Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Mexico AG Files Civil Suit Against Real Estate Operator Accused Of Peddling Decrepit Homes To Naive Low-Income Homebuyers Thru Contract For Deed/Rent To Own Arrangements

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, The New York Times reports:
  • A New Mexico businessman claimed to help low-income Spanish-speaking families by finding them foreclosed homes to buy and, in some cases, financing the deals.

    But the state’s attorney general [] said that Jesus Cano of Albuquerque deceived dozens of consumers by misrepresenting the conditions of the often poorly maintained homes he sold. Sometimes Mr. Cano sold houses he did not even own, the attorney general said, and at other times he tried to sell the same property to more than one family simultaneously.

    Mr. Cano and his firm, JSS, were sued by the New Mexico attorney general in state court, alleging that his real estate and home financing activities revealed a pattern of “unfair and deceptive trade practices and unconscionable trade practices.”

    Officials indicated other parties could be added later to the civil complaint, which seeks restitution and civil penalties.

    This year, officials began investigating complaints about seller-financed home sales aimed at immigrant and Spanish-speaking communities. New Mexico is one of more than a dozen states where investment firms have bought decrepit homes in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis and resold them to low-income families through either long-term installment deals called contracts for deed, or rent-to-own transactions.

    “Families everywhere struggling to afford a home need to be aware that real estate contracts do not provide the same protections offered by a mortgage,” Hector H. Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, said in a statement.

    “They should know that, among other things, a buyer who defaults on a seller-financed real estate contract could face imminent eviction and lose all of the payments made on the property,” he added.
    ***
    He [] required customers to make a “good faith deposit,” from $1,500 to $46,000, for homes that New Mexico officials said were often “substandard” and had “defective plumbing” and “defective electrical wiring,” according to the lawsuit. Often, customers lost their deposits because Mr. Cano refused to refund the money, the authorities said.

    “I buy homes and sell them,” Mr. Cano said. “The customers look at the homes, and they know exactly the conditions of the homes before they buy them.”
    ***
    Officials [] said Mr. Cano was backed by a group of investors and corporations, who were unidentified.

    He marketed his services by posting fliers on businesses primarily serving Spanish-speaking people and in churches mainly attended by Spanish-speaking congregants, according to officials in New Mexico. He also used his Hispanic heritage to ingratiate himself with potential customers, officials added.

    “No one in this country deserves to have their dreams for a better life for their family exploited and destroyed,” Mr. Balderas said.

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