do I appeal the decision that I am ineligible?
You must submit a written appeal within 30 days of receiving your letter that explains why you believe the decision was incorrect. Enclose a copy of any additional information you have concerning your eligibility. Information on the appeals process may be found at http://www.reNewJerseyStronger.org/appeal
20. What do I need to bring with me to my RREM appointment?
You will need to bring the following information to your appointment:
- Photo Identification
- The Income Certification Form that was mailed in your packet, signed by all household members age 18 and older along with documentation to support income and assets.
- Duplication Benefit Form that was mailed in your packet, completed and signed along with documents from sources such as insurance, FEMA, SBA and private source that show the amount you from the source that provided you funds to repair or rebuild your home. You will also need to bring receipts for repairs you have made.
- If you have received one, the letter from the Flood Plain Manager indicating that your home has been substantially damaged.
- The Right of Entry Form indicating that the Contractor may enter your home to perform an inspection.
Please note: additional copies of all forms are available at the nine Housing Recovery Center. Click Here to find the Center nearest you.
21. How do I reschedule my RREM appointment?
If you need reschedule your appointment you may reschedule the appointment by calling the reNewJerseyStronger Call Center at 1-855-726-3946, Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm.
22. How is my award calculated?
Program rules require that an owner does not receive more funds than needed. The duplication of benefits analysis takes into consideration all of the funds the owner received to repair the damaged home including insurance, FEMA and SBA assistance, assistance from foundations and any assistance from other sources that were for repair of the structure. Note that this applies only to assistance received for rehabilitating or repair your home, not other types of services or assistance you may have received. To determine the award, other sources of repair funds will be subtracted from the cost to repair established by the RREM contractor to calculate the RREM award. For example: If the cost to repair your home is $250,000 and you received an insurance settlement for $175,000, and no funds from FEMA or SBA, the RREM award would be $75,000 ($250,000 minus $175,000).
23. What is duplication of benefits?
Program rules require that an owner does not receive more funds than needed. The duplication of benefits analysis takes into consideration all of the funds the owner received to repair the damaged home including insurance, FEMA and SBA assistance, and any assistance from other sources that were for repair of the structure.
24. What happens to other funds I have received for repairs, such as my insurance settlement?
The applicant must provide all funds required to repair or rebuild which will be placed in escrow with the award. Any gap in funding from the award and available monies must be covered prior to the construction phase of the program.
25. When will I know my award amount?
Once we begin to process your application (after the June 30 random selection process) we will meet with you to collect any additional documentation we needed to verify your eligibility for participation in the program. After we have all of this information your application will be referred to the RREM construction contractor who will complete the scope of repairs needed for your home and develop a cost estimate for the work to be done within 17 days from when the application is referred to them. The scope of work and cost estimate will be discussed with you. After the completed scope of work is agreed upon, the RREM construction contractor will obtain bids from builders and select a qualified builder to complete the work.
A written notice of your award amount will be sent within 5 days of the completion of this duplication of benefits analysis.
26. When will I receive RREM funds?
After you have received the notice of your award amount, a closing meeting with your advisor will be scheduled. As part of the closing process, the RREM grant and other funds needed for repairs are placed in an escrow account. Owners do not directly receive the RREM funds. You will agree at closing that any additional insurance payments you receive for repairing your home will also be placed in the escrow account. Payments to the builder will be made from the escrow throughout the construction process based upon the amount of work completed.
27. What happens if my home needs more repairs than RREM can help pay for?
If the maximum allowable RREM grant ($150,000) and available insurance payments do not cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home, you will have the option of adding personal funds to the escrow account. The advisor will work with you to discuss ways to fund the escrow account. The account must be funded in full prior to construction starting. You may also choose to take out a private rehabilitation loan to help fill the gap.
28. Can I request upgrades during the building process?
Yes. You may request upgrades as long as they are agreed upon with the builder and you have available funds to place in escrow to pay for the full repair or reconstruction on your house. The cost of the upgrades will be the responsibility of the Homeowner and not the state.
29. How do we ensure the builder does not overcharge?
Three competitive bids will be requested from licensed, bonded, insured, and experienced builders. The lowest cost builder will be selected for the construction work.
30. Can I use my own builder?
Yes. You may use your own builder if they are on the approved list of builders and they provide the lowest cost bid during the selection process. You can suggest to your builder that they apply to join the approved list of contractors.
