Legal Rights of Hurricane Survivors

A Guide to Making an Increased Cost of Compliance Claim

Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage is included with your flood policy and is intended to assist homeowners with up to an additional $30,000 to help pay for modifications that must be made to their property to comply with new regulations. Depending upon your individual case, ICC may include money for demolition, elevation, relocation of the building and, in some cases may be applicable to non-residential buildings, flood-proofing. If you qualify for ICC money, you may use it towards any combination of these activities, even if they do not occur simultaneously.

South Jersey Legal Services, Inc. has prepared a memorandum to assist you in filing an Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) claim.If you require individualized assistance, you may call our Centralized Intake Unit at 800.496.4570, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, to determine if you are eligible for free legal assistance.

Your Rights as a Renter

Rent Abatement and Security Deposits

If you are a tenant and you have been displaced as a result of the storm, you may be entitled to a return of part of the rent you paid if you are unable to live in your home during that period of time. You also may not have to pay your rent for the months after that if you are not able to go back into your apartment. Finally, if you are able to return to your apartment, but it is not completely habitable, you may not have to pay all the rent.

Your displacement due to this natural disaster, may also entitle you to have your security deposit returned quickly. A landlord must return your security deposit within five business days if:

  • The displacement is caused by fire, flood, condemnation or evacuation; and
  • An authorized public official posts the premises with a notice prohibiting occupancy, or
  • A building inspector has certified within 48 hours that displacement is expected to continue longer than seven days and has so notified the owner in writing.

Appealing FEMA Decisions

New Jersey survivors of Hurricane Sandy who have been turned down for disaster assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have the right to appeal that decision. Before appealing, be sure to read your determination letter carefully. FEMA may only be asking that you provide additional information. If this is the case, include as much documentation as possible to support your losses and document their value.

If you have been turned down or received less than the amount of assistance you feel is needed to meet your immediate needs, this does not necessarily mean that your case is closed.

Remember that FEMA is a program of last resort - not an insurance policy. Disaster assistance may be provided to meet basic needs for you and members of your household due to a disaster. It is not a program to make you whole or to improve conditions that existed before the disaster.

Here are some common reasons why an application is denied:

  • Shared Household Rule - FEMA does not determine a 'Head of Household' when multiple people at the same address apply. If you were denied and you feel you are not part of a shared household, you can appeal and submit supporting documentation.
  • Duplication of Benefits - If you have insurance, FEMA will suspend payment of assistance which may be covered by your insurance. If you find your insurance is insufficient to cover your essential losses, you can notify FEMA and send in your final insurance settlement or claim denial information.

How to Appeal a FEMA Determination:

Understand why you were denied - Completely review your FEMA determination letter. All determinations are explained in the body of the letter. If you would like someone to go over the letter with you or if you need additional information, you can call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362).

Appeal quickly - You have 60 days from the date on the determination letter you get from FEMA to respond to a FEMA denial or a payment you feel is not adequate. If you are filing an appeal more than 60 days after the date noted on your FEMA determination letter, you will need to include an explanation of why your response is over the 60-day deadline.

Request your FEMA file - If you need information about your case, you or the co-applicant on your application may request a copy of the information in your file by writing to:

    FEMA - Records Management
    National Processing Service Center
    P.O. Box 10055
    Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

To help protect the privacy of your personal information, whenever you write an appeal or request letter to FEMA you should include your full name, date and place of birth, damaged dwelling address, FEMA application number, and disaster number. Have your letter notarized or include a copy of a state-issued identification card or include the following statement: "I hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct." You must sign the letter.

Follow the guidelines for appealing your denial. You must include your FEMA registration number and disaster number on every page of your appeal and every page of your supporting information. You can find both numbers on your determination letter.

  • Gather information - Provide FEMA with any verifiable documentation that may support your appeal. If you are not sure if you should include a particular document, you can call the FEMA helpline for assistance at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or submit your appeal to the address below.
  • Remember the bar code - Include a copy of the page of the eligibility notification that you received from FEMA with the bar code on it.
  • Make sure you sign the appeal letter - Your appeal letter must be signed by you or an authorized representative. If you want someone else to sign the appeal for you, make sure to submit an authorization form with the appeal.
  • Keep records - Make sure to keep a copy of everything you send and keep a phone log of any calls or meetings with FEMA.

FEMA response to your appeal: FEMA has 90 days to issue a written decision to an appeal but often responds more quickly. FEMA's decision on your appeal should be considered final. However if you have new information you may provide this to FEMA.

    Send your appeal letter to:
    By Mail:
    FEMA Appeals Officer
    National Processing Service Center
    P.O. Box 10055
    Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055

    Via Fax:
    Attention: FEMA
    (800) 827-8112

If you would like to speak with a specialist who can help you with the appeal process, call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.

Legal Resources

If you need assistance disputing a FEMA or flood insurance denial, or have another legal issue(s) arising out of Superstorm Sandy, call 888.222.5765 to be connected to the Legal Services of New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Legal Assistance Hotline.

