AUSTIN – As a response to the devastation that Hurricane Harvey has caused Houston, Texas law organizations are coming together to offer the survivors free legal services.
The State Bar of Texas (ABA), the Young Lawyer Division (YLD) of the American Bar Association (ABA), the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) and other organizations are accepting volunteers willing to provide free legal help to low-income survivors, a press release recently stated.
The services will help those who need assistance in a variety of emergency situations, such as securing government benefits; claiming life, medical and property insurance; home repair help; replacing important legal documents that were destroyed due to the hurricane; counseling on mortgage/foreclosure issues and more.
"If your apartment is destroyed, and your rent is due tomorrow, do you have to pay it? Can your landlord evict you so they can re-rent your undamaged property for a higher amount? What if you cannot get to work because your car was destroyed in a flood? These are just some of the common questions we immediately respond to," Andrew VanSingel, the ABA YLD director of Disaster Legal Services, told The SE Texas Record. "We also handle longer-term matters such as appeals of FEMA benefit denials, insurance claims, and consumer claims, for example."
The toll-free number for assistance is 800-504-7030. Other survivors in states that have been affected by this season's hurricanes are also encouraged to seek help.
"The Young Lawyers Division is responding to disasters on multiple fronts," VanSingel said. "In addition to helping Harvey survivors in Texas, we're also responding to the legal needs of survivors in Puerto Rico, the USVI, and we are anticipating a response in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas."
These law organizations are also warning hurricane survivors to beware of frauds and scams attempting to take advantage of individuals. Legitimate legal assistance agencies will always carry identification badges, according to the press release. While those seeking help will have to present certain information to receive assistance, state and federal government disaster agencies will not call and ask for financial account information, nor will they ask survivors for money.
"Callers will have to provide some basic intake information, including their name, county of residence, and income information," VanSingel said.
For those who are not eligible for free assistance, visit Texas Free Legal Answers for post-disaster help. To volunteer, visit the State Bar's website.