- About Us
- Get Help
- Get Involved
- Contact Us
- En Español
Here are three important things you need to remember:
You can call (225) 346-4119 to talk about trailers with FEMA.
If you qualify, you can get free legal help from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS).
To apply for help, you can:
Other Online Disaster Legal Resources:
To stay up to date with news and deadlines, visit our blog: https://slls.org/blog/
Landlords use Tenant Screening Reports to get information about possible renters. Tenant Screening Reports are different from Credit Reports.
Credit reports cover your payment history for credit cards, loans, utilities, and other accounts. There are three credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
Tenant Screening Reports cover your credit history AND:
Many companies create Tenant Screening Reports. These include RentGrow, LeasingDesk, AppFolio, and Screening Reports, Inc.
A landlord might have used information from a Tenant Screening Report to reject you because of your eviction record, owing money to another landlord, or criminal record.
A law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act says you have the right to know the name of the company that created the Tenant Screening Report.
Ask the landlord or property manager which company created the report. Ask that person to show you a copy of the report so you can see what the information looks like.
You can also get a copy of the report from the company that created it.
Most companies that sell Tenant Screening Reports have a form on their website that you can use to point out something wrong in a report. The company's website will also say how you can contact the company about errors in your report.
Try to contact the company in writing if you can!
Remember that each tenant screening company has its dispute process.
If you need help disputing information in a Tenant Screening Report, contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at 504-529-1000x.223
Landlords sometimes use tenant screening reports to check if applicants have:
If you’re denied housing because of a tenant screening report, ask the landlord why you were denied and the name of the company that made the report.
If you need help fixing wrong or missing information in your tenant screening report, we may be able to help you. Call us at 504-529-1000 ext. 223.
Do you rent a house or apartment in New Orleans? The City of New Orleans’ new Healthy Homes law will help ensure your unit is fit to live in.
Starting on July 1, 2023, renters can ask for repairs without worrying that their landlords will get back at them, thanks to the new Healthy Homes Law. The New Orleans City Council passed the law in November 2022.
The law makes landlords take steps to make their rental properties safe and healthy, starting January 1, 2024. Landlords who own big apartment complexes are the first to register their properties with the city. If they don't make the needed repairs, they might not be able to rent their properties anymore.
Starting July 1, 2023, your landlord can’t get back at you for doing any of these things:
Here are two examples of how the new law may apply to real-life problems with your landlord.
You ask for repairs or report a problem, and within six (6) months, the landlord tries to raise your rent or take away services. The Healthy Homes law says this is illegal retaliation. There are some key exceptions.
Your landlord’s actions would not be illegal if one of these things is true:
How to use the Healthy Homes law to protect yourself: If the landlord does not follow the Healthy Homes law, you might need to go to court to ask a Judge to rule that the rent increase or other things the landlord did are illegal.
You ask for repairs or report a problem, and within six (6) months, the landlord tries to evict you or refuse to renew your lease. The Healthy Homes law says this is illegal retaliation. There are some key exceptions.
Your landlord’s actions would not be illegal if one of these things is true:
Under the Healthy Homes law, it is not a violation of your lease to stay in your apartment past the date your landlord has asked you to leave after giving you a notice of nonrenewal.
How to use the Healthy Homes law to protect yourself: You can use Healthy Homes to defend yourself in eviction court. That does not mean a judge will do as you ask. If you are facing eviction, try to get legal help.
All renters in New Orleans have a right to an attorney in eviction court. If you get an eviction notice, try to find legal help right away. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) gives free legal assistance to people who qualify. Reach SLLS at 1340 Poydras St., Suite 600, (504) 529-1000 x.223.
The Healthy Homes law only protects a renter who can prove they told the landlord about the problems in the unit. Always tell the landlord about problems in writing, like email or text message, and keep copies for your records.
In January 2024, landlords must begin registering their units with the City of New Orleans. First, larger apartment complexes will have to register. Later, smaller properties will have to register. The landlord does not pay to do this – it is free.
Landlords listing their rentals must swear that the properties are fit to live in under the City’s rules. Landlords also swear this knowing that it is a crime to lie.
There is a new list of things a landlord must do to ensure the rental is safe and in good shape called the Minimum Rental Standards.
In 2024 rental units in New Orleans must have everything listed here:
The New Orleans Minimum Property Maintenance Code protects you now. It lists what landlords must do to keep their rentals in shape. These rules will still apply on top of the new rules for 2024.
You can read more here: New Orleans Municipal Code (Article IV, Sections. 26-156 through 26-230).
The City plans to hire more people to inspect rentals and respond to complaints to enforce Healthy Homes.
The City can act against a landlord if a unit does not meet the new Minimum Rental Standards in 2024.
First, the City might allow the landlord to fix the problem. If the landlord does not fix the problem, the City will hold a hearing.
