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Floods occur frequently, often without warning. They represent the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Yet, many property owners do not realize that their insurance policies will not cover the damage.

Even just 1 inch of water in or under your home can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Regular homeowners insurance won’t cover that loss.

Through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you can buy insurance that pays for damage and loss from flooding. Flood insurance can include buildings, furnishings, and other contents of your home.

In some cases, homeowners may be required to maintain flood insurance, for instance, if you live in an area of high flood risk and you or a previous owner has received federal assistance for storm damage.

Cost and Coverage

Rates for flood insurance under the NFIP vary. Prices depend on your home’s location and elevation. Property in a flood zone, as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is at higher risk, resulting in higher premiums.

You can purchase coverage for buildings, which includes your foundation, electrical and HVAC systems, and other property damage. You can also purchase contents coverage, which includes furniture and other personal belongings.

Having this coverage helps people recover after a storm. The NFIP also works to improve floodplain management to reduce the devastation caused by floods.


Does homeowners insurance cover losses from a flood?

What does flood insurance cover?

What do you mean by “flooding”?

Is there anything flood insurance won’t cover?

I don’t live in a floodplain. Should I get flood insurance?

For more information:

National Flood Insurance Program: 800-621-3362

FEMA Mapping and Insurance Exchange : 877-336-2627

FEMA Website (Flood Maps):


The NFIP is a federal government program administered by FEMA. The NFIP partners with more than 50 private insurance companies and the NFIP Direct to sell and service flood insurance policies.

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If you are elderly or disabled and own your home, you may qualify for a reduction of your property taxes.

To be eligible, you must be either 65 or older, or totally and permanently disabled. You also must own and live in your home, unless you are living elsewhere for medical reasons.

This reduction does not happen automatically. You will need to submit an application to your local tax office. Applications are accepted from January 1 to June 1 of each year. You can find the Application for Property Tax Relief online, or ask for a copy in your county tax office.

There are three possible exemptions you may receive:

Elderly or Disabled Exemption

  • You must be either 65 or older, or totally and permanently disabled.
  • Your income must be under a certain limit. For 2024, the limit is $36,700 annually.
  • You will need to turn in information about your income. If you are disabled but not elderly, your doctor will also have to fill out a form.
  • If you qualify for the exemption, the county will tax your property as if it were worth less than it really is. For tax calculation purposes, the county will either exclude the first $25,000 in value or will reduce the value by 50%, whichever lowers your bill more.

Disabled Veteran Exemption

  • You must be a veteran with a totally and permanently service-connected disability, and who left the military under honorable conditions.
  • Widows and widowers of disabled veterans also qualify, if you have not remarried.
  • There are no income limits for this exemption.
  • Your home will be taxed as if it were worth $45,000 less than it really is.

“Circuit Breaker” Tax Deferment

  • This is an alternative to the Elderly and Disabled Exemption. You must be either 65 or older, or totally or permanently disabled.
  • Under this exemption, your taxes can be calculated as a percentage of your income, rather than based on the value of the property.
    • For 2024, if your income is below $36,700, your taxes will be limited to 4% of your income.
    • If your income is between $36,700 and $55,050, your taxes will be limited to 5% of your income.
  • Taxes above the limit will be a lien on the property that is forgiven after 3 years.

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If it’s not safe for human beings, it’s not safe for animals. Pets are more dependent on us than ever during an emergency; with this guide, you’ll be able to prepare, evacuate, and shelter with your animal family.

Gather What You’ll Need and Make a Plan

Before a disaster, all animal families should prepare an evacuation plan, an emergency kit, and first aid kits for you and for your animals. Begin the process by gathering important information: make copies of your pets’ vaccination records and owner contact information, collect info about your local shelters, animal control services, and poison control, and verify that these details are up to date.

A thorough, ready-to-go plan is essential to helping you, your family, and your pets stay safe during an emergency, so make preparations beforehand. Emergency shelters for pets must be provided in case of evacuations, but it’s also a good idea to find out what hotels in your area allow pets. Keep one or more safe locations in mind before the disaster hits, and if there is an alternate location, such as at a family member’s house, try to visit with your animals beforehand.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

  • Food, in a protected container
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • First aid kit
  • Medication, in a protected container
  • Backup collar with tag and backup leash
  • Sturdy carrier
  • Pet brushes and shampoo
  • Picture of yourself and pet to document ownership
  • Sanitation bags
  • Favorite toys, treats, and blankets

Assemble a Pet First Aid Kit

  • Information on pet’s medical status
  • Veterinarian contact info
  • All medical records
  • Digital thermometer
  • Muzzle
  • Gauze for you or your pet
  • Clean towels
  • Non-stick bandages
  • Scissors
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Small flashlight
  • Hydrogen peroxide

All About Shelters

When a disaster arises, shelters for animals are REQUIRED: The PETS Act of 2006 is now part of the Stafford Act, meaning pet-friendly shelters must open whenever an evacuation is in place. These shelters are most frequently organized by local animal control offices or county, or state, animal response teams. When creating your emergency plan, remember to verify that your preferred pet shelter is staffed by qualified animal care personnel with animal handling experience.

