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Steve Kenny talks about the damage Hurricane Ida did to his home in Destrehan on Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

It’s hardly the exception for someone whose home is damaged by natural disaster to also hold a mortgage. More likely it’s the rule.

And yet once again, some Louisianans trying to rebuild are wrestling with their lenders to get full access to the insurance payouts they need to put their homes and lives back together following Hurricane Ida.

The problem is that while homeowner’s insurance is highly regulated, mortgage companies have wide latitude in how they handle settlements. Because they have an interest in protecting their investments, they have the right to sign off on how money meant to repair the damage is spent. But how they do so is wildly unpredictable, often frustrating and sometimes counterproductive.

Some homeowners are forced to jump through extra bureaucratic hoops, after having already done what’s required to secure a settlement. Some have to wait for mortgagers to dole the money out — and may lose contractors they’ve lined up due to the delay.

They got their insurance money after Hurricane Ida. Now they're wrestling their mortgage company.

Because “there’s not a uniform set of rules for mortgage companies to follow,” Metairie attorney Galen Hair’s firm has two full-time employees to haggle over procedures that can change midstream, he said.

The challenge isn’t unique to those who survived Ida. Following Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020, state Rep. Phillip Tarver, R-Lake Charles, pushed legislation guaranteeing homeowners lump-sum settlements, but got nowhere. Now, with more lawmakers in other parts of the state hearing from their constituents — or even running into obstacles themselves — the odds of enacting some sort of consumer protection are improved.

Streamlining and demystifying the process of getting cash into homeowners' hands would help families get home, and also help communities return to normal.

After the year we’ve all just been through, surely the politicians can get behind that.