Skip to main content

Hurricane Ida Information

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

Hurricane Ida Impacts

 

On August 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Southeast Louisiana. Disaster recovery efforts and related legal issues are expected for months to come.

  • In times of uncertainty, information is critical. Inform yourself using reliable sources. Always double-check information found on social media. This page will be updated with resources from state and federal governments as they become available. In general, extraordinary measures are in place to ensure personal stability in the face of potential economic challenges. 
  • Please be patient and keep referring back to this page. We will continue to update it daily or as often as new information comes in.

Getting Legal Help

Information and Resources Related to Hurricane Ida in Louisiana

  • Louisiana Disaster Legal Tip Line: Text "Subscribe" to 318-405-4185
  • SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
  • The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is the first national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text 'TalkWithUs' to 66746) to residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or man-made disasters.
  • Red Cross: 1-800-REDCROSS
  • HurricaneRecovery.la.gov
  • United Policyholders (UP) is a national non-profit 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy group that specializes in helping disaster victims with insurance claim issues. UP also trains case managers and legal aid lawyers to assist clients with insurance and recovery matters. For help with flood, wind, hurricane, and auto insurance questions.
  • ABA Disaster Legal Services Program: Through the Disaster Legal Services Program, the ABA Young Lawyers Division (ABA-YLD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provide immediate temporary legal assistance to disaster survivors at no charge. Please visit their page here for other disaster recovery resources.
  • FloodProof App: Proving you own your home is necessary to qualify for FEMA, SBA loans, or other disaster rebuilding funds. The Flood Proof app helps users get their documents and information in order and connects those that qualify with free legal help.

Residents and businesses affected by this disaster can apply for government disaster relief benefits in several ways:

  • Online at DisasterAssistance.gov
  • On the FEMA Mobile App,
  • FEMA Benefits Application
  • Text “DRC” and a zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to locate a Disaster Recovery Center in your area (standard message and data rates apply), or by
  • Calling 800-621-3362 (FEMA). Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may also call 800-621-3362. People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. The toll-free numbers are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time, seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available. Press 2 for Spanish and press 3 for other languages. 
  • For official news and press releases related to this disaster, please visit FEMA's News & Updates section
    • Note: Apply to FEMA to trigger the SBA Disaster loan process.

Legal Deadlines After Hurricane Ida

 

The Louisiana Supreme Court and Governor have delayed all civil legal deadlines until at least September 24, 2021, statewide.

  • This means judgments cannot be taken in lawsuits, evictions cannot be ordered, suits cannot “prescribe” or “abandon” until then, and a court cannot penalize you for missing a court date before then.
  • These extensions apply without asking the court for an extension. The court should be in touch with the attorneys on cases about rescheduling court dates.

There is an exception that allows a property owner to:

  • reclaim leased property if “abandoned,” or
  • enter leased property to make necessary repairs.
  • See about how renters should protect themselves, here.

 

FAQ Legal Deadlines by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

The federal courts for the “Eastern District” and “Middle District” of Louisiana also suspended all deadlines for the same amount of time.

These two federal courts cover federal suits for the following parishes:

Ascension Lafourche St. Charles Terrebonne
Assumption Livingston St. Helena Washington
East Baton Rouge Orleans St. James West Baton Rouge
East Feliciana Plaquemines St. John the Baptist West Feliciana
Iberville Pointe Coupee St. Tammany  
Jefferson St. Bernard Tangipahoa

The U.S. Tax Court has not issued any orders extending legal deadlines.  Anyone receiving a notice from the IRS with a deadline for going to U.S. Tax Court should meet the deadline, or request an extension before the deadline.

  • Some judges may require all responses be in place by September 25. Other judges may allow more days, based on how many days you originally had or how many you had left on August 26. The safest choice is to have everything in place by the 24th.
  • If you have been sued and do not know what you need to do about a suit, you may need to file a motion for extension by then. There are small court fees to file this, around $30. If a court tries to charge more, tell them you are not paying “advanced costs,” but only for the motion for extension. If you have problems with the fees, you can contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services to see if we can give you free legal help. See https://slls.org/contact-us/
  • You can check this website again around September 24 to see if there is a further extension or if there are specific instructions about filings that have been delayed. News about any extension may not be available until after September 24.

