The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

FEMA’s trailer and temporary housing program will last until Feb. 29, 2024, for survivors of Hurricanes Ida, Delta, or Laura.

Here are three important things you need to remember:

  1. You must pay rent to stay in your trailer or unit.
  2. FEMA always charges a whole month of rent! If you live in a trailer or other unit part of a month, you must pay for the entire month.
  3. If you live in a FEMA trailer, check with your local officials about zoning rules. Some Parishes made short-term zoning rules to allow people to have FEMA trailers.

If you have questions, you can contact FEMA.

You can call (225) 346-4119 to talk about trailers with FEMA.

What should I do if I have disaster aid or contractor problems?

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 bloghttps://slls.org/blog/

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

WHAT IS A TENANT SCREENING REPORT?

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:

  • money owed to past landlords
  • if a past landlord filed to evict you
  • criminal background

Many companies create Tenant Screening Reports. These include RentGrow, LeasingDesk, AppFolio, and Screening Reports, Inc.

HOW TO DISPUTE ERRORS

1.         Find out which company created the report

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.

2.         Submit a Dispute

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.

WHAT SHOULD YOU INCLUDE IN A DISPUTE?

  • Explain exactly why something in the report is wrong. Here are some examples:
  • The report shows an eviction judgment against you when the case was dismissed or settled
  • Your former landlord says you owe money you already paid or do not owe
  • A record that does not belong to you is showing up on your report
  • Attach any proof to help show that something in the Tenant Screening Report is wrong.

If you need help disputing information in a Tenant Screening Report, contact Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at 504-529-1000x.223

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

What is a Tenant Screening Report?

Landlords sometimes use tenant screening reports to check if applicants have:

  • Been evicted before.
  • Owe money to a previous landlord for rent or damages.
  • Have a criminal history.
  • Have a credit score below a certain number.

What if I'm denied housing because of the report?

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.

The law requires the landlord to:

  • Tell you if the tenant screening or credit report was used to deny you housing.
  • Give you the contact information for the company that made the report.
  • Let you know that you have the right to challenge the information in the report.
  • Let you know that you can get a free copy of the report if you ask for it within 60 days of being denied housing.

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.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

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.

What does the new Healthy Homes Law say?

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.

How will the new Healthy Homes law keep my landlord from getting back at me if I ask for repairs or report bad conditions?

Starting July 1, 2023, your landlord can’t get back at you for doing any of these things:

  1. You tell your landlord something in your unit does not meet the current health and safety rules (the Minimum Property Maintenance Code).
  2. You ask your landlord to fix something in the current health and safety rules.
  3. You report problems with your unit to the City of New Orleans (like Code Enforcement), the public, or the media. The current health and safety rules must cover the things you report.
  4. You speak at a hearing or in court about problems covered by the current health and safety rules.

Here are two examples of how the new law may apply to real-life problems with your landlord.

Example 1:

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:

  1. The lease says the landlord can raise rent or fees because of higher utility bills, taxes, or insurance.
  2. The landlord is charging more rent or getting rid of some services for everyone in the building.
  3. The landlord charges more under approved rent changes by a government program like Section 8.

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.

Example 2:

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:

  1. You are behind on rent.
  2. You, your family, or your guest damages the unit on purpose or threatens the safety of others.
  3. You violated the lease agreement in any other way.

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. 

What happens in 2024?

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.

What will the Minimum Rental Standards require starting in 2024?

In 2024 rental units in New Orleans must have everything listed here:

  • Working fire and smoke detectors.
  • At least one bathtub or shower, toilet, and kitchen sink. These things must be clean and in good working order.
  • Hot and cold running water.
  • Working water heater that can heat enough water to 110 degrees.
  • Heaters that can reach at least 68 degrees in every room.
  • Air conditioning that can cool every bedroom down to at least 80 degrees. (This rule about minimum A/C is new for 2024!)
  • Safe working electrical wiring and outlets.
  • Safe working appliances (if the landlord supplies them).
  • The roof, windows, and doors must keep dampness out of the unit.
  • A unit that has no signs of mold inside.
  • Walls, floors, or interior surfaces, without major cracks, holes, or decay.
  • No rodents (like rats and mice).

What rental property standards are in place now, before 2024?

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).

How will the City of New Orleans enforce the new Healthy Homes law?

The City plans to hire more people to inspect rentals and respond to complaints to enforce Healthy Homes.

What happens if a rental unit fails inspection under the new 2024 rules?

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.

