CRC Guest Blog: Families Win When Banks Stop Funding Displacement

Paulina Gonzalez, executive director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, wrote a guest blog on the Mission Economic Development Agency blog today about Ellis Act evictions, bank loans that finance these evictions, and one bank’s decision to stop providing these loans.  Take a look!

In August of 2015, community organizations and tenants in San Francisco joined together to take a stand against the banks and the role their loans are playing in financing displacement in the city. The story of this organizing victory sets the stage for holding corporate actors accountable to their communities and builds a model for public-private partnerships for the preservation of affordable rental housing…

Read the rest of the post on MEDA’s blog. 

Consumer Testifies to Federal Reserve About Financial Freedom Reverse Mortgage Problems

The testimony of Karen Hunziker, a surviving family member about the proposed OneWest and CIT Group merger is featured in its entirety below. If you were unable to attend the hearing, CRC live-blogged it here and you may also find our CIT Group/OneWest Merger resource page helpful as well. Pictures are available here.

TESTIMONY OF KAREN HUNZIKER
PUBLIC MEETING FEBRUARY 26, 2015, 8 AM to 4 PM
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK, LOS ANGELES BRANCH

Name: KAREN HUNZIKER

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My testimony is in opposition to the proposed merger of OneWest Bank (OWB) and CIT Financial.

My name is Karen Hunziker. I am a 19 year homeowner of the home I shared with my husband in Pollock Pines, California. I am an artist craftswoman.

I am considered a Non-Borrowing Spouse. I was 60 and my husband was 65 when the originating salesperson told us to remove my name from title. Although we were both very concerned that I could be giving up my property rights, the salesperson assured us I would be protected until 62 when I was put on title. On my 62nd birthday my husband and I met with our Trust Attorney who informed us the only way I could be on title was to refinance into a new reverse mortgage and bring $60,000 to close the loan. That was impossible because of the first reverse mortgage.

My husband passed away in May 2014 and 10 days later OWB sent me a repayment letter and a PRE-FORECLOSURE letter saying they would initiate foreclosure in 30 days.

OWB has denied all HUD rights and consumer protections.

• OWB claimed I have less rights than other heirs because I am a non-borrowing spouse;
• OWB Made a legal determination to the validity of my legal authority as Successor Trustee;
• OWB demanded my Trust be recorded violating my privacy rights and California Law;
• OWB Refused to communicate with me directly;
• OWB used the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights to Accelerate foreclosure, violate Federal Regulations and my consumer rights

Additionally OWB has failed to provide a Single Point of Contact. This creates a communication maze impossible to navigate for the consumer to get customer support or guidance:

One day, I called 5 times to verify I received the 90 day extension OWB promised in writing. I spoke to 5 different people all with a different story. In part, I was told:

• OWB didn’t receive the documents faxed multiple times,
• The documents needed to be reviewed by their legal department,
• I had to call back in 5 days
• I used up all my extensions.
• I didn’t get the documents in on time,
• The last person told me my property was scheduled for auction in 30 days.

At all times OWB refused to put any phone conversation in writing.

My story illustrates the consistent pattern and practice of OneWest Bank to aggressively foreclose and evict non-borrowing spouses from their homes.

I request an Investigation, audit, and review of OWB Reverse Mortgage Loan Files
• For the servicing violations of Federal Regulations and consumer rights
• To ensure compliance with existing laws and regulations.

Thank You!

Documented evidence of my testimony can be provided upon request.

California Advocates Attend National Community Reinvestment Conference in Washington, DC

Representatives from member organizations of the California Reinvestment Coalition traveled to Washington DC last week to attend the National Community Reinvestment Coalition conference.  The theme of the conference was “A Just Economy: Ideas, Action, Impact.”

The conference is a gathering of NCRC’s diverse membership base from around the US, including CDFI’s, fair housing organizations, housing counseling organizations, consumer advocates, credit counselors, small business lenders, community organizing and civil rights groups, and more.

Speakers at the conference included Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),Thomas Curry, Comptroller of the Currency, Steven Antonakes from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Martin Gruenberg, Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and more.

Shaun Donovan

Secretary Donovan spoke about potential reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and recognized the conference participants for their work to help people during the foreclosure crisis and to also help with rebuilding afterwards.  He also spoke about the ongoing crisis of a lack of affordable housing in communities across America and cited NCRC’s work to ensure that reforms to Fannie and Freddie don’t leave low-income communities behind.

Fleeced

Wednesday night included a screening of “Fleeced”, a documentary about elder financial abuse which was a big draw with a packed room. A panel discussion included Kim Jacobs, the producer of the film, Anita Gardner, a consumer in the film who faced an uphill battle with her bank when she sought assistance with her mortgage after health problems, as well as Robert Zdenek, the Director of National Neighbors Silver at NCRC, and Dory Rand, president of the Woodstock Institute. The film was commissioned by NCRC, with support from the Atlantic Philanthropies.  A screening will also be held in Sacramento on April 15th at 5:30pm, as part of the Housing California conference and Annette Smith, a consumer featured in the film will also be one of the panelists who speaks after the screening.

California delegates flew into Washington DC early to meet with our elected officials as well as banking and housing regulators.