The Hearing Officer may make the landlord pay a fine or take other action against a landlord with repair issues or problems that do not meet the new rules.
The City can also take away the landlord’s right to rent the apartment if the unit is unsafe and the landlord will not fix it.
The Healthy Homes law says you will get a written notice if the landlord loses their right to rent your apartment. You will have a chance to go to a hearing before being asked to move. You will get at least 60 days to move. There is an exception for emergencies.
A renter who has to move would also be eligible for assistance from the Anti-Displacement Fund once money is in that fund.
FEMA only charges by full months. FEMA will charge you for a whole month even if you leave in the middle of the month.
OPTION 1: MOVE OUT OF THE FEMA TRAILER
Schedule and prepare to move out by May 31, 2023
OPTION 2: APPEAL
File an appeal requesting a lowered rent amount
To avoid paying the higher rents, you must move out and surrender possession of the FEMA unit by May 31, 2023.
You can appeal and request that rent be lowered based on your household’s ability to pay:
Do not send your appeal through your FEMA online portal or to the FEMA fax line!
Things are being handled locally in Baton Rouge. You should send the documents here:
Attention: FEMA Direct Housing
1500 Main Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Have questions for FEMA? Call (225) 346-4119.
You can choose to pay the higher rent or continue paying the lower $50/month rent amount while waiting for the appeal.
However, if you lose, you will owe the difference back to FEMA. Your appeal outcome will be mailed and hand-delivered to you at the FEMA unit.
FEMA only charges for full months! Rent is never “prorated” by FEMA. FEMA will charge you for another month if you are late moving out or with an inspection. FEMA will charge you like you stayed the entire month.
National Disaster Legal Aid Resources Center at www.disasterlegalaid.org.
To remain current with this and other important updates or deadlines, please visit our blog: https://slls.org/blog/
The St. Tammany Parish Court (22nd JDC) has a 3-month traffic ticket amnesty program for people who received traffic tickets between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2022 and did not pay them. If you pay your old ticket through the program, the program will drop the late fees, fines, and warrants.
The program lasts from May 1, 2023 to July 31, 2023. Tickets received after January 1, 2023, are not eligible for this program. The program does not waive any fees you might owe to the DMV.
To make changes to your ticket, you should contact the Traffic Division of the District Attorney's Office. You will need to obtain two copies of your ticket from the Clerk of Court. Once you have your documents, the Clerk of Court will add an Amnesty Stamp to your ticket for approval.
To participate, you need to request an amendment of your ticket through the District Attorney's Office Traffic Division. You will need two copies of the ticket from the Clerk of Court. The Clerk of Court will put an Amnesty Stamp on the ticket for approval.
After getting the amnesty stamp, go to the Sherriff's Office to pay for your ticket. After paying your fines and court costs, the Clerk of Court will remove any suspensions or attachments.
The Court can give you a letter for proof of payment to the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles if you have any holds of flags on your driver's license.
Updated May 1, 2023
Take Steps Now to Protect Your Medicaid.
This post is for people on Medicaid in Louisiana.
On April 1st, 2023, the state began checking to see if everyone on Medicaid can stay on the program.
It will take 12 months to finish checking. But people will start losing Medicaid this June.
Most people will still be eligible, if the agency can update their information.
People who update their information can also be reviewed for free or very low-cost private health insurance if they cannot keep Medicaid.
The state may need information from you to keep you on Medicaid. It may have to cut you off if it cannot reach you.
You must make sure Medicaid has good contact information for you.
You might not even get the notice that you are being cut off if Medicaid does not have your up-to-date address.
If you have questions about a letter from Medicaid, call Louisiana Medicaid Customer Service. The number is 1-888-342-6207. Phone line hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Or you can visit your nearest Medicaid office. Find the closest office using this link: https://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/directory/category/158.
The letter will say near the end how to appeal the cut off.
A “fair hearing” is a way to appeal the cut off. It is free to ask for a fair hearing.
You also may be able to submit your information to the agency late, after the cutoff notice.
The fair hearing will happen over the phone with an administrative law judge. Medicaid will look at your case again before the hearing.
If you need help understanding any of this, try to find a lawyer. Louisiana has programs that offer free legal aid.
Any notice ending your Medicaid will list the free legal aid office that may be able to help you at the end.
For Southeast Louisiana, you can reach your local free legal aid program here: www.slls.org/contact-us/.
Update: You only need to have received $5,000 in home repair assistance from FEMA to qualify for Restore Louisiana! There are new Restore Mobile locations and events too!
Additionally, they are having in-person events. You can find information here: https://www.restore.la.gov/events
Am I eligible?