  • Be sure to have proof of rabies vaccination .
  • Make time to treat for fleas while at the shelter.
  • Try to keep your animal calm with familiar blankets, toys, and treats.
  • If you think your pet might be sick, talk to a veterinarian.
  • Treat dogs and cats for intestinal parasites while at the shelter – this is especially important for pets under 6 months old.
  • Your animals may be taken to a mobile shelter; not all congregate shelters allow animals inside.

Extra Tips

  • Keep a leash and carrier near the exit.
  • Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).
  • Ask your veterinarian for help in putting together your pet’s veterinary records.
  • Please note, a service animal is not a pet, and all shelters must allow service animals pursuant to the Fair Housing Act.

Helpful Links

Check out some of these websites for more info on how you can prepare your pets for an emergency:


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Many organizations that provide free home repair assistance after a disaster will require you to prove that you own your home before they can assist you. However, you are not required by law to prove that you own your home in order to authorize repairs. For instance, you can hire a contractor yourself without proving ownership to your contractor. Organizations providing assistance may set their own requirements, which often include proof of ownership.

In some cases, proving ownership of your home is straightforward. For instance, you may be able to provide:

  • A deed to the home with your name on it
  • A title, if your home is a mobile home, with your name on it
  • Proof that you have a mortgage on the home
  • A will from the last person holding a deed to the home, showing that that person left the property to you, accompanied by proof that the will has been administered through the courts
  • Some people have inherited property without a will, and/or the property is shared by many relatives. Lawyers often call this “heir property.” You may also know this as “family land.”

People who inherited their property without a will are legal owners of the property. However, proving your ownership may be challenging. You may need to prepare a family tree and verify whether other heirs who have died since inheriting the property had wills themselves. If you are in this situation, you should contact Legal Aid NC, or another attorney, to assist you in proving ownership of your property. Some organizations may only provide assistance if all owners of the property, including all heirs, agree to the repairs. An attorney can help you identify all owners of your property. Depending on your circumstances, a family tree can be more complex than the example provided below so it is a good idea to get assistance.

Property Ownership Example

Michael Donna John Ryan Nicole Betsy Ben Sara Alex Erica (Living Deceased)

In this example, Michael and Donna’s son(Ryan) and grandchildren (Alex, Sara and Erica) would all own the property together.

Download our resource:

Additional resources

Category Name Organization
Disaster Relief Wills and estate planning for disaster recovery Legal Aid of North Carolina

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FEMA Applications

If you have been affected by a federally declared disaster, you may qualify for disaster assistance through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program. You should apply to FEMA as soon after the disaster as possible, and generally, you must apply within 60 days of the disaster.

FEMA can provide money for home repairs; temporary rental assistance; medical, dental and funeral expenses; vehicle repair or replacement; repair or replacement of essential household items; and other essential expenses related to the disaster.

To apply for FEMA assistance, you can:

  • Go to
  • Call 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585
  • Apply in person at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center

FEMA will send you a letter either approving or denying your request. If you are approved, FEMA will send you a letter explaining the purpose of the money. It is important that you only use FEMA money for its intended purpose. For instance, if FEMA’s letter explains that funding is intended for home repair, you should not spend it on rent or food. FEMA may provide you with money for more than one purpose at the same time.

You should save receipts showing how you spent the money for at least three years after you receive it. FEMA may ask you for proof that the money was spent as intended. If you receive money for home repair, but it is not enough to complete all repairs on your home, you should keep your receipts until all repairs are completed so that you can show proof of how you spent the FEMA money to any other organizations assisting you.

If you are unable to use the funding for the intended purpose, you should return it to FEMA. If you spend the money for another purpose, you may be required to repay FEMA in the future.

If FEMA approves you for rental assistance, you will receive two months’ rent upfront, which you may also use to pay a security deposit and your first month’s rent. If you need continuing rental assistance after that, you will need to turn in additional documentation to FEMA, including information about your income and expenses.

FEMA Home Repair Assistance

If your home was damaged by a major disaster, you may be eligible for repair assistance from FEMA. FEMA repair assistance is only intended to help you with basic repairs to make it safe to return to your home. FEMA is not intended to assist with all repairs or result in your home returning to its pre-disaster condition.

FEMA also expects that you will soon return to your home and take steps to prevent further damage. For instance, if you have a hole in your roof, FEMA expects that you will place a tarp over it to prevent interior damage to your home.

