Common Legal Issues After a Disaster

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

General Information & Getting Help

Getting Help After a Disaster

Legal issues are extremely common following a natural disaster. Sometimes, you may not even recognize an issue as being a legal one. 

There may be many challenges when trying to recover after a natural disaster. There are laws that can help - and there is assistance available on these issues. If you need help with a legal issue after a disaster, then check with a legal aid office to apply for free assistance if you are low-income and qualify. You can also look for an attorney to help you if you need assistance with any of these legal issues. 

Some of these issues arise in the first few days, weeks, or months after a disaster. Some issues may come up later, even years later after the natural disaster occurred.

Getting Legal Help

Disaster Legal Issues & Timeline

Disaster Legal Issues & Timeline

The following legal issues in the timeline below separate the many legal challenges disaster survivors might face after a disaster. Disasters have a far-reaching impact and there may be a variety of legal issues that survivors might need assistance with. Find the legal issue that relates most closely to the legal need. Then, use the collapsible timeline sections which divide the various other sub-issues that fit sometimes along the timeline after a disaster. This legal issue timeline is meant to help you find the legal issue that most closely fits your situation and legal need after a disaster. 

The following include the various legal issues a disaster survivor might encounter after a disaster: 

Find the timeline for the legal issue you are looking for below. 

Housing Issues After a Disaster

Learn more about housing issues after a disaster. This includes information about the legal issues a person may encounter in housing after a disaster. Access to safe, stable housing is critical to the well-being of a community after a disaster declaration. This information includes:

  • Renters
  • Homeowners

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to housing in the short term - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event: 

  • Proving home ownership by title 

  • Paying for a Mortgage and Loan Payment Forbearance

  • Contacting utility companies to stop or hold services

  • Paying rent for a damaged or destroyed home

  • Landlords' obligation to repair rental property

  • Mold growth and clean up

  • Hiring contractors after a disaster 

  • Apply for FEMA Housing Assistance

  • Apply for SBA Loan Assistance

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to housing in the medium term - 1 to 6 months after the disaster event: 

  • Making repairs to home property  

  • Telling the landlord about damages and asking the landlord to make repairs

  • Dealing with repairs and contractors

  • Dealing with a landlord’s refusal to make repairs to damaged or destroyed property

  • Requesting a security deposit back for a damaged or destroyed home

  • Renter displacement

  • Contacting utility companies 

  • Mortgage loan obligations and mortgage hardship

  • Determining Any Applicable Foreclosure Moratoriums

  • Working with contractors and repair services

  • Receiving Payment Under Homeowners and Flood Insurance with mortgages

  • Avoiding Fraudulent Contractors

  • Avoiding foreclosure

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to housing in the long-term - 6 months to years after a disaster event: 

  • Protecting yourself from mortgage scams including repayment and modification scams

  • Avoiding disaster fraud

  • Looking out for municipal code issues

  • Keeping records of property including lease documents and home inventory 

  • Check for Homeowner's Insurance Coverage

  • Get Flood Insurance

Education and Family Issues Related to a Disaster

Learn more about education and family issues related to a disaster. This includes: 

  • Education 
  • Custody & Guardianship
  • Divorce 
  • Powers of Attorney 
  • Domestic Violence 

 

These are the typical issues a disaster survivor might face related to education and family in the short term - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event: 

  • School and other educational facility closures 
  • Sending children to school with schools closed 
  • Temporary custody i.e. provisional custody by mandate

These are the typical issues a disaster survivor might face related to education and family in the medium term - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event: 

  • Accessing school records and transcripts 

  • Displacement and Going to School 

  • Replacing School Uniforms 

  • Modifying parenting orders to reflect new home and school locations

  • Understanding power of attorney document 

  • Filing for divorce

  • Accessing resources for domestic violence issues

  • Getting a Protective Order

  • Dealing with an eviction related to domestic violence

  • Moving out of the state with a Louisiana protective order 

These are the typical issues a disaster survivor might face related to education and family in te long term - 6 months to years after the disaster event: 

  • Planning for interim custody plans during a declared disaster 

Disaster Programs and Benefits

Learn more about disaster programs and benefits including information about: 

  • Food Benefits 
  • FEMA Assistance 
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loans 
  • Cash Benefits