  • All major courts should be accessible in at least a limited way for emergencies.
  • Emergencies include things like issuing domestic violence protective orders, stopping evictions and lockouts and illegal utility shutoffs that a court has not ordered, and stopping certain other illegal actions that cause immediate harm.
  • If you think you have an emergency and cannot find a way to get it to court, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services can assist in some cases. Please contact them to see if they can give you free legal help. See https://slls.org

Contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services to see if they can give you free legal help. See https://slls.org/contact-us/ 

  • Your income, where you live, where the court is, or the type of legal problem could affect whether they can help.

Contract deadlines are not necessarily extended. However, tenants cannot be evicted until after September 24th. Tenants do owe rent and could owe late fees if they do not pay rent on time. If tenants do not pay these, they could be evicted right after deadlines restart if the landlord follows correct procedures. Please see more about renters’ rights here.

Deadlines for all Louisiana State and local agencies, including for appeals, have been suspended through September 24, as well. Return to this site around then then for any update.

  • This includes interviews for new SNAP applications.
  • This doesn’t mean automatic SNAP approval.
  • To be considered for benefits, you must first fully complete your application. It’s important to include identity and all income and resource information and respond quickly to any questions.
  • If staff need additional information, they will contact you, usually via mail.
  • Any missing information will affect your eligibility and lengthen the time it takes to process your application.

Storm-Related Property Damage

 

Homeowners Insurance Policies 

  • Homeowners insurance policies do not cover most flooding. You need separate flood insurance policy to protect your home and belongings against flood damage. 

Flood Insurance

  • Even if your home has been flooded before you can buy flood insurance. However, there may be a 30-day delay before flooding is covered. See your insurance agent for details. 

Federal Disaster Assistance & Flood Damage 

  • You may be eligible for federal disaster assistance if your home is in a federally declared disaster area. 

Information and Resources Related to Housing and Renters

FAQ for Renters by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

Unfortunately, yes, you likely still owe rent. When you cannot use your home because of an “Act of God” or other event outside of your control like a hurricane, you may be able to get out of your lease (see below), but you cannot get a reduction of rent. See Louisiana Civil Code article 2715: “If the impairment of the use of the leased thing was caused by circumstances external to the leased thing, the lessee is entitled to a dissolution of the lease, but is not entitled to diminution of the rent.” 

No. Your landlord must go to court to evict you, and cannot force you to leave for any reason without an eviction judgment from the judge.

  • If you are evacuated you should let your landlord know that you are temporarily out of town due to the storm and have not abandoned the premises or moved out permanently. The best way to do this is in writing via text message or email so you can prove you notified them. If your landlord tries to call you, you should pick up the phone and let them know where you are. The law only allows a landlord to take possession of a unit without going to court if the property is abandoned. Typically this means that the property is empty of furnishings, no one appears to be living there for an extended period of time, and the keys are left or returned. See La. Code Civ. P. art. 4731(B). However after Katrina some landlords took advantage of this provision to claim that their tenant had "abandoned" the premises when they were just evacuated and illegally removed their belongings. So it is important to protect yourself by putting your landlord on written notice that you have not moved out and plan to return.
  • Your landlord may be liable for damages if they evict you without going through the court process.

You should notify your landlord immediately in writing (text or email is fine) of any storm-related damage that needs to be repaired. You should also take and send pictures if you can.

Your landlord has a legal obligation to make necessary repairs to keep your home liveable under Louisiana Civil Code art. 2691, unless your lease says you are responsible. Some repair delays may be outside your landlord’s control because contractors may be booked and unavailable for a period of time. If your landlord refuses to make repairs that they have the power to make to keep your home liveable, you have three possible options:

  1. Get out of your lease early (See La Civ. Code 2013 or 2015)
  2. Repair and deduct (See La. Civ. Code art. 2694)
  3. Sue for damages (you will likely need a private attorney as legal aid cannot assist with this)

To “repair and deduct’ you must give your landlord written notice of the need for necessary repairs. If your landlord fails to make the necessary repairs in a reasonable amount of time, you can make the repairs yourself or hire someone to. Then, save the receipt and deduct it from your next month’s rent. Be sure to pay on time with a money order and attach a copy of the receipt. If your landlord refuses to accept the payment, keep the money order to show the judge if your landlord tries to evict you. If you do this correctly, your landlord should not be able to evict you for nonpayment of rent.

