From boots on the ground to suits on the ground, flood relief now revolves around clearing titles for lower-income residents

Thousands of flooded families across the Baton Rouge area are getting hung up on legal technicalities before they can even submit an application to receive their federal assistance.

News Story (Louisiana)

Steve Hardy
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
November 30, 2016

Tags: Disaster Recovery

Organizations mentioned/involved: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS)


Wednesday, attorneys and philanthropists announced a new pro bono program to help residents clear up their property records so people who live in a flooded house — but aren’t listed as the owner — can receive money for rebuilding.

In the immediate aftermath of the flood, nearly 7,000 families could not qualify for FEMA assistance because they didn’t have clear title on their home, said Laura Tuggle, executive director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. There are still about 2,600 lower-income families who need to prove they own their houses.

Tuggle recounted a client’s story: The woman lived in a home that had belonged to her grandmother, who died 20 years ago. The resident’s mother has also since died, and the woman lives in the family home but isn’t listed as the legal owner because a formal succession document was never written.

The living arrangement, however, had never been a problem. That is, until the house flooded and the woman could not receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Tuggle said.