WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus student chapter of the Florida State Bar Real Property, Probate, and Trust Section, (RPPTS) and the 10CORE® Law Society hosted the virtual forum “Redevelopment After Destruction for Tenants and Homeowners” on March 18. The two-part forum featured sessions for homeowners and tenants.
In September 2022, Hurricane Ian devastated families living in Florida, particularly along its southwestern coast, causing many individuals to need access to recovery services. “The purpose of forums like this are to provide individuals with basic information about their rights before, during, and after the disaster,” said WMU-Cooley Professor Florise Neville-Ewell.
Pictured: Professor Florise Neville-Ewell
The forum was moderated by Neville-Ewell and RPPTS President Jacob Goss. Participating panelists who have experience in providing information on FEMA rights, filing insurance claims, and how to avoid being defrauded included Jason Fletcher, Fletcher Legal Group; John Lawless, disaster relief attorney, Bay Areal Legal Services; Julie Torrez, Law Office of Richard D. Saba; and Yveline Dalmacy, Eviction Defense Unit of Nassau Suffolk Law Services.
While sharing information about proper insurance coverage for those living in disaster-prone areas, Fletcher said, “It’s important to know what sort of protections you have in Florida when it comes to homeowner’s insurance.” He also spoke about the importance of preparedness prior to a disaster and how efforts in protecting your proper can help later. “If you can show the insurance companies what you did prior to the storm it is extremely important and helps when filing a claim.”
Lawless who spoke on what homeowners should do immediately to make sure they have easier access to disaster recovery services said, “It sounds like a basic thing, but it comes up often, make sure that you check to confirm if you own your home on your county’s appraisal site. If you see someone else’s name – including a family member – according to the county this belongs to the estate of that individual. You see this often with multigenerational homes or mobile homes.”
After a disaster happens, many individuals are faced with legal questions and concerns. Dalmacy, whose own home was destroyed during a disaster, explained that there are legal services to help individuals who face being evicted from their property because of damages that have been sustained. Having also worked as a FEMA contractor, Dalmacy stated “when I go into somebody’s home, I tell them ‘I was once like you’ and let them know that they can rebuild; I bring them hope.”
While rebuilding many homeowners are victims of individuals who claim they can help in the recovery efforts and rebuilding their homes.
“We need to inquire and hire licensed contracts only, said Torrez. “Homeowners should require 3 bids when searching for any job.”
In addition to homeowners being faced with adversities from disaster, Neville-Ewell explained that tenants are also at risk.
“It’s also important for us to show them (tenants) how much we care by providing them with information before they are affected by a disaster,” said Neville-Ewell.
Fletcher also shared that tenants need to realize that there are support mechanisms in place for them. “It’s important to get help and don’t just accept the denial of failure to cooperate because of forces outside of your control.”
Founded by WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Florise Neville-Ewell, the 10CORE® Law Society is a 501(c)(3) organization that has provided public outreach in Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and is also providing innovative housing literacy programs for youth through high schools and community colleges. Neville-Ewell teaches Property and Ethics and hosts the Housing Gap Podcast, a podcast dedicated to educating tenants and homeowners.
The full forum can be viewed on WMU-Cooley’s YouTube channel.