In some circumstances you may be entitled to a reduction of rent if your use of a home is “substantially impaired” by your landlord’s failure to make necessary repairs. See La. Civ. Code art. 2715. At least one court has said you must either come to an agreement with your landlord about the amount of reduction or sue in court for a reduction.

  • Yes, your landlord is allowed to displace you from your home if repairs cannot wait until the end of your lease. Louisiana Civil Code 2693 says:
  • If during the lease the thing requires a repair that cannot be postponed until the end of the lease, the lessor has the right to make that repair even if this causes the lessee to suffer inconvenience or loss of use of the thing.
  • In such a case, the lessee may obtain a reduction or abatement of the rent, or a dissolution of the lease, depending on all of the circumstances, including each party's fault or responsibility for the repair, the length of the repair period, and the extent of the loss of use.
  • The landlord is not required to put you up in a hotel or pay for alternate accommodations if you are displaced temporarily due to necessary repairs. You can argue under this code article that you should not owe rent for the period of time you are displaced, or at least that you are owed a reduced rent.*
  • *Check your lease, because if your lease says something different than the law, your lease will control here. 

  • If your lease is expired it automatically renews as a month-to-month lease under Louisiana law, except if your lease says something different. Unless you live in certain types of government-funded housing, like Low Income Housing Tax Credit housing or public housing, your landlord does not need a reason to evict you at the end of your lease. They can evict you with 10 days’ written notice at the end of a month-to-month lease, or 30 days’ written notice at the end of a year lease (unless your lease says more notice is required). This does not mean your landlord can just put you out.  Your landlord still has to file an eviction in court if you do not move and cannot physically put you out without an eviction judgment and a “warrant for possession” from a court.
  • Click here for more information about the Louisiana eviction process.

  • If your home is totally destroyed, your landlord may be allowed to take you to court to evict you once courts reopen. Under Louisiana Civil Code article 2714: “If the leased thing is lost or totally destroyed, without the fault of either party, or if it is expropriated, the lease terminates and neither party owes damages to the other.”*
  • If your home is only partially destroyed, for example there is a leak or broken window but it is still liveable, or if it is just temporarily unlivable because of the lack of electricity, your landlord does not have a legal right to evict you. Under Louisiana Civil Code 2715: “If the impairment of the use of the leased thing was caused by circumstances external to the leased thing, the lessee is entitled to a dissolution of the lease.” In other words, YOU have a right to consider your lease dissolved or terminated, but the law does not give your landlord that option.*
  • *Check your lease, because if your lease says something different than the law your lease will control here. Some leases have a “force majeure” clause that explains what happens when there is a hurricane or other natural disaster.

  • A wrongful eviction is where your landlord changes the locks, cuts off your utilities, or removes your possessions from the property without going through the legal (court) eviction process. 
  • If your landlord is at your home threatening to, or is in the process of wrongfully evicting you and you feel comfortable doing so, you can call law enforcement and they should stop your landlord. You know your local law enforcement better than we do, and know whether this is a safe and wise option for you.
  • If you are in New Orleans you may be able to obtain assistance from the New Orleans Renter’s Rights Assembly’s emergency hotline at (504) 539-4504. (Please note that most groups have limited capacity at this time due to lack of power and evacuations).

Depending on your income you may be able to access free legal assistance. 

  • Southeast Louisiana (Southeast Louisiana Legal Services) - (504) 529-1000 x. 223 or slls.org (press 1 before the extension if you do not get through- messages can be left in any language).
  • Northern and western Louisiana (Acadiana Legal Services Corporation) -  (800)-256-1175 or la-law.org

  • If your home is not liveable due to the hurricane, you may be entitled to get out of your lease early.
  • Under Louisiana Civil Code 2715: “If the impairment of the use of the leased thing was caused by circumstances external to the leased thing, the lessee is entitled to a dissolution of the lease...” The impairment must be “substantial.”
  • If you plan to terminate your lease early, you should notify your landlord in writing. Be sure to turn in the key or notify your landlord in writing where you left it. Take good pictures of the unit and document in writing why it was unliveable. If your landlord sues you later for breaking your lease, or reports a debt on your credit, contact a lawyer.

