In Baytown, Texas, The Houston Chronicle
- Nanette Lewis refinanced her mortgage to get peace of mind. Instead, she says, she got a bait-and-switch, predatory loan and heartbreak. Now far less naive, the Baytown woman decided to fight back. In a lawsuit she filed against her lenders in federal court last week, she alleges she was targeted for a loan with onerous terms because she's black. Her suit mirrors one filed by the attorney general of Massachusetts and another by the city of Baltimore.
- All three accuse lenders of "reverse redlining" — targeting minority loan applicants for the worst possible mortgage deals. Lewis' lawsuit may be the first of its kind in Texas. She is represented by a legal aid lawyer and seeking primarily, she said, to get the word out about what happened and to remove the lien from her property, though she still would be responsible for repaying the mortgage.
- When she was laid off, Lewis worried she'd miss a mortgage payment and lose the house. She went to Lone Star Legal Aid to see how she could keep the home safe. Lawyer Sapna Aiyer said she was surprised at Lewis' "horrible, horrible" mortgage terms. Aiyer said the lawsuit cites the federal Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act and the Texas Constitution, which bar lenders from excessive points and fees (more than 8 percent) and from certain changes in loan terms at closing.(1)
For more, see Lawsuit over signing shock (Baytown woman sues lenders, says she was a victim of predatory lending practices because she's black).
For the homeowner's lawsuit described in this story, see Lewis v. Alpha Mortgage, et al.
The non-profit legal services firms representing the homeowner are Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (Austin, Texas; provides free legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area that covers the southwestern third of the state, including the entire Texas-Mexico border region) & Lone Star Legal Aid (Houston, Texas; serves 72 counties in the East Region of Texas and 4 counties in Southwest Arkansas).
For the race bias-related lawsuits referenced in the story filed by Massachusetts & Baltimore City, see:
For a July, 2008 study on Mortgage Lending & Race, see the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Study: Income Is No Shield Against Racial Differences in Lending.
Go here and go here for other posts on alleged race bias in real estate transactions.
(1) The lawsuit alleges violations of Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1602(aa) and 1639); the Truth in Lending Act (15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. and § 1640(a)); the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (15 U.S.C. § 1691- 1691 (f)); the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3605); and the Texas Constitution, Article 16, §50(e)(2). PredatoryLendingRaceBias