Can a tenant be kicked out if a rental unit fails inspection under the new 2024 rules?

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.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

FEMA Trailer Rent Notices

  • If you live in a FEMA Trailer, you should have been told your rent will increase.
  • The rent is based on Fair Market Rent.
  • Rent is paid for the month after you stay. So June’s rent will be due July 1.

FEMA only charges by full months. FEMA will charge you for a whole month even if you leave in the middle of the month.

Important Dates

  • May 31, 2023
    • Last day to stay in a FEMA trailer and not pay the increased rent. If you are going to move out, FEMA's unit inspection needs to be scheduled and completed before this date to avoid any fees.
  • June 30, 2023
    • Last day to appeal and get your rent lowered.
  • July 1, 2023
    • The first day rent will be due.

What are my options if I cannot afford the increased rent?

OPTION 1: MOVE OUT OF THE FEMA TRAILER

Schedule and prepare to move out by May 31, 2023

OR

OPTION 2: APPEAL

File an appeal requesting a lowered rent amount

OPTION 1: Move out of the FEMA trailer

To avoid paying the higher rents, you must move out and surrender possession of the FEMA unit by May 31, 2023.

  • Surrender possession
    • Tell FEMA the date you plan to be out and schedule a unit inspection before May 31, 2023.
    • Plan to move out. Contact FEMA immediately to schedule an inspection!

OPTION 2: Appeal

 You can appeal and request that rent be lowered based on your household’s ability to pay:

  • FEMA considers all factors of your household’s income and debts based solely on debt to income ratio.
  • If you have bills that make a rent increase unaffordable, FEMA may lower your rent.
  • June 30, 2023 is the deadline to file an appeal.

How to Appeal

  • FEMA Accepted Appeal Form: FEMA will accept this simple form where you can write in your expenses. You can download the Sample Appeal Form here.
  • The appeal form needs to be signed and dated by the head of the household.
  • Send with your appeal:
  • Income Info: paystubs, W-2, tax returns, SSA award letter, etc.
    • If you have no income, complete this Sample No Income Statement here.
    • Expense Info: all of your bills! Some examples are mortgages, storage fees, rental fees, insurance, utilities, medical, etc.
  • Include your FEMA number and Disaster number on every document you submit!
  • Send copies. Keep originals!

Proof of Income for the Appeal

  • Everyone in the household over 18 years old must provide proof of income.
  • Anyone in the household over 18 with no source of income must sign a no-income statement. Examples would be students and other household members with no income.
  • You can download the Sample No Income Statement here.

Where do I send my appeal?

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: 

  • Email: FEMA-DR-4611-DIRECTHOUSINGAdminbox@fema.dhs.gov
  • Fax: (225) 379-3387
  • Mail:

Attention: FEMA Direct Housing
1500 Main Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Have questions for FEMA? Call (225) 346-4119.

What happens after I Appeal?

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.

What happens if FEMA denies my appeal?

  • If you chose to pay the higher rent all along, you will continue to pay the rent as usual.
  • If you have not been paying the increased rent, you will have to pay the total rent amount charged within 30 days of the date of FEMA’s decision letter.
  • You will also have to start paying the increased rent.
  • REMINDER: FEMA will charge you an entire month’s rent even if you leave before the end of the month.

What happens if FEMA grants my appeal?

  • If you have been paying your monthly rent amount, FEMA will refund any overpayment above the adjusted rent.
  • The adjusted rent amount will be due on the first day of each month, as usual.
  • If you have not been paying your monthly rent amount,
    • You have to pay the total of these adjusted charges within 30 days of the date of FEMA’s decision letter and;
    • Begin paying the adjusted rent on the 1st day of each month until you surrender possession of the FEMA trailer.
  • FEMA will not prorate the adjusted rent, so it’s better to appeal sooner than later!

Important Takeaways

 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.

  • If you lose an appeal, you will owe FEMA money for any time you stayed longer.
  • If you win an appeal and paid the higher rent, FEMA will reimburse you.
  • ACT NOW! No matter what option you consider, acting sooner rather than later is better.

How do I apply for legal help?

Access Legal Information: www.louisianalawhelp.org or www.slls.org.

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 information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

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

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

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.

What should you do now?

  1. Make sure Medicaid knows how to reach you. There are four ways you can let Medicaid know.

  • You can use this website to give an update: MyMedicaid.la.gov.
  • You can e-mail the Medicaid program: MyMedicaid@la.gov
  • You can call Medicaid at 1-888-342-6207. Their phone line hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
  • You can call your health plan.
  1. Act right away if you get a letter about your Medicaid from the Louisiana Department of Health.