  • Once your lease has ended and you have completely vacated the unit your landlord has 30 days to either return your deposit or provide something in writing to you explaining why they are keeping it. If your unit was destroyed because of a hurricane or other Act of God you are able to get your deposit back. Your landlord can still deduct amounts from the security deposit for damage caused by you or your guests or for fees or rent that are still owed. When you move out you should take pictures of the unit. You should also try and document that you returned the keys (text message or email is acceptable). You need to provide your landlord with a forwarding address (it does not have to be your actual address, just a place you can receive mail). After the 30 day period you can sue your landlord in small claims court for your deposit. You should also send your landlord a written demand letter as soon as you move out asking for the deposit back. If your landlord does not respond to your written demand within 30 days of receiving the letter, you may be entitled to three times your deposit amount.
  • You can find more information about the security deposit process here.

First and Second City Court in New Orleans are closed due to lack of power until at least September 19, 2021. Certain Jefferson Parish courts are closed due to lack of power until at least September 6, 2021. This may get extended depending on when power is restored. Other parishes that do not have power likely do not have open courts.

You can check the Supreme Court website or your local court’s website for updates. Due to lack of power some websites may not be immediately updated.

What Assistance is Available from FEMA for Survivors of Hurricane Ida?

President Biden approved a major disaster declaration that covers Louisiana parishes hit by Hurricane Ida. Homeowners and renters who live in the parishes listed below can apply for possible help with expenses or serious needs resulting from this declared disaster - which are not covered by insurance or other forms of assistance.

How FEMA can help? File an insurance claim first 

Louisiana residents affected by Hurricane Ida who have not already done so are advised to contact their insurance company and file a claim for disaster-caused damage. Survivors in parishes designated for Individual Assistance who have uninsured or underinsured losses may be eligible for FEMA assistance to make their homes livable.

Understand what Losses FEMA may cover

  • FEMA assistance differs from insurance in that it only provides the basic needs to make a home safe, sanitary and functional. FEMA assistance does not make you whole again, but it can give you a helping hand to recover. FEMA disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally compensate you for your entire loss.
  • Home damage must be related to Hurricane Ida. FEMA inspectors may contact survivors who apply to arrange for an inspection appointment.
  • Examples of Safe, Sanitary and Functional Repairs to Make a Home Fit to Live in:
    • Property: FEMA may assist with the replacement of or repairs to disaster-damaged heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems as well as refrigerators and stoves. Other possible repairs that may be covered are utilities such as electrical, plumbing and gas systems. Non-essential items like dishwashers and home-theater equipment are not covered.
    • Ceiling and roof damage: FEMA grants may help to repair disaster-related leaks in a roof that cause damage to ceilings and threaten electrical components, like overhead lights, but will not pay for simple stains from roof leaks.
      Floors: FEMA assistance may be used to repair a disaster-damaged subfloor in occupied parts of the home, but not floor covering like tile or carpet.
    • Windows: FEMA payments may assist with disaster-related broken windows, but not blinds or drapes.
    • Other FEMA help may include temporary expenses to pay for lodging if a survivor’s home is unlivable, or assistance for replacing essential household items.
  • As every survivor’s situation is different, FEMA calculations on what it may cover vary. Expenses for repairs that exceed the conditions to make a home safe, sanitary and functional are ineligible. Assistance depends on a host of factors like insurance coverage and, in some respects, the ability to pay.

Spend Grants Wisely

  • Disaster grants should not be used for travel, entertainment, regular living expenses or any discretionary expenses not related to the disaster. Survivors should keep receipts for three years to show how they spent FEMA grants.
  • If grant money is not used as outlined in the letter you receive, you may have to repay FEMA and you could lose eligibility for further federal assistance that could become available later for your disaster recovery.

If Assistance Is Not Enough to Repair your Home to its Original Condition:

  • After you apply for disaster assistance, you may be referred to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA may contact you to offer a low-interest disaster loan. Homeowners and renters who receive an application for an SBA loan should complete the application even if they decide not to take it in order to remain eligible for additional FEMA programs.

