With aid coming, attorneys work to clear titles on more than 120 flooded homes

    Legal services attorneys working to clear titles on flood-damaged homes have unlocked roughly $203,000 in potential flood aid and other equity for homeowners needing financial assistance to rebuild from the August flood.

    The lawyers are helping the homeowners through a title-clearing program run by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services.

    Laura Tuggle, SLLS executive director, says her organization currently has more than 120 open cases, but one of the biggest challenges is connecting people with the service.

    “We want to encourage anyone impacted, if they inherited property, that this is something that could help clear the way,” Tuggle says.

    She hopes more marketing will help raise awareness about the title clearing program, which began in November when the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation committed $550,000 to pay for the legal work flood-impacted homeowners need to clear the titles on their homes and receive assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied initial flood aid to several thousand homeowners who could not prove they owned their homes.

    And last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the state’s spending plan for the first $438 million allocated for flood recovery. Around 88% of that money will go to homeowners, and low-income, disabled and elderly people without flood insurance will get priority.

    BRAF and SLLS, which provides free legal aid for low-income people, have identified around 1,100 homeowners who may not be able to receive flood aid because the title for their home is in someone else’s name.

    “This is very likely going to be an issue for people who are trying to access those benefits” from the first $438 million in aid, Tuggle says.

    —Sam Karlin

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