Disaster Relief Resources
When disasters strike Texas, the State Bar serves as a clearinghouse for disaster response resources for the public and attorneys.
The State Bar of Texas toll-free legal hotline — 800-504-7030 — connects low-income people affected by a disaster with legal aid providers in their area who can help with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant problems, and consumer protection matters such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process. The hotline is answered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Callers can leave a message any time. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who can provide free, limited legal help.
If you need a lawyer, contact the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service at (800) 252-9690 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.
FIGURING OUT FEMA
Depending on the size and scope of a disaster, the president of the United States may make a disaster declaration approving the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist and provide support for homeowners and renters who need help to recover.
This guide: Figuring Out FEMA helps the public understand the various steps and requirements needed to take advantage of FEMA assistance.
TEXAS LEGAL ANSWERS
Texas Legal Answers — texaslegalanswers.org — is a free online platform where individuals can pose specific questions related to disaster civil legal issues and have them answered by volunteer attorneys.
BARRATRY OR IMPROPER SOLICITATION BY AN ATTORNEY
In many cases it is a crime in Texas for a lawyer or someone representing a lawyer to contact a person for purposes of legal representation if the person has not first requested the call or personal visit. The contact is not illegal if the attorney is not seeking payment or has a preexisting professional-client or family relationship with the person being contacted. If you witness something you believe to be improper solicitation, or barratry, please get the name and phone number of the person making contact and report it to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office Toll Free at 866-224-5999.
REPLACING LOST DOCUMENTS
created by the Texas Young Lawyers Association is intended to be an
abbreviated checklist to help you obtain replacements of some of those
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid also has a helpful guide full of tips on replacing lost documents. It is available here in English and in Spanish .
This presentation provides an overview on filing flood insurance claims.
Also see this guide: A Legal Self-Help Guide for Tenants Affected by Natural Disaster
You can learn more about employment during natural disasters through this guide created by the Texas Young Lawyers Association.
The National Employment Law Project also created this fact sheet: Disaster Unemployment Assistance: How Workers Can Access the Program After Hurricane Harvey
The Texas Young Lawyers Association has created this guide for enrolling your child in another school after a natural disaster.
The Texas Immigrant Rights Hotline provides information about changing immigration laws and offers referrals to legal services providers and attorneys. The toll-free hotline operates 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (except holidays). The number is 833-HOU-IMMI (468-4664).
SCAMS AND PRICE GOUGING
Tips on avoiding scam contractors after a natural disaster can be found in this Q&A with the assistant dean of student affairs and pro bono programs at Baylor Law School.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following tips to avoid contractor fraud during the clean-up and rebuilding process:
Contact an insurance adjuster to get an estimate of the damage and repair cost.
Don’t sign a check from your insurance company over to a contractor.
Only do business with licensed or bonded contractors or builders. Get multiple estimates.
Be cautious of contractors who solicit services door-to-door, especially those that are unfamiliar or from out of town and try to pressure you into signing a contract on the spot.
Get the salesperson’s license plate number.
Consult the Better Business Bureau to ensure you are working with a trustworthy business.
Ask for referrals from people you trust and for references from contractors.
Get more than one estimate on work, so you know if you’re being overcharged. Don’t be rushed into signing a contract and never pay in full up-front for promised work.
Consider paying by credit card to avail yourself of additional protections.
Get everything in writing, including the terms of any warranty, and keep a copy of all documents.
Learn more about home repair scams here.
For information specific to Hurricane Harvey recovery, please go here.
DISASTER RELIEF CONTACTS
Please review the contacts and resources listed below. They can help you prepare for, survive, and recover from a disaster.
State Bar of Texas Legal Disaster Hotline
Administration for Community Living emergency preparedness resources
Weather Safety Tips
For safety tips related to tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding, and more visit the National Weather Service’s Safety Tips webpage at weather.gov/safety.
Psychological & Counseling Resources
Recovering Emotionally from a Disaster (American Psychological Association)
Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (for Texas lawyers, judges and law students)