There are new FEMA assistance programs for survivors of Hurricane Ida:

1. Critical Needs Assistance (CNA):

  • FEMA may provide financial aid to people with immediate or critical needs because they are displaced from their primary dwelling. Immediate or critical needs are:  life- saving and life-sustaining items including, but not limited to: water, food, first aid, prescriptions, infant formula, diapers, consumable medical supplies, durable medical equipment, personal hygiene items and fuel for transportation. For Hurricane Ida, CNA provides a one-time award of up to $500.00 per household.

2. Generator and Chainsaw Reimbursement:

  • Eligible purchasers or rentals of a generator (up to $800) and/or chainsaw ($250) between Aug. 26, 2021 and Sept. 25, 2021 may be approved for FEMA reimbursement if the purchase is not covered by insurance or another source. The applicant must also meet the general eligibility requirements for FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program.

3. Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA):

  • FEMA may provide Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) for applicants who are unable to return to their pre-disaster primary residence because their home is either uninhabitable or inaccessible due to Hurricane Ida. TSA is intended to provide survivors with short-term accommodations through direct payments to lodging providers, if they have no way to cover this by insurance or other source.
  • Under TSA, disaster survivors may be able to stay in an approved hotel or motel for a limited period of time and have the cost of the room and taxes directly paid by FEMA. The applicant must cover all other costs associated with lodging and amenities, including, but not limited to incidental room charges or amenities, such as telephone, room service, food, etc.
  • FEMA approved applicants may choose any place on FEMA’s list of approved hotels in their area. The list of approved hotels is available at http://www.femaevachotels.com/index.php or the FEMA Helpline. FEMA provides applicants with access and functional needs additional assistance in locating approved hotels to meet their needs.

FEMA FAQ

There are currently 25 parishes eligible for FEMA disaster benefits:

  • Ascension

  • Assumption

  • East Baton Rouge

  • East Feliciana

  • Iberia

  • Iberville

  • Jefferson

  • Lafourche

  • Livingston

  • Orleans

  • Plaquemines

  • Point Coupee

  • St. Bernard

  • St. Charles

  • St. Helena

  • St. James

  • St. John the Baptist

  • St. Martin

  • St. Mary

  • St. Tammany

  • Tangiaphoa

  • Terrbonne

  • Washington

  • West Baton Rouge

  • West Feliciana

 

Apply for assistance online at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY).

However, if you had homeowner's insurance, you must first file a claim with your insurance company. FEMA benefits will not make you "whole." They are only meant to provide you temporary support after a disaster. 

 

See this brochure from FEMA for more details. See this "Figuring Out FEMA" resource to learn more about the application process, tips for applying, and how to appeal a denial.

 

The application deadline is 60 days from the declaration. 

You should apply by October 29, 2021 to avoid missing the deadline.

By law, FEMA cannot pay for losses covered by your insurance. This means that if you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance that may cover your disaster losses, you cannot get help from both FEMA and insurance. If you are insured, FIRST file your insurance claim as soon as possible. You can file with FEMA before you get your insurance company’s decision. You may still be eligible for some FEMA aid even if you have insurance. FEMA will need to see insurance claim correspondence, including:

  • Denial of your claim letter: Proof that you are not covered under your insurance company and policy.
  • Settlement letter: What damage and property are covered by your insurance policy.
  • Delay letter: Proof of no official decision by your insurance company on your claim, and it has been more than 30 days from the time that you filed your insurance claim.

You, or someone who lives with you, must be a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen national or a qualified alien.

Have a pen and paper ready and be prepared to give the following information:

  • Social Security Number: You, another adult member or minor child in your household MUST have a Social Security number. Note: You or they must also be a U.S. Citizens, a non-citizen national, or qualified alien.
  • Email Address (optional): You can use an email address to create an account on DissasterAssistance.gov to file and track the status of your claim. If you chose to communicate with the agency by phone or mail only, an email is not necessary. Although the agency has stated that filing a claim with an account on DissasterAssistance.gov is the most efficient route.
  • Insurance Information: Note the type(s) of insurance coverage you have. Like: homeowners, flood, auto, etc.
  • Damage Information: Type of dwelling or vehicle damaged due to Hurricane Ida. Like: Car, Truck, Mobile Home, Condo.
  • Financial Information: At the time of the disaster your total annual household income (before taxes). Like: Gross wages, unemployment insurance benefits, disability.
  • Contact Information:
    1. Provide the address and phone number of the property where the damage occurred.
    2. ALSO, provide the address and phone number where FEMA can reach you now.
  • Direct Deposit Information (optional): Subject to FEMA approval, FEMA can deposit your funds directly into your bank account now with the following information:
    1. Bank Name
    2. Type of Account (checking or savings)
    3. Routing Number
    4. Account Number