All these things must be true for you to get this aid:
For more information on eligibility and how the program works, refer to our previous blog post here: https://slls.org/restore-louisiana/
You have rights when borrowing money to buy a new or used car or truck. Two federal agencies, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), have information to help you make smart moves when using loans to pay for new or used cars or trucks.
There are two kinds of car loans, Direct Lending and Dealership Financing.
Direct lending car loans come from a bank, finance company, or credit union. You will pay the amount loaned to you plus a finance charge. The finance charge is the interest on the loan.
The loan usually lasts somewhere from three to seven years. You may see this written in months, like 36 to 84 months.
See what kind of loans your bank offers. It may save you money over what a car lot offers.
You can shop around with other lenders for a better deal on a loan. Here are the advantages of a direct loan:
You apply for dealership financing through the dealer selling the car or truck you want to buy. Your loan with the dealer will say how much you agree to pay, the finance charge on the borrowed money, and how long the loan lasts.
The car dealership usually sells your car loan to a bank, finance company, or credit union. The company that buys your loan will service the account and take payments from you.
The advantages of dealership financing are:
If you get a loan, make sure you understand what you are agreeing to before signing any papers. You should know the following:
Yes. Shop around. It should be free to get a loan offer. You should get a few and compare the financing offers. Focus on more than just the monthly payment amount.
The Louisiana Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act (La. R.S. 6:969.1) has rules for car and truck loans. It decides how high the interest can be on a loan. The most you can be asked to pay in interest is between 18% and 33%, depending on things like how old the car is. If you have good credit, your interest rate should be much less.
Find out more at La. R.S. 6:969.10.
Add the cost of the car loan on top of everything else you pay for every month, like your rent, mortgage, utilities, food, or other bills.
You have $1,500 to spend each month. After you pay your rent, utilities, food, and other debt payments, you have $150 left over. That means you cannot afford a $300 monthly car loan payment.
Owning a car has other monthly costs like gas, car insurance, and repairs. Insurance on a newer car is often higher than on an older one.
One rule of thumb: spend at most 10% of monthly take-home pay on a car loan payment and 20% monthly for total car expenses.
Here are more resources on figuring out what you can afford to pay for a car loan:
It’s a good idea to create a budget worksheet before starting the loan process: https://www.consumer.gov/sites/default/files/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet_form.pdf.
Most car loans are for 3 – 5 years. Creditors may offer longer-term loans, like 72 or 84 months, i.e., 6 or 7 years. Longer-term loans may also have higher rates (APR).
The more time you take to repay the loan, the more money the loan will cost you. Cars quickly lose value once you drive off the lot. Paying back money over a long time may mean you end up owing more money than the car is worth.
No, it is up to you. Add-on insurance is not required by law. It’s against the law for a lender to put credit insurance in your loan without your knowledge or permission. If you buy it, get a copy of the policy and keep it.
Be aware that buying insurance will increase the total cost of the loan to you since it will likely be financed in the loan. Consider the price and if it’s worth it.
Check your existing insurance policies to avoid duplicating benefits.
No. If you do, get all the details, including price, time of coverage, limits of coverage, and a copy of the policy.
Yes. You should try to get the best deal for yourself. By negotiating for better terms on your loan, you can reduce the amount of money you pay over time. For example:
If you do not like the loan terms, you can walk away.
If your credit history is limited or needs improvement, a co-signer with good or excellent credit could help lower your interest rate and may be required by the lender.
Some people have a parent, family member, or friend co-sign. Beware, the person who co-signs is legally saying that they are just as responsible as you are to repay the loan.
You both should think carefully about this decision. If you default on the loan, the co-signer will be sued like you since they are also responsible for the debt. This is true even if the co-signer does not use the vehicle.
Federal law generally prohibits a lender from requiring you to have a co-signer if you apply for a loan individually, and you can qualify under the lender's standards for creditworthiness for the loan.
No. In Louisiana, once the parties have agreed to the sales contract, it can be valid.
You can contact the local Better Business Bureau in your area to see if they can resolve your issues. In the Greater New Orleans area, their number is 504-581-6222.
For a new vehicle sale, you should contact the vehicle manufacturer.
See our other blog post about used car warranties here.
If it is a used vehicle, the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle Commission “LUMVC” may be able to offer assistance. Call the office at 800-256-2977 or fill out a complaint form at: https://lumvc.louisiana.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Consumer-Complaint-Process.pdf.
You can’t stop making payments on the loan if there are problems with the vehicle. Payments are due until the loan is canceled.
A court can take money from your paycheck if you are working or order money to come out of your bank account or other money you have. This is called garnishment.
Garnishment can happen if someone sues you for money and you lose in court. If you are sued for a debt, take steps to protect yourself!
You will almost always lose if you do not reply to the case in court. If you lose the case in court, there will be a judgment against you. The winner can file papers to ask the court to “garnish” your money. They will look at your money situation and decide how much money to make you pay.