A number of legal services are sponsoring free clinics throughout New Jersey in an effort to assist residents who are still suffering the aftereffects of the hurricane. When we learn of events such as these we post them here.

Pro Bono Net for FEMA Appeal
National Disaster Legal Aid is a free, online site that helps you to appeal a FEMA decision. This is a project of Pro Bono Net, which is assisted by legal service organizations and law firms working pro bono in New York City.

This interactive program does two things:

  1. Creates a FEMA Appeal letter that applicants can use to dispute a FEMA decision
  2. Creates a File Request letter that applicants can use to request their FEMA file 

Legal Services of NJ
Call 1-888-222-5765 to be connected to the Legal Services of New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Legal Assistance Hotline. The hotline was created to assist lower income New Jersey residents with civil legal problems caused by Hurricane Sandy or the aftermath of the storm. To those who qualify, all services are free.

The Hotline is scheduled to remain open through Summer, 2015 and can be reached from Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You may also apply for Legal Services online. You will receive a response within 2 business days. Find out more here.

South Jersey Legal Services
South Jersey Legal Services (SJLS) has exhausted the funding it had received to assist survivors of the storm with related issues. They still want to hear from survivors who are struggling and are committed to doing all they can to assist. Those who continue to have Sandy-related needs should call the SJLS Intake number at 800.496.4570 between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Community Health Law Project (CHLP) Assists People with a Disability
Due to the ongoing issues that victims of Superstorm Sandy continue to experience, Community Health Law Project has received a contract from the NJ Department of Human Services to work with residents affected by the storm who were or are living in Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean counties and were residents of New Jersey at the time of the storm.

The Community Health Law Project will provide free legal assistance. This may include but is not limited to credit card issues, landlord tenant, consumer or health issues, and an array of civil litigation issues. There are no income restrictions for these services, however the issue must be related to Sandy.

In an effort to reach residents throughout New Jersey, a CHLP attorney and advocate will be able to meet with residents in their office or at a location close to their home. For assistance call the Community Health Law Project office closest to you. Atlantic and Cape May 856.858.9500; Bergen and Essex 973.680.5599; Hudson and Union 908.355.8282; Monmouth and Ocean 732.380.1012; and Middlesex 609.392.5553.

The Community Health Law Project is a nonprofit advocacy and legal services organization dedicated to serving the needs of low-income people with disabilities in New Jersey. Founded in 1976, CHLP has regional offices in Bloomfield, Elizabeth, Trenton, Eatontown, and Collingswood; satellite offices in Jersey City, Toms River, Mt. Holly, and Absecon; and an administration office in South Orange. Through negotiation, litigation, and advocacy, CHLP removes discrimination, protects rights, and preserves independence and quality of life. Visit the CHLP website to learn more.

Volunteer Lawyers for Justice
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice offers a disaster legal response program to help address unresolved legal issues stemming from the storm. Their number is 862.229.4550. The organization holds weekly, walk-in office hours in  Atlantic and Ocean counties. The weekly clinics are open to all regardless of income. No appointment is necessary. Other legal services are available providing you meet certain eligibility requirements. All are encouraged to apply as personal circumstances influence one's eligibility.

Pro Bono Partnership
Free legal services for nonprofit organizations are also available. The Pro Bono Partnership provides business and transactional legal services without charge to nonprofit organizations serving the disadvantaged or enhancing the quality of life in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Contact them for legal assistance on issues that your organization may be facing as a result of Hurricane Sandy, such as questions concerning employee compensation, real estate issues, or insurance coverage. Learn more about this organization by visiting their website; contact them by email at or call them directly at 973.240.6955.

Mediation for Unresolved Non-Flood Insurance Claims
The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Ken Kobylowski announced that New Jersey residents with unresolved non-flood insurance claims related to Hurricane Sandy can have their cases mediated through the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Application forms are now available online at their website, by phone at 855-366-9774 or via email at

The mediation program will allow property owners to submit homeowner's, automobile and commercial property claims to a mediator who will review the case and assist in settlement discussions. Disputed non-flood, Sandy-related claims greater than $1,000 that do not include a reasonable suspicion of fraud and are based on policies in force at the time Sandy made landfall will be eligible for mediation. Insurance carriers will pay for the cost of the mediator. Policyholders who wish to bring legal representation to the mediation session may hire an attorney at their own expense.

The mediation program will not include flood insurance claims at its inception because those claims are regulated by the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Participation by policyholders is completely voluntary.

National Flood Insurance Helpline
Preliminary work maps have been introduced for Monmouth, Hudson, Atlantic and Ocean counties. New Jersey property owners with questions about National Flood Insurance Program rates now have a helpline to call to get the most up-to-date information. Call 877.287.9804 if you need information about your flood insurance rates based on the newly released National Flood Insurance Program Preliminary Work Maps for Monmouth, Hudson, Atlantic and Ocean counties.

Page last modified/reviewed on August 17, 2016

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