FEMA has to verify occupancy and homeownership before it gives some types of help. As of September 2, 2021, to confirm occupancy, FEMA will accept the following:

  • Utility bills,
  • Other bills,
  • Employer’s documents,
  • Leasing/housing agreement,
  • Rent receipts,
  • Public official’s documents/letter (police chief, mayor, postmaster, state or local government),
  • Identification cards,
  • Motor vehicle registrations,
  • Affidavits of residency or other court documents,
  • Letters from local schools (public or private),
  • Letters from federal or state benefit providers,
  • Letters from social service organizations (such as community assistance programs and non-profits).

Additionally, survivors may also now use a signed statement from a commercial or mobile home park owner and provide self-certification for mobile homes and travel trailers.

To confirm ownership, FEMA will now accept the following:

  • Deed or official record,
  • Mortgage documentation,
  • Structural or real property insurance documents, bill or payment record,
  • Property tax receipts or property tax bill,
  • Manufactured home certificate of title,
  • Reals Estate Provisions,
  • Contract for Deed,
  • Land Installment Contract,
  • Quitclaim Deed,
  • Bill of Sale or Bond for Title,
  • Will or Affidavit of Heirship (naming applicant heir to the property and a death certificate),
  • Public official’s documents/letter,
  • Receipts for major repairs or improvements (dated within 5 years of disaster).

FEMA will allow survivors with HEIRSHIP PROPERTIES, MOBILE HOMES, or TRAVEL TRAILERS, who do not have traditional documentation (listed above) to verify ownership to self-certify ownership and qualify for assistance. 

  • Save all documentation that you can. Like: receipts for post-storm expenses for food, gas, lodging, replacement of property, etc.
  • Take pictures of your damages as soon as possible--before anyone starts clearing it out if at all possible.
  • If you are unsure about something, do not guess or enter information you know to be incorrect. It is best to wait to complete an application unit you have gathered all the information that you need.
  • Submitting multiple applications for a single disaster or household, may delay your case AND may lead to FEMA accusing you of fraud or making you pay back duplicated payments.
  • Phone calls from FEMA may seem to come from an unidentified number but there are also scams going on.  If you can handle your FEMA claim online, or at a FEMA disaster center with a FEMA representative, that is much safer.

  • Visit: ssa.gov
  • You can get an original Social Security card or a replacement card if yours is lost or stolen (at no charge).
  • You can use my Social Security account to request a replacement Social Security card online if you:
    1. Are a U.S. citizen age 18 years or older with a U.S. mailing address.
    2. Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card.
    3. Have a driver’s license or a state-issued ID card.

There are other card-replacement options, if necessary, available on the SSA website. Once you have your social security number, you can start FEMA’s application process.

Sometimes other parishes are added to the declaration later. You can revisit DisasterAssistance.gov to look up your address to check if your parish is added at a later date.

  1. Online: DisasterAssistance.gov   (quickest way)
  2. Call 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-200-462-7585
  3. Download FEMA App with Apple or Google Play

  • FEMA Helpline, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET, 7 days a week:
  • 1‑800‑621‑3362 (711 and VRS available)
  • TTY 1‑800‑462‑7585

If you need legal help for your FEMA claim or your claim is denied, you can contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services to see if you qualify for free legal help.  You can apply by phone at 1-844-244-7871 or online here

FEMA assistance is a federal program.  False statements can lead to criminal charges.

If FEMA later decides it should not have paid you, either because you made a mistake or you committed fraud, by law it must ask for that money back.  If that happens, you can appeal the notice of debt. Keep all receipts and records for at least seven years if you can.

What legal issues can I expect to see following a natural disaster?

 

Legal issues are extremely common following a natural disaster.

Sometimes, you may not even recognize an issue as being a legal one. 

Immediately After a Disaster

  • Landlord Tenant Issues
  • Applying for government benefits
  • Applying for loans
  • Getting covered by insurance
  • Replacing lost documents
  • Wage theft

1-6 Months After a Disaster

  • Appealing FEMA denials
  • Renewing rent subsidies or other government benefits
  • Evictions and repair questions
  • Proving homeownership and "clearing" property title
  • Disputing insurance claim coverage amounts
  • Contractor scams and disputes
  • Powers of attorney for childcare or the elderly
  • Modifying parenting orders to reflect new home and school locations
  • Estate planning

6 Months to Years After a Disaster

  • Home loan foreclosures
  • Bankruptcy
  • Defending against FEMA "recoupment" (when they ask for assistance back)
  • Applying for disaster tax relief
  • Disputes about home elevation or significant home damage for permitting
  • Housing repair and mold issues

Other Legal Issues

A disaster can trigger issuance of a few different kinds of "emergency" SNAP benefits. On September 14, 2021, Disaster SNAP benefits were approved for those impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Residents in the approved parishes can call the LAHelpU Customer Service Center, 1-888-524-3578, to apply and be interviewed for DSNAP. Applicants should call 1-888-524-3578, select their language, prompt 6 and then 1 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

 

You can visit our resource About Emergency SNAP Benefits & Pre-Apply For Disaster SNAP Benefits or www.dcfs.la.gov/DisasterFAQs to learn more.

This resource on our site helps you understand how to replace important records and personal documents after a disaster.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance is now available for all 25 parishes affected by Hurricane Ida.

  • Businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a direct result of Hurricane Ida.
  • Program provides assistance to eligible individuals whose employment has been either lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster. 
  • Affected parishes include: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana Parishes. 
  • The deadline to file a DUA claim as a result of Hurricane Ida is October 4, 2021. Applications filed after the deadline will be considered untimely and DUA benefits may be denied unless the individual provides good cause for filing after that date; therefore, claimants should file as soon as possible, according to LWC.
  • At this time claims can ONLY be filled online at www.laworks.net. Proof of employment at the time of the disaster is required within 21 days of filing the DUA application. Instructions will be provided for submitting this required documentation. Your personal income tax return (Federal Form 1040 and attachments) or other proof of employment (e.g., 1099) and wages you earned in calendar year 2020 is also requested. Apply to the Louisiana Workforce Commission here.
  • Learn more about how to apply for unemployment assistance through this Unemployment Benefits Guide

More About Disaster Unemployment Assistance

  • Individuals who lost work or employment in these designated disaster areas must file DUA applications by established deadlines.
  • Regular Unemployment Insurance benefits supercede DUA- Any person determined eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits, even in the case of a disaster, would not be eligible for DUA. 
  • Fradulent claims will be prosecuted, including jail time - You are required to report all earnings when worked, not when received. Intentional false reporting of the reason for separation or last employment information may also be considered fradulent. 
  • You must report all earnings weekly- if you are paid by your employer during your absence from work or if you return to work, you must report these earnings on your weekly request for payment. Vacation pay must also be reported on your weekly request for payment. 

DUA is available to those who:

  • Worked or were self-employed or were scheduled to begin work or self-employment; and
  • Do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), or Extended Benefits (EB) from any state; and
  • Were unable to reach their job or self-employment location because they must travel through the affected area and are prevented from doing so by the disaster; or
  • Can no longer work or perform services because of physical damage or destruction to the place of employment as a direct result of the disaster; or
  • Can not physically access the place of employment due to its closure by the federal, state, or local government in immediate response to the disaster; or
  • Can establish that the work or self-employment they can no longer perform was their principal source of income; or
  • Cannot perform work or self-employment because of an injury as a direct result of the disaster; or
  • Became the breadwinner or major support of a household because of the death of the head of household.

Proof of employment/self-employment must be submitted no later than 21 days after filing your claim. The following documents are acceptable as proof of employment:

  • Payroll voucher closest in date to the last work week
  • Employment and earnings statement from employer with name, address and contact information
  • Written statement from employer
  • Notarized affidavit from person with name, address and contact information who can verify claimant’s employment and unemployment (this is for those workers who are unable to reach their employer)
  • Business records (bank statements, business receipts, licenses, advertisements, invoices, appointment books, financial statements)
  • Notarized statement from person with name, address, and contact information who can verify your self-employment and unemployment.