These are some of the short-term issues - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event related to disaster benefits and assistance: 

  • Getting Disaster SNAP Benefits

  • Understanding What Losses FEMA May Cover

  • Applying for FEMA Assistance

These are some of the medium term issues - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event related to disaster benefits and assistance: 

  • FEMA Inspections, after applying for assistance
  • Appealing FEMA Denials

  • SBA Home Disaster Loans

These are some of the long term issues - 6 months to years after a disaster event related to benefits and assistance: 

  • Defending against FEMA "recoupment" (when they ask for assistance benefits back)

Consumer Issues After a Disaster

Learn more about consumer issues after a disaster. This has consumer issues including: 

  • Insurance Claims 
  • Fraud & Scams 
  • Debt 
  • Bankruptcy

These are some of the short-term issues - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event related to consumer issues: 

  • Checking to see if a policy covers a disaster issue

  • Understanding disaster issues not covered by homeowner’s insurance  

  • Understanding insurance policyholder post-loss duties

  • Taking reasonable steps to protect property from further damage

  • Fraud & Scams

These are some of the medium-term issues - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event that disaster survivors might face related to consumer issues: 

  • Assessing the value of the loss and preparing an inventory of damaged or destroyed items

  • Filing An Insurance Claim

  • Fraud & Scams

  • Dealing with Fraudulent Charitable Solicitation 

  • Preparing and notifying lenders if finances are impacted by a disaster event

These are some of the long-term issues that a disaster survivor might face in the long term - 6 months to years after a disaster event related to consumer issues: 

  • Maintaining homeowner’s (and renter’s) insurance 

  • Homeowner’s Insurance Claim Denials 

  • Understanding flood insurance and flood risk

  • Fraud & Scams

  • Dealing with debt collection

  • Understanding bankruptcy, including whether to file for bankruptcy and how to file

Employment and Unemployment Legal Issues After a Disaster

Learn more about employment or unemployment issues after a disaster. This includes: 

  • Lost Wages and Wage Theft 
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance 

These are some of the short term - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event issues related to employment and unemployment that disaster survivors might face: 

  • Applying for disaster unemployment assistance
  • Documenting wage issues or claims 

These are some of the medium-term - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event issues related to employment and unemployment that disaster survivors might face: 

  • Appealing disaster unemployment benefit denials 
  • Notice regarding wage issues 

These are some of the long-term - 6 months to years after the disaster event issues that disaster survivors might face related to employment and unemployment: 

  • Defending against unemployment benefits "recoupment" (when they ask for assistance back)
  • Disputes about wages and wage theft

Finance Issues After a Disaster

Learn more about financial issues after a disaster. This includes information about: 

  • Replacing Lost Documents 
  • Tax Relief 

These are some of the short-term 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event issues related to finance that disaster survivors might face:  

  • Replacing lost documents 

These are some of the medium-term - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event issues related to finance that disaster survivors might face:  

  • Applying for Disaster Tax Relief Options
  • Replacing lost documents 

These are some of the long term - 6 months to years after a disaster event issues related to finance that disaster survivors might face:  

  • Applying for Disaster Tax Relief Options

Other Emergency Issues After a Disaster

Learn more about other emergency issues after a disaster including: 

  • Finding Missing Persons After a Disaster
  • Disaster Services and Information
  • Emergency Rule Modifications
  • Rebuilding and Reconstruction After a Disaster

 

These are some of the short-term 1-6 weeks after a disaster event emergency issues that disaster survivors might face: 

  • Locating and finding missing persons 

  • Finding information and resources related to disaster help

  • Implementing and understanding emergency rule modifications

  • Major Disaster Declarations

These are some of the medium-term - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event emergency issues that disaster survivors might face: 

  • Referrals to community services

  • Understanding federal procedural information about disaster authorities

These are some of the long-term - 6 months to years after event after disaster event emergency issues that disaster survivors might face: 

  • Planning for rebuilding and reconstruction

Courts & Legal Deadlines

Courts & Legal Deadlines

Following a disaster, certain deadlines may be extended. Courts may suspend their filing deadlines. Courts may also be relocated. Check to learn if court deadlines or the statute of limitations might be extended during a time of disaster. 

Last Review and Update: Sep 13, 2022
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