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.

  1. What if I get a letter saying that the state is cutting off my Medicaid benefits?

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/. 

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

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:

  • You must have owned the home when the hurricane hit.
  • That home must have been your “primary residence.” That means the home was the main place where you lived at the time of the hurricane.
  • You must still own that home.
  • Your income must be low-to-moderate. There are rules about what that means.
  • The government must find that your home had “major and severe” damage.
  • Any one of the three things listed here should mean your home had “major and severe” damage:
  • You received a FEMA award of at least $5,000 to repair your home.
  • You received a FEMA award of at least $3,500 for personal property.
  • Your home had more than one foot of flooding.

For more information on eligibility and how the program works, refer to our previous blog post here: https://slls.org/restore-louisiana/

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

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.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/auto-loans/

https://consumer.ftc.gov/shopping-and-donating/buying-and-owning-car

What kind of loan can I use to buy a car or truck?

There are two kinds of car loans, Direct Lending and Dealership Financing.

Direct Lending

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 know ahead of time how much your loan will cost.
  • You know the loan's interest rate (APR, or annual percentage rate).
  • You know how much money you can borrow to buy a car. This may help you work out a price with a car dealer.
  • An approved car loan ahead of time can help you shop around among different dealers.

Dealership Financing

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:

  • A range of ways to borrow money. The dealer may have ties to banks and finance companies with different loan options. But dealerships want to make a profit on the loan. Dealership financing may not give you the best price.
  • Dealers sometimes offer special deals programs. The carmaker may offer a low rate on the loan or something else to get you to buy. They may cover only certain cars and trucks or may only apply to people with strong credit. Ask the dealer if you qualify for a special deal.

What do I need to know before I get a car or truck loan?

If you get a loan, make sure you understand what you are agreeing to before signing any papers. You should know the following:

  • The exact price you will pay for the car or truck.
  • If there is a down payment and how much it will cost.
  • How much money you will owe through the car loan. (This is called the amount financed by the loan.)
  • What the finance charge is (The extra amount over the car price the loan will cost you).
  • The interest rate (APR).
  • How much each payment is, and how many months of payments you will make.
  • If more than one payment a month is needed.
  • The payment due date You can often change this before the loan is made, but you may not be able to change it later.
  • The total sales price (the sum of everything you will pay under the loan).

Should I get more than one loan offer?

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.

How will I know if I can afford the car loan payments?

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.

Example:

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.

What if I stretch out the time to pay back the loan to lower my monthly payments?

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.

Do I have to buy gap, credit, or disability insurance when I buy a car?

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.

Do I have to buy extended warranties when I borrow money to buy a vehicle?

No. If you do, get all the details, including price, time of coverage, limits of coverage, and a copy of the policy.

Can I negotiate with the lender on my loan?

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:

  • Getting a lower interest rate (APR) means you will pay less to borrow money. The total cost of your loan will be lower.
  • A shorter loan term (making monthly payments for fewer months) will reduce your total loan cost. A longer loan can reduce your monthly payment, but you pay more interest over the life of the loan.
  • A higher down payment, or a higher price for your trade-in, will reduce the total amount financed because you will have to borrow less money.
  • Optional “add-on” products like extended warranties, GAP insurance, or credit insurance that are added to your loan amount will increase your total cost because you will be borrowing more money.

If you do not like the loan terms, you can walk away.

The lender wants me to have a co-signer for my loan. Is this required?

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.

Can I cancel the sale and financing within three days of the vehicle sale?

No. In Louisiana, once the parties have agreed to the sales contract, it can be valid.

What can I do if I have issues after the vehicle is bought?

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.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

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.

How does garnishment happen?

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.

How much money will come out of my check to pay the debt?

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.

Here is an example:

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.

  1. The court will see how much over $217.50 you have. For this step, the court always protects $217.50 and the taxes, Medicare, health insurance, and retirement your employer must take out. In our example $330 – 217.50 = $112.50. This is the amount the court will consider taking.
  2. The court will also see how much is a quarter (25%) of the money you have left after the things like taxes your employer has to take out. In our example, a fourth of the $330 is $82.50 ($330 ÷ 4 = 82.50). $82.50 is the amount the court will consider taking.

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.

For more info: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/can-a-debt-collector-garnish-my-federal-benefits-en-1441/

What about unpaid student loans or taxes and things like that?

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).

The government does not have to sue you before taking out money to pay back debt.

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.

