Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September 2017 causing massive damage and destruction that impacted the community and individual residents. At Three Rivers Legal Services, we’ve worked over the last two years to provide support and assistance to low income families and other at-risk individuals impacted by Hurricane Irma.
We tackled three main areas to help families receive the vital services they need and to help them understand their legal rights. Most of our requests for help involved – FEMA assistance, contractor negotiations, and landlord disputes.
Successfully Filing Appeals with FEMA
After a disaster like Hurricane Irma, FEMA receives an overwhelming number of claims. With the large volume of incoming requests, errors sometimes occur leading to denials of valid claims. This is where Three Rivers Legal Services comes in. We help correct claim errors for individuals by filing appeals accurately so people collect the funds they desperately need.
In one case, we helped a client appeal a claim for a vehicle damaged by the storm. The claim received a denial due to a misunderstanding about the driver’s insurance coverage. Especially for low income families and individuals, access to a reliable vehicle is vital to stay employed and provide for their basic needs.
Through the appeal process, the client received their entitled funds from FEMA for a replacement vehicle. This allowed our client to return to a normal schedule without having to depend on the restrictions of others or public transportation. Without support through the appeal process, our client may have suffered unnecessary hardship due to a lack of transportation.
Contractor Issues for Homeowners
After a hurricane, we often hear about contractor scams where people pay upfront to secure repairs, then lose their money when the thief skips out on the job. Even when dealing with licensed contractors, misunderstandings occur. In fact, after Irma, we worked with a client whose contractor made a claim of missing payment that resulted in a lien on the property.
After we reviewed the case, it was clear that the contractor did not finish the work on the home. The basis for the lien was invalid because our client acted correctly in not paying for an unfinished and unsatisfactory job.
We helped our client remove the lien by presenting evidence that the contractor failed to finish the work. Our client saved their home from the burden of an unjust legal claim, which would have cost excess money our client could not afford to pay. With our legal guidance, the contractor completed the work satisfactorily and received the final payment. This was a win for the client not only from the stress and financial hardship of a lien, but also by having a safe place to live after the storm.
Hurricane Repairs for Renters
Renters are at risk after a hurricane when landlords fail to repair the property. Thankfully, in many cases, the law protects renters by requiring property owners to make essential and necessary repairs for a safe living environment.
We worked with clients after Hurricane Irma to educate them on the correct process to withhold rents until the landlord remedied the property violations. It’s vital that renters understand both their rights and the process to avoid eviction and the expense of moving.
With our guidance, the properties received the right inspections to ensure the repairs met the standards for code compliance. This meant that individuals and families didn’t have their lives interrupted further after the storm. Instead, these families stayed in their current homes and avoided the additional trauma of searching for a safe place to live.
Lessen the Burden for Families Through Legal Assistance
The shock of experiencing a major hurricane isn’t easy to overcome. At Three Rivers Legal Services, we don’t want the recovery from the storm to add unnecessary burdens. Our goal is to help clients get access to legal assistance to ensure the protection of their rights.
From FEMA funds to proper home repairs, we believe every person deserves a chance to get back on their feet after the storm. This includes access to food, transportation, and a safe place to live. We work to lessen the burden with our dedication to make quality legal assistance accessible.
How to Protect Your Rights After a Hurricane
Your biggest asset after a storm is understanding your rights. One way to educate yourself is with legal assistance, like from Three Rivers Legal Services. Our attorneys represent the client’s interests in filing claims with insurance companies and FEMA.
Scams run rampant after natural disasters. Due to the high demand and low supply of contractors, it is tempting to fall prey to a scam. Always check the credentials for each contractor and ask for a written estimate and contract. Plus, you never have to pay for services in cash. Instead, opt for trackable payments. Also, wait to pay the full amount until the contractor finishes the work up to code standards.
Did you know that D-SNAP food assistance may become available for eligible residents after the president declares a national disaster? You may have a right to receive this and other assistance after a hurricane. Educate yourself and seek legal assistance when needed.
Don’t fall prey to the complexities of insurance companies, contractors and government agencies. At Three Rivers Legal Services, we have a passion to offer quality legal assistance and education to the poor, elderly, disabled, and abused. This includes protecting your rights after a hurricane. Contact us today.