Main Content

Services of Attorneys Do Not Affect FEMA Assistance Applications

Release date: 
December 5, 2017
Release Number: 
DR-4339-PR NR 065

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – FEMA provides several ways for a homeowner to prove “owner-occupancy” of a damaged dwelling when documents such as a Deed of Trust or a Will do not exist or are missing.

Regardless of potential obstacles, survivors whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Irma or Maria should register with FEMA for Individual Assistance. There is no charge to register and applications will be evaluated on an individual basis.

A person who does not hold formal title to the residence and pays no rent, but is responsible for the payment of taxes or maintenance of the residence may qualify as an owner-occupant.

A person who has lifetime occupancy rights with formal title vested in another individual’s name may also qualify as an owner-occupant and may be considered for FEMA assistance.

FEMA works directly with applicants to document ownership and evaluate qualification for FEMA and Small Business Administration assistance programs.

The disaster assistance application process or appeals of FEMA decisions do not require the assistance of a paid attorney. Hiring an attorney does not affect FEMA decisions and does not speed the process for survivors.

All Disaster Recovery Centers have Disaster Legal Services staff who offer free legal advice for issues related to the application process or FEMA decisions. This same legal assistance is available in English or Spanish at 1-800-310-7029, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Free services include:

  • Help with medical insurance claims, hospital bills, loss of property, loss of life, etc.
  • Drawing up new wills and other legal papers lost in the disaster
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors
  • Advice on problems with landlords

All Disaster Recovery Centers are staffed with FEMA representatives able to answer questions about the application process. Applicants can also call the FEMA Helpline: 1-800-621-3362


FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362 (voice, 711/VRS - Video Relay Service). Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish). TTY: 800-462- 7585.

The SBA is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters, which can cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged real estate and personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

Follow us at:

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 11:58