Why does the garnishment order say I owe so much more than my original debt?

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:

  • For court costs for the separate garnishment lawsuit,
  • For your employer to take out the money for the garnishment.
  • For the court to collect the money.

These extra costs can be double or triple the amount of money you owed at the beginning.

How do I stop the garnishment?

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:

https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/garnishments

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-is-a-garnishment-en-1385/

For information on Louisiana State garnishments: https://revenue.louisiana.gov/Faq/Details/1293

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

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.

Is a reverse mortgage different than a regular mortgage on my home?

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.

What are the requirements for a reverse mortgage?

In addition to being at least 62 years old, there are a few other requirements:

  • You need to own the home outright or have paid down a considerable amount of the mortgage, i.e., have a lot of equity in the home.
  • You have to live in the house as your primary residence.
  • Your home must be in good shape. If not, the lender will tell you what repairs need to be made before you can get a reverse mortgage.
  • You can’t be behind on any federal debt.
  • You must pass a credit check and other eligibility requirements for the loan.
  • You must stay current on your property taxes, insurance, and any homeowners association fees for the whole life of the loan. If you get behind on these, the lender can foreclose, and you will lose your home. In most foreclosures, people do not get any money back from the home’s value.

Only one spouse needs to be 62 years old to qualify.

What are the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage?

Reverse Mortgage Pros:

  • If you don’t have a lot of savings or investments but do have much equity built up in your home, a reverse mortgage will allow you to get money that you can use to cover expenses in your retirement.
  • Instead of selling your home to get cash out, you can keep the house and still get cash out of it. This means you don’t have to worry about potentially downsizing or getting priced out of your neighborhood if you have to sell and move. But this only works if you can keep up with property taxes and insurance costs.
  • You can use the money from a reverse mortgage to pay off an existing home loan. This could free up money to pay other monthly expenses since you no longer have to pay that loan’s monthly note.
  • The money you get from a reverse mortgage is considered a loan rather than income and will not be taxed by the IRS.

Reverse Mortgage Cons:

  • You MUST live in the house and pay all property taxes, insurance, and other costs like you would with a traditional mortgage.
  • If you become delinquent on these expenses during the reverse mortgage period or spend most of the year living outside the property, you could lose your home to foreclosure.
  • When you die, your heirs will be required to pay the full loan balance or 95% of the home’s appraised value, whichever is less, to keep the house. If they do not, they will have to sell the house or turn it over to the lender to satisfy the debt. If you want your children or heirs to inherit your home, a reverse mortgage is something you should NOT do.
  • A reverse mortgage eats away at your home’s equity.
  • If you have money from the reverse mortgage put into a savings account or give it away, this could make you ineligible for need-based government programs like SNAP, Medicaid, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • There are a lot of rules and details to reverse mortgages. The risks may not be worth the extra cash. You should NOT enter any reverse mortgage offer unless you understand the terms well.

Are there any other ways to get cash instead of a reverse mortgage?

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:

  • A home equity loan (HEL) or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) might be a cheaper way to borrow cash against your home’s equity. However, these loans carry their risks and usually have monthly payments. Qualifying for these loans also depends on your income and credit. You can learn more about these loans here:  https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-is-a-home-equity-loan-en-106    and here: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/my-lender-offered-me-a-home-equity-line-of-credit-heloc-what-is-a-heloc-en-246/
  • Depending on interest rates, refinancing your current mortgage with a new traditional mortgage could lower your monthly mortgage payments. Pay attention to the length of time you’ll have to repay your new mortgage, as it can affect your retirement plans. For example, taking on a new 30-year mortgage when nearing retirement could become a hardship later. Consider choosing a shorter-term mortgage, such as a 10- or 15-year loan. More info on refinancing a mortgage is here: https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_should_i_refinance_handout.pdf
  • Consider selling your home and downsizing and buying a more affordable home. This could reduce your overall monthly living expenses.
  • There are state and local programs that may help with utilities and fuel payments as well as home repairs. Some localities also have programs to help with property taxes: check with your parish tax office.

Other resources can be found here:

 https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/reverse-mortgages/

https://www.aarp.org/money/credit-loans-debt/reverse_mortgages/

https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/reverse-mortgages

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online 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:

  • FEMA said I have not given documents that show I own the home.
  • FEMA said I have not given documents to show I lived in the damaged household
  • FEMA did not pay me enough to repair my home.
  • FEMA did not pay me enough for my damaged personal property.
  • FEMA said I do not qualify for Rental Assistance

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.