The Garnishment Judgment will order your job or bank to take money from your paycheck or bank account. The money collected this way will be more than you owe.
Louisiana law says how much of your money goes to pay the debt.
The amount depends on how much is left over in your pay after what your employer must take out for federal and state taxes, Medicare, Social Security, health insurance, and retirement.
Sometimes your employer takes money from your check for things not required by law, like optional insurance. That money is not safe from a court order taking it to pay a debt.
You earn $450 a week. If your employer takes out $120 for taxes and another $20 for optional dental insurance. ($450 - $120 = $310)
That leaves you with $310 each week. The law does not require dental insurance, so the $20 a week is not protected from garnishment. Only $330 is protected.
Then the court will look at the amount of money leftover in your pay in two ways and use the one that takes less from your paycheck.
The court must pick the smaller number after looking at the two examples above. In our example, it garnishes $82.50.
The court uses a different number for unpaid child support! The court picks half instead of a quarter of the money left after things like taxes.
Here is a link to a tool to help you figure out your garnishment amount: https://goodcalculators.com/wage-garnishment-calculator/
Most creditors cannot garnish any federal benefits, like Social Security. Only the federal government can take money out of a federal check to pay back a debt.
Garnishment is different for student loans, taxes, and other things.
If you have unpaid federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education or anyone collecting for it can only take up to 15% of your earnings after money is taken out for taxes and other things required by law. 20 U.S.C. § 1095a(a)(1).
If you have unpaid taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can take money out of your paycheck without suing in court first. They do this by something called a “levy."
This amount of garnishment is based on your tax filings.
See here for more info: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/information-about-wage-levies
There are ways that state and local government agencies can collect what you owe. Contact the agency that you owe to find out more.
The amount of the Garnishment Judgment will include the amount you owed, plus court costs, interest, and usually attorney fees from when the court made its Judgment against you.
You will also be charged:
These extra costs can be double or triple the amount of money you owed at the beginning.
The garnishment will continue until all the money owed has been paid. This can take years.
Garnishment will temporarily stop if you are no longer working for an employer. Once the person or company you owe (the creditor) finds out you are working again, they can start the garnishment again.
A bankruptcy filing will stop all garnishments right away. Bankruptcy may be able to get rid of the whole debt. Learn about bankruptcies here: https://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy
Other resources can be found here:
For information on Louisiana State garnishments: https://revenue.louisiana.gov/Faq/Details/1293
If you own your home and are 62 or older, a reverse mortgage loan could help you with significant bills, renovation costs, and other living expenses.
If you are interested in one, please take your time to review and fully understand it. This may not work for everyone. You should also discuss this decision with your family and your heirs, usually your children.
Yes, it differs from other mortgages, but it is also similar. Like other mortgages, it allows homeowners to borrow money using their home as security for the loan. The title stays in your name, but your property will have a loan against it.
Like other mortgages, you could lose the home to foreclosure if you fail to pay for required items such as property taxes and insurance (homeowners or flood).
But unlike other mortgages, you do not make monthly mortgage payments to the lender. The loan gets repaid when you no longer live in the home, usually after your death or sooner, if you sell the property. If one spouse dies, the repayment usually occurs after the second spouse dies. But certain papers may have to be completed promptly when the first spouse dies.
Because interest and fees are charged to the loan each month, the amount owed on the home grows over time. As the amount you owe grows, the amount of equity (what you can get by selling the house) goes down. This is unlike most mortgages, where the amount owed goes down because you pay each month.
A reverse mortgage loan is NOT free money. It is a loan on your house. If you want to fully own the house, you will have to pay back the entire loan amount, including the interest that has been charged.
If your heirs want the house, they will have to pay off all that is owed, including the interest charged over time. Most reverse mortgages give them a year to pay the amount.
NOTE: Most of this information only applies to Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), the most common type of reverse mortgage loans.
In addition to being at least 62 years old, there are a few other requirements:
Only one spouse needs to be 62 years old to qualify.
Before taking out a reverse mortgage, make sure you understand this type of loan. You may want to look at other borrowing and housing options, such as:
Other resources can be found here:
Are you a survivor of Hurricane Ida? Is there a problem with your help from FEMA?
The deadline has been extended to June 1, 2023 to appeal FEMA Denials!
Here are some examples of issues you can try to fix with FEMA:
You can file an appeal if you have any of these issues or if you have new evidence to show FEMA.
You can file an appeal even if the deadlines have passed on your paperwork. With the appeal, give FEMA the reason why you are late.
Your appeal must be in by June 1, 2023.**
If you need help with an appeal or other Hurricane Ida issue, please call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at 1 (844) 244-7871
** In some cases, you can file an appeal in Federal Court after this date, but we advise caution. We recommend consulting with an attorney if you need to appeal FEMA’s decision higher.