Common Legal Issues After a Disaster

Learn about the laws that can help you with housing-related problems, financial issues, and other challenges you may face following a disaster.

Page last updated: 05/03/2023


You may face many challenges when trying to recover after a disaster. Some may seem out of your control. But there are laws that can help — and there is free legal assistance available on these issues for low-income Americans who qualify, depending on monthly income and other factors. Check with a legal aid office in your area to apply for free assistance.

Some of these issues arise in the first few weeks or months after a disaster, but many come up later, even after a year.

Housing and Consumer Issues

  • Lease terminations and evictions
  • Home foreclosures
  • Rent subsidy renewals
  • Section 8 vouchers
  • Landlord refusal to make repairs
  • Utility shut-offs
  • Security deposit disputes
  • Insurance claims and disputes
  • Difficulties proving ownership of your home
  • Home repair contractor scams, such as overcharging and failure to complete the work you paid for
  • Price gouging by businesses, including raising prices excessively for repairs, fuel, and essential supplies immediately after a disaster

Income and Financial Issues

  • Replacing lost documents — such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards — that may be needed to apply for or restore benefits
  • Public benefit issues or applications, as for food stamps or unemployment
  • Applying for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) financial assistance, and filing appeals if FEMA rejects your application
  • Applying for U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans
  • Wage theft, including not being paid for all hours of work
  • Bankruptcy, including whether to file for bankruptcy and how to file

Family and Education Issues

  • Access to public education
  • Issues with custody, guardianship, and parenting orders
  • Power of attorney to make decisions for a child or older parent
  • Domestic violence issues, including protective orders


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