Residential homes may have structural issues related to freezing water and many will have leaks which will become even more apparent as the ice thaws due to the winter storm that wreaked havoc in Texas over the last week.

If you have homeowners insurance, you may have coverage for this.

Find and read your insurance policy as soon as possible, so you are informed about your coverage. Your agent can provide one if needed.

It is a good idea to call the insurance company immediately. Your policy will list the deadlines for giving notice of loss. Not immediately calling to give notice of loss could provide a reason for your insurance company to deny or lower the amount of your claim. Be sure to follow-up with a written notice to the address listed in the policy. The written notice is a MUST.

Take photos and videos of the property damage if possible before making repairs.

Make a list of damaged or lost items and ask your insurance agent about any specific required forms.

Keep receipts for any expenses to repair your property. You should even keep receipts for any extra living costs including hotels and meals away from home. Give your insurance company a list of all expenses. Find out if you need to get approval before spending any money or signing any contracts.

You must follow all the rules listed in your policy as much as you can. Send in proof and other papers the policy requires to obtain coverage and payments from the insurance company. This includes photos and receipts. You can request partial or advance payments from your insurance company as needed.

Keep notes whenever you talk with your insurance company, agent, or broker. This includes the dates and times and the people in the conversation. Keep copies of all letters, emails, etc., that you send to your insurance company or agent.

Review checks, payments, letters, emails, etc. from your insurance company. Make sure there is not any language releasing or giving up any claims against contractors.

You can discuss any and all this with your agent if you are in doubt. Make sure to follow up with your insurance company about your claim.

Get legal help if you believe you are being treated unfairly. You can apply for free legal help by calling 1-800-733-8394 or by visiting http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: media@lonestarlegal.org