You may be eligible for home repair assistance if:

  • You or a household member is a U.S. citizen, non‐citizen national, or qualified alien
  • Your home is in a declared disaster area
  • You own your home
  • Your home is uninhabitable or inaccessible due to the disaster
  • Your home is not covered by insurance, or your insurance does not cover all your damage
  • You were occupying your home as your primary residence at the time of the disaster

You may NOT be eligible if:

  • You have other, adequate, rent-free housing available
  • You refused assistance from your insurance
  • You were required to maintain flood insurance after a previous disaster, but did not do so

Common issues that can cause FEMA to deny a homeowner’s claim include proving ownership and proving that the disaster has caused so much damage to the home that it is not currently habitable.

If FEMA denies your application for assistance or does not grant you enough money for your needs, you have 60 days to appeal. You can appeal on your own, or Legal Aid NC or another attorney can help you with your appeal.

Additional Resources

Category Name Organization
Disaster Relief FEMA Home Repair Assistance Legal Aid of North Carolina
Disaster Relief FEMA and Flood Insurance Legal Aid of North Carolina
Disaster Relief Duplication of benefits Legal Aid of North Carolina

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If your rental home is destroyed or so badly damaged by a natural disaster that it is not sanitary or safe for you to live in, North Carolina law gives you the right to cancel your lease within 10 days of the date of the damage. You must give the owner or manager written notice of your intent to cancel the lease. You will be required to pay any rent currently due.

Your landlord may also end your lease if the damage is too severe for the landlord to repair. If this happens, your landlord must give you notice as required by your lease. If your lease does not state how much notice is required to end the lease, the amount of time is set by law. For example, on a month-to-month lease, the landlord must provide at least one week’s notice before the end of your lease.

If you continue to live in the home, the landlord is required to make repairs to make the home safe, decent and sanitary. The landlord must do this within a reasonable time. However, the repairs are only legally required if the landlord is aware of the damage. Make sure you inform the landlord about needed repairs right away, and that you keep a record of the date and your conversation. It is best to make your repair requests in writing, which may include handwritten, email, text message, or social media message.

If you have to move out while repairs are being made, you are not required to pay rent for the time that you are not living in the home. You will typically be responsible for your living expenses, including rent elsewhere, while repairs are being made. FEMA may be able to assist you with rental costs while you are displaced.

Your landlord can evict you for failing to pay rent that is due, even if you have been affected by a disaster. If you are unable to stay in the home or unable to pay your rent, you should stay in contact with your landlord to explain your situation and try to reach an agreement.

In general, your landlord is not responsible for damage to your belongings caused by the natural disaster. If you have renter’s insurance for your property, you should file a claim. You should also take pictures of all damaged property.

If you want to move due to damage to your home, or if your landlord continues to charge you rent without completing repairs, we recommend that you contact an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. You can call the Legal Aid NC helpline to learn if you can get free assistance.

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Scammers and fraudsters often target people after natural disasters. Real contractors or handymen may also accept your money and then fail to do the work. These tips can help you avoid losing money after a disaster.

It is best to…

  • Ask for an official ID from anyone claiming to be from the government, power company or insurance company.
  • Contact your insurance company first if your property has been damaged by a disaster. Some insurance companies require the adjuster’s approval before work can be done.
  • Shop around and compare estimates for any major repairs. Legitimate contractors will also provide written estimates for home repairs.
  • Avoid sharing personal information, such as social security numbers or bank account numbers, with anyone who contacts you first. If someone contacts you claiming to be from a government agency or organization, look up the number for that organization online and call to verify that the person is really an employee.
  • Remember that you should not be asked to pay to file any disaster assistance applications.

When hiring a contractor…

  • Beware of contractors who knock on your door offering services because they noticed your home is damaged or are already working in your area. This is a common tactic of scam artists.
  • FEMA does not approve, endorse, certify, or recommend any contractors, individuals, or firms.
  • Do not hire a contractor who does not have a physical address or refuses to show ID.
  • Use a contractor who is backed by reliable references. The most reputable contractors have liability insurance, workers’ compensation and are bonded.
  • Perform a quick Google search before hiring any contractor. Do they have a website? Have they scammed previous clients? Read any reviews.
  • Get a copy of your contract in writing from the contractor that includes the work to be done and, ideally, a completion date.
  • Check credentials with the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. Any contractor taking jobs costing $30,000 is required to be licensed in North Carolina.
  • You may wish to request a copy of your contractor’s Certificate of Insurance before they begin work, to ensure that the contractor is legitimate and that you will be covered if the contractor causes any damage to your home.

When making a payment…

  • Be cautious about paying contractors before they begin work. If possible, wait until the work is finished and you are satisfied before paying. Reputable contractors generally do not expect customers to pay the entire price upfront.
  • Pay contractors by credit card if you can, so that you can request a chargeback from your credit card company if they fail to do the work or if the work is unsatisfactory.
  • If you cannot pay by credit card, pay by check or get a written receipt from the contractor – anything to keep a paper trail proving your payments.