If you are self-employed, your 2020 federal income tax return and schedules can serve as proof of prior wages, but does not substantiate your proof of employment at the time of the disaster. Please refer to the list above of acceptable forms of proof of employment.

DUA is available for weeks of unemployment beginning August 29, 2021 until March 5, 2022, as long as the individual’s unemployment continues to be a direct result of the disaster.

  • DUA benefits will be paid as soon as administratively possible. Generally, benefits are held until such time that sufficient evidence of employment is provided, and it is determined that the unemployment was a direct result of the disaster. Each claim must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Continue to file your weekly continued claims as long as you are unemployed as a direct result of the disaster.
  • Typically, in Louisiana unemployment claims come with what’s called a “week of waiting.” This means no benefits are paid for the first week that you file for unemployment. When people file these disaster claims and get approved for DUA there will be no “week of waiting.” LWC wants people to get their benefits as soon as possible.
  • Individuals eligible for DUA will be paid weekly benefits in accordance with federal and state regulations. The DUA benefit duration is determined weekly up to 27 weeks. Currently, the maximum weekly assistance amount in Louisiana is $247 and is based on the individual’s gross earnings or net income if self-employed for the most recent tax year. The minimum DUA benefit amount is $93 weekly based on full-time employment.

Can hotel staff put me out if I can’t pay my hotel fee?

  • No. Only “appropriate lawful authority” may remove you, meaning a police officer or sheriff’s deputy. La. Revised Statute § 21:76. Note: you can access all the laws referenced in this document through Google.
  • Checking into a hotel with the intent to not pay is considered “defrauding an innkeeper,” an offense under La. Revised Statute § 21:21.

Can the hotel put me out if I am living in a hotel long-term and pay weekly?

If you are renting a hotel room long term as your primary residence and paying by the week, a judge might say you should be treated as a tenant. If you are a tenant the hotel should go through the court eviction process. Right now Governor Edwards has suspended evictions statewide until September 24, 2021, so you cannot legally be evicted until after that date. If this argument is unsuccessful, see below.

Can the hotel put me out if I have only been in the hotel a few nights?

  • Even if the eviction laws don’t apply to you, the hotel must complete several steps before they can call an officer to put you out. First, the hotel must have given you written notice of the agreed-upon departure date and checkout time when you registered. Second, the hotel must give you at least 1 hour’s written or verbal notice that you must leave. La. Revised Statute § 21:75.
  • The law says that the officer cannot evict you from a hotel during a “serious medical emergency.” La. Revised Statute § 21:76.

Is there hotel assistance available if I am evacuated because of Hurricane Ida?

  • Yes, FEMA assistance may be available to pay for a hotel.
  • FEMA may provide Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) to applicants who are unable to return home because their home is either uninhabitable or inaccessible due to Hurricane Ida.
  • Under TSA, disaster survivors may be eligible to stay in an approved hotel or motel for a limited period of time and have the cost of the room and taxes covered by FEMA. For those who are eligible, FEMA will authorize and fund, through direct payments to participating hotels/ motels, the use of hotels/motels as transitional shelters.  The applicant is responsible for all other costs like incidental room charges for telephone, room service, food, etc.

You may be eligible for TSA if you:

  • Register with FEMA for assistance,
  • Pass identity and citizenship verification,
  • Your home is located in a geographic area that is designated for TSA,
  • As a result of the disaster, you are displaced from your home,
  • You are unable to obtain lodging through another source.

Approved applicants may choose to stay at any hotel or facility on FEMA’s list at at http://www.femaevachotels.com/index.php or the FEMA Helpline.

What if I am evacuated in a hotel in another state?

  • The laws of Louisiana do not apply to hotels in other states. You will need to consult the law for that state or talk to an attorney in that state. 

Need legal advice on your situation?

  • You may qualify for free legal aid from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.
    • New Orleans area: (504) 529-1000 x.223
    • North shore: (985) 345-2130
    • Houma area: (985) 851-5687 *Note Houma office is closed until at least 9/13 due to Ida damage
    • Baton Rouge area: (225)-448-0080

Last Review and Update: Oct 29, 2021
Was this information helpful?
Back to top