Latest Puerto Rico earthquake further vexing servicers

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A recent earthquake is adding to servicing challenges in Puerto Rico caused by multiple natural disasters, power outages and some companies' insufficient use of technology, according to one vendor.

"There's a huge volume of claims in Puerto Rico and now, not only do you have damage from Hurricane Maria, you have the damage from the earthquake," said Jane Mason, CEO of Clarifire, a servicing technology provider working to help servicers, banks and agencies process loss mitigation applications.

"To this day, you need people on the ground that can go to some of these neighborhoods where the power is not fully restored yet," added Mason, who said she recently was working in Puerto Rico to help a client there. "There are still borrowers waiting to submit applications for relief."

Not every servicer has access to or uses the latest technologies. If more did, it could help get disaster assistance processed quicker in regions where automation is operable, she said.

Clarifire is doing what it can to address servicing pain points, Mason added.

"We're looking at how we can send bulk notifications and identify those areas that need the most help," said Mason. "We're also working to shorten the cycle times."

In addition, Mason said she is working to help improve communication between servicers and property insurance companies.

"That's where everybody gets bogged down, and there are some proactive insurance companies that we're in discussion with that could make a huge impact in improving how we deal with all of these moving parts of the process," Mason said.

Mortgage servicers also could make more headway processing claims faster in places like Puerto Rico if they took a page from insurers and did more to use remote surveillance devices to document the damage and establish properties are located in official disaster areas eligible for aid, she said.

"The mortgage banking industry should be leveraging drones as part of that," Mason said.

Puerto Rico was most recently hit by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Jan. 6. It was also hit by another earthquake and Tropical Storm Karen last fall. On a scale of 1 to 9, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 or higher is considered strong and capable of inflicting severe damage.

Homeowners' insurance policies may not cover earthquake damage.

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Loss mitigation Servicing Mortgage technology Natural disasters Drones