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On Thursday, as part of NCRC’s Hill Day, CRC Members headed to Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives.  There were a number of topics to discuss, a few of the topics the California delegation discussed included:

  • Payday lending and the upcoming rule-making by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • The need for more investment in affordable housing in California, especially since the dissolution of redevelopment agencies that funded affordable housing
  • GSE reforms (and ensuring that low-income communities aren’t left behind)
  • A recent proposal for the USPS to offer financial services through a prepaid card
  • Effects of private equity firms and other investors buying up homes
  • The Permanently Protect Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2013
  • Extension of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act
  • Transparency around foreclosure reporting (to see if mortgage modifications and other assistance is getting to communities equally- a topic recently addressed in a February 2014 GAO report (read more here)
  • Small business lending (especially to minority business owners- read our December report about this issue here)
  • Future mortgage settlements, and concerns about transparency of who is receiving modifications, and whether modifications are getting to communities hit hardest
  • Bank mergers and the impact on rural California- For more on why this is such a pressing matter, see CRC’s “Down in the Valley” 2013 report, or our recent protest against the proposed acquisition of Sterling Bank by Umpqua Bank.
  • Issues faced by widowed homeowners who are facing foreclosure instead of receiving assistance from their bank or mortgage servicer. See this December 2013 article that explains why improvements, monitoring, and enforcement are still needed: “Bank might foreclose on home because late husband isn’t residing there

After meeting with their senators and representatives, attendees were especially excited by the lunchtime speaker: Senator Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA), an outspoken advocate who was paved the way for improvements in policies and programs affecting the same communities and people that NCRC’s members serve.

On Friday afternoon, CRC’s new Executive Director, Paulina Gonzalez spoke at a session: Winning Public Benefits for Your Community, with other advocates including Ernest Hogan, Executive Director of Pittsburgh Reinvestment Group, and Mitria Wilson, from NCRC.

Friday night closed with a bang!  The Rev. Dr. William Barber II was awarded the Senator William Proxmire award, which recognizes the individual whose life’s work exemplifies the spirit and work of Senator Proxmire’s contributions to economic mobility.  Dr. Barber gave a rousing speech about the need for organizations to work together to stop disinvestment in communities.  Senator Proxmire was the author and lead sponsor of the Community Reinvestment Act.

Kevin Stein, Associate Director at CRC, was also confirmed to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition board of directors.

A big thank you to our CRC members who joined the meetings, including:

It was another excellent conference put on by NCRC- See you next year!

Tenants Rights After a Foreclosure Upheld by California Court of Appeal

LeaseAgreement Photo

Last week, the California Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s earlier decision and instead ruled in favor of Rosario Nativi, and her son Jose Roberto Perez Nativi, two tenants who were evicted when their landlord was foreclosed on.   The mother and son had been renting the garage of a house for several years in Sunnyvale, and then in 2009, the property was foreclosed.  The Nativis did not realize their landlord had stopped paying the mortgage, and had continued dutifully paying their rent.

After the foreclosure, Deutsche Bank became the owner of the property, and hired American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc to service the property.  American Home Servicing, Inc, then hired XL Advisors Inc. dba Advisors Real Estate Group (Advisors), to prepare the property for sale and remove the tenants.

Despite the fact that the Nativis had a lease, representatives of Advisors Real Estate Group removed all of  their belongings and put them outside where they were ruined. Advisors Real Estate Group also called the police when the Nativis tried to regain access to the garage they had been renting.  The tenants sued, and a trial court ruled in favor of Deutsche Bank.  However, the California Court of Appeal reversed that decision on January 23, 2014.

Madeline Howard, who helped initiate the case while at Bay Area Legal Aid and is currently a staff attorney with Western Center on Law & Poverty, explained the significance in a press release: “Because of this decision, tenants like the Nativis, who were locked out of their apartment and left homeless, have recourse in state court.”

The story of a bank becoming the owner of a home after a foreclosure trustee sale is common in California.  Unfortunately, so is the experience of these two tenants who had continued paying their rent and should not have been evicted.  After a trustee sale, some real estate agents will try and get the current tenants out of the property as quickly as possible, offering cash for keys, making illegal threats, or even calling the police.  Tenants may or may not know their rights, and the real estate agents may take advantage of this and try and force them out quickly.

Kent Qian, from the National Housing Law Project, explained the decision is an important victory for tenants under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA), for three reasons:

1) The court ruled that bona fide leases “survive” foreclosure under the PTFA;

2) Tenants in illegally converted garage units are protected under the PTFA; and

3) State law claims can be brought to enforce the PTFA.

As the WCLP press release explains, “the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act requires post-foreclosure owners, including big banks, to step into the shoes of the former landlord when they acquire a rental property.”

To read more about the case, visit:

Western Center on Law and Poverty Press Release: “Court of Appeal Rules that Big Banks Step into Shoes of Foreclosed Landlords When Trying to Evict Tenants” 

Law 360 “Calif. Leases Survive Foreclosures, Appeals Court Says

To read the decision, visit this link: Court Opinion.

If you are a tenant who is losing your housing because your landlord is being foreclosed on, you may want to visit the Tenants Together Action Guide for California Tenants in Foreclosure Situations  or call their Tenant Rights Hotline.

The Western Center on Law and PovertyBay Area Legal AidAlborg, Martin & Buddle LLP, and Jenner and Block represented the Nativis.

An amicus curiae brief, drafted by the National Housing Law Project and AARP Foundation Litigation, was filed on behalf of the National  Housing Law ProjectNational Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the AARP Foundation Litigation, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the California Reinvestment Coalition in support  of the Nativis.