If you have been affected by a scam or fraud, you should contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-566-7226. Under many circumstances, scams and frauds are a crime. You may wish to contact local law enforcement. You can also contact an attorney to assist you. Call Legal Aid NC to learn if you qualify for free help.

Watch this video for additional information:

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Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Disaster Relief Project helps promote the longevity and professionalism of local long-term recovery work. Legal Aid attorneys assist groups with 501(c)(3) non-profit incorporation, draft of legal documents, and provide general guidance as the groups seek to navigate the disaster relief ecosystem. Our goal is to allow the groups to focus on what they do best: helping the community recover. 

If you are a long-term recovery or community group and would like to learn if we can assist you, call the Legal Aid helpline at 866-219-5262. 

Additional resources

Category Name Organization
Disaster Relief How to Start a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization
in North Carolina
NC Center for Nonprofits
Disaster Relief Legal Compliance Checklist for North Carolina Nonprofits NC Center for Nonprofits
Disaster Relief Toolkit for Building Organizational Resilience NC Center for Nonprofits


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Taking the time to plan ahead can go a long way in helping with disaster recovery. Legal Aid’s Disaster Relief Project recommends following guidance from organizations and government agencies like the American Red Cross, FEMA and NC Emergency Management to prepare for and stay safe during a natural disaster.   

While Legal Aid’s Disaster Relief Project’s main focus is helping North Carolinians through the recovery process after a natural disaster, our experience with disaster recovery has shown us the importance of preparing ahead of time. We’re sharing our own guide to getting ready for disasters on this page. 

What to do before a natural disaster

Make a disaster kit and make a plan

  • Your disaster kit should include non-perishable food, water, medicine and first aid supplies, batteries and flashlights, and anything else you’d need to take care of your family for a few days 
  • Make a plan for what your family will do if disaster strikes: Where will you evacuate? Where will you get your information?  
  • For more on disaster kits and plans, visit preparedness web pages through the American Red Cross and the Legal Aid Disaster Resource Center.

Plan your estate and clear title to your land  

  • Wills, deeds, and powers of attorney are all legal documents that help provide certainty for you and your heirs if a disaster strikes and you end up in an extended recovery process. Legal Aid may be able to help you prepare these documents. More information can be found in the resource section. 
  • If you already have these documents, make sure to review them and update them if necessary, so that your current copies reflect your wishes. 
  • If you own land or think you do, it is important to make sure your title to the land is clear. Legal Aid may be able to help you check the status of your title and address problems. 

Locate important documents, make copies, and store them in a safe place 

  • Having easy access to important documents after a disaster is crucial for accessing necessities, like prescription medications, and applying for disaster aid. 
  • If possible, make copies of important documents and keep them in a waterproof and fireproof location. 
  • Helpful documents to have include:
    • Birth certificate  
    • License, passport, or other form of Identification 
    • Social Security Card 
    • Deed 
    • Certificate of Title (for automobile vehicles and manufactured homes) 
    • Mortgage Statement 
    • Insurance policies (home owners insurance, flood insurance, health insurance, life insurance, etc)  
    • Tax returns  
    • Court judgments  
    • Power of Attorney and/or Healthcare Power of Attorney  
    • Last Will and Testament and/or Living Will  

Get property or renter’s insurance, and know what your insurance policy covers 

  • Property insurance or renter’s insurance can reimburse you for damage to your home and belongings. 
  • It is important to understand your current insurance and whether you need to adjust your policy before a disaster. A video about property insurance is included in the resources on this page. 
  • If you have questions or concerns about your insurance policy, or if your insurance company denies you coverage, Legal Aid may be able to help. Call the helpline number to learn more about our services and eligibility.

What to do after a disaster 

Take pictures of any damage to your property 

  • Having photographs and a written list of damage you have experienced can help you get help later 

Contact state and federal agencies for aid 

  • FEMA and other organizations may be able to help with immediate needs, like money for short-term housing or repairs.

Contact Legal Aid, if needed, during recovery. We can help with issues including: 

  • Applying for disaster recovery funds and appealing denials of state or federal aid 
  • Homeowner and renters housing rights
  • Contractor fraud 
  • And more

Download our resource:

Additional resources

Category Name Organization
Disaster Preparedness How To Prepare for Emergencies Red Cross
Disaster Preparedness Disaster Preparedness Document Checklist Legal Services Corporation
Disaster Preparedness NC Emergency Management North Carolina Emergency Management Division
Disaster Relief Property ownership, heir property, and estate planning Legal Aid of North Carolina
Disaster Relief Property Insurance & Natural Disasters: SHOW ME THE MONEY! (or not) Legal Aid of North Carolina