31. Is my award taxable?
Each awardee should consult their tax accountant for information on how this award will affect your tax liability.
Repairing My Home
32. Who decides what repairs need to be made to my home?
The RREM contractor will determine the amount of work that is required to repair your home to meet required state and local housing quality standards. The scope of work will be discussed with you before it is finalized.
33. Who is responsible for finding a qualified builder?
To ensure that all builders are able to complete repairs, the RREM contractor will review builder qualifications in advance and only permit those who are qualified to participate in the program. Click here to view the list of qualified contractors. A qualified builder will be selected by the RREM contractor and assigned to work on your home.
34. Can RREM help me get zoning approval and permits?
Yes, the RREM contractor will take responsibility for obtaining the necessary approvals for the construction.
35. How will the builder be paid?
As stated above your funds that are available for repair or reconstruction will be placed in an escrow account before work begins. The federal funds will be reserved in the HUD system for your repairs. While the repairs are being completed, RREM contractor and the owner will jointly authorize progress payments to the builder.
36. My letter says I am on a waiting list, why?
All available funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for this program were awarded and the Department of Community Affairs has created a wait list should New Jersey receive additional funds for this grant program. Residents who submitted an application by June 30, 2013 were considered in the initial application period, and were automatically added to the wait list, in the order in which their application was received after funder were determined no longer available.
37. When do you expect to start notifying people off the waiting list?
Applicants on the waiting list will be contacted only if additional funds become available from the federal government.
38. How long does an appeal take to be reviewed?
You will receive notification within 50 days of your appeal submission of the status of your appeal.
39. What are my options if I received an ineligibility letter for my application?
If your application was determined to be ineligible you have the right to appeal.
40. How do I appeal?
You must submit your appeal in writing to: reNew Jersey Stronger – Appeals Department, PO Box 32117, Newark NJ 07102.
41. When can I appeal?
There are intervals when an appeal can be filed:
Pre-closing – You may appeal within 30 days after the initial letter.
Construction – You may appeal during the construction phase.
42. What is the process for an appeal?
Appeals will be reviewed against Program policies and requirements and applicable local, state and federal law.
43. How will I be notified of the appeal decision?
You will be notified by certified letter of the decision.
44. What if I am dissatisfied with the appeal determination?
Applicants who are dissatisfied with the appeal determination may make further appeal to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
45. In the event that I am still dissatisfied with the OAL’s ruling do I have any other options for further appeal?
Yes, you may file an appeal with the State of New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division.
46. Is the federal government going to allow reimbursement of costs used to rebuild or repair my home?
On July 30, 2013, the federal government issued a notice in response to the various requests from the Christie Administration to allow for reimbursement of homeowners and landlords of costs they have already undertaken to rebuild, repair and mitigate their homes, or rental properties.
The notice provides guidance to recovery programs funded by the federal government through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grants. The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) will issue additional guidelines and procedures in the coming week to ensure the maximum benefit is applied to New Jersey’s Sandy-impacted households and landlords.
47. What costs will be reimbursed?
Costs as a result of Sandy incurred by an applicant PRIOR to the TIME OF APPLICATION.
Rules of the ‘reimbursement’:
- Before any CDBG-DR funds can be provided for reimbursement to the applicant, an environmental review must be completed and cleared by the State.
- Costs must be considered within federal guidelines as “necessary and reasonable” for federal program funds.
- Limited to properties where work has been done on the same footprint as before.
48. Will I be eligible under RREM?
Reimbursement will now be considered for all eligible applicants regardless of level of damage.
49. Should I stop work?
Homeowners are advised that it is their choice, but it is in their best interest to stop work when notified of a preliminary award.
It is for the homeowners’ and landlords’ benefit that the State is advising that they halt the ongoing repairs in order to maximize what CAN be covered by the grant funds. The State is still currently restricted by the federal government on reimbursement after the time of application, therefore continuing with work will make that work likely ineligible for the grant funds. HOWEVER, this is the HOMEOWNER’S decision.
50. Will this new reimbursement notice make more awards available for those on the waitlist?
Due to limited federal funding, it is unlikely that even with an additional allocation that every RREM applicant who was placed on the wait list will receive an award, even if New Jersey receives additional funds from the federal government. Therefore, those who are waitlisted should be guided by that fact as they choose whether or not to begin to repair or reconstruct their Sandy-damaged home.