You will want to determine whether your financial situation has been affected by the storm. Identify your available financial resources, then list your expenses. Prioritize your expenses so that the necessities are paid for first; then you can evaluate how to spend the funds that remain.
If you are concerned about your ability to pay your bills, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) can help you prepare a reasonable budget. CCCS can also help you negotiate a manageable repayment plan for your outstanding debts. There is no fee for services, but you must have some income in your household.
Make a list of all those with whom you do business and inform them of your circumstances if you are concerned about your ability to pay your bills. You may be able to postpone or reduce payments. Keep records of all such conversations and keep copies of everything for your files.
To avoid some consumer pitfalls following the disaster, you may contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Texas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline or the Texas Department of Insurance for information about how to protect yourself against consumer fraud.
Financial Services and Consumer Advice
- Better Business Bureau - 713-341-6141 or 713-868-9500
- Consumer Credit Counseling Service - 713-923-2227
- Texas Attorney General - 1-800-621-0508
- Texas Department of Insurance - 1-800-252-3439
- Lone Star Legal Aid - 713-652-0077
- Houston Volunteer Lawyers are offering free legal assistance to those affected by Harvey.
- The State Bar of Texas Disaster Hotline: (800) 504-7030. The hotline — answered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese — 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, answering insurance questions, helping with landlord-tenant problems, and handling consumer protection concerns such as price-gouging and contractor scams during the rebuilding process. Callers can leave a message at any time.
- The Houston Bar Association will host a live phone bank manned by licensed Texas lawyers - Monday through Friday, September 5 to 29, from 3 pm to 5 pm. Extended hours (5 pm to 9 pm) will be offered on Wednesday, September 6, and Wednesday, September 20. Simply call (713) 759-1133 during the hours of operation. The same service will be provided for Spanish-Speakers on Thursday, September 7, between the hours of 5 pm and 9 pm.
- TexasLawHelp.org provides this list of legal advice articles for disaster recovery
- The Hurricane Harvey legal assistance clinic scheduled for Friday at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Outpatient Clinic is at capacity as of 10:55 a.m. The Houston Bar Association, Houston Volunteer Lawyers and Lone Star Legal Aid are setting up additional clinics throughout the area that will be open to the public. The next legal assistance clinic is scheduled for Sept. 6 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Montrose Center (401 Branard)
When large disasters strike, those who survive rarely think about needing legal aid. They are focused on medical treatment, shelter, food, transportation and communicating with family.But a number of things you will need to do have legal consequences or at least have legal options when you need them.
Here are documents to help you learn about your legal rights after a disaster: