Saturday, July 30, 2016

Three Dozen Remaining Lot-Leasing Homeowners (Out Of 100) Ignore Eviction Notices, Refuse To Move From Ever-Deteriorating Mobile Home Park As Lawsuit To Void Recent Land Sale To Developer Crawls Thru Court System; Residents Claim They Were Legally Entitled To Get First Crack At Buying Property

In Jupiter, Florida, The Palm Beach Post reports:
  • A plan to pay up to $5,000 to residents still living in the Suni Sands mobile home park on A1A drew sharp criticism from park owner Charles Modica.

    “The town is rewarding those who have stayed despite the eviction notices. It’s not fair to people who complied by the rules and already left,” said Modica, who plans to build and inn and Key West-style marketplace on the 10-acre property fronting the Jupiter Inlet.

    Modica bought the property for $17 million two years ago. Residents got eviction notices last November. They were supposed to be out by April 30.

    About three dozen of the original 100 mobile homes remain occupied. Some lots are vacant. Grills, bicycles, lawn equipment and other remnants of daily life are scattered in driveways on the lots with boarded up mobile homes.

    While the park is technically closed, Modica said has allowed residents to stay. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

    Suni Sands resident Joyce Miller, 67, who with her husband Charles, 83, still lives in her Suni Sands mobile home, said the $5,000 is not enough to help elderly residents like her relocate. She and Charles have used up their savings to buy a “derelict trailer with holes in the roof.” They plan to move to a trailer in Hobe Sound.

    Miller said $5,000 is not enough to allow her and her husband to be able to buy a decent mobile home and move. About $35,000 would be necessary. Miller said she would not qualify under the town’s requirements for the payment.

    “This is devastating. (Suni Sands) was going to be our retirement home. We made friends here. We looked out for each other here. At our age, how are we expected to start over?” she said.

    Suni Sands residents must meet income and other requirements to qualify, according to the Jupiter proposal expected to be discussed at Tuesday’s 7 p.m. council meeting.

    Suni Sands residents have filed a court suit saying the sale of the park should be voided. Residents were not and should have been given first refusal to buy the property, according to the suit pending in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

    Attorneys representing Modica countered that, among other reasons, the sale is legal because the property was in foreclosure when Modica it.

    “There is no statutory foundation for requiring prior notice for property in foreclosure,” said Geoffrey Jones, an attorney representing Modica, said at a court hearing in April.

    Several residents have complained that the vacant mobile homes are being broken into and crime is increasing since eviction notices were delivered. Non-residents have taken up living in the park, according to town records.

    Modica plans a non-gated community with a 200-room hotel, retail space and underground parking. Current zoning limits building height to three stories.

    Plans have not been filed with the town.

    Suni Sands residents own their mobile homes. They pay about $650 a month to rent their lots. Utilities, garbage pickup and cable are included.

Land Owner's Redevelopment Plans Mean Closure Of Mobile Home Park; Over 30 Lot-Leasing Homeowners Slated To Get The Boot Say Landlord Is Stiffing Them Out Of Relocation Money Required By Pennsylvania Law

In Robinson Township, Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
  • A group of residents in a Robinson mobile home park say they are being forced out of their homes and not given the compensation due to them under the law to be to able to move their manufactured homes.

    You're talking 30-some families made to leave their homes,” said Stacey Stumpf, who has lived in the Twin Circle Mobile Home Park on Steubenville Pike for 17 years. “Most of us here are single parents, or disabled, or on fixed incomes.”

    Ms. Stumpf and many of her neighbors have filed complaints with the state attorney general’s office. She said those who have remained in the park have had to contend with utility shutoffs, ongoing demolition and break-ins.

    Gary Kalmeyer, an attorney for park owner Bill Chen, said the park’s ownership is working to comply with state law. He said no one was “forced to leave,” though residents and former residents disputed that.

    A 2012 state law recognizes the obligation of a mobile home park owner to provide relocation assistance in instances where park is being closed, said Eileen Yacknin, litigation director at Neighborhood Legal Services Association,(1) who is representing one of the residents.

    “Clearly, this violates the law, in my opinion,” she said.

    Ken “Skip” Benish, who has lived in the park for 17 years, is one of the few holdouts still living there. Mr. Benish said he has plans to move to another mobile home park in Beaver County, but can't afford to go without the assistance he believes the law provides.

    “Nobody has been paid,” Mr. Benish said.

    He is continuing to pay lot rent and utilities to Twin Circle.

    If a mobile home park is being closed and redeveloped, residents are due $4,000 for a single-section trailer or $6,000 for a multi-section trailer to assist in relocating it, said State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, the author of the 2012 law. If a resident chooses not to move the mobile home — and many cannot be moved — the resident is due either $2,500 or the home’s appraised value, he said.

    The bill, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, stemmed from an incident in Mr. Freeman’s Lehigh Valley district where residents in a mobile home park were given no financial assistance and only a month’s notice that they would have to relocate due to planned redevelopment.

    The purpose of the legislation was to be “a safeguard for the folks in manufactured housing,” Mr. Freeman said.

    “It's sad. We were ripped out of our homes, pretty much,” said Melissa Dyer, another long-time resident. Ms. Dyer borrowed money to move out of the park, and her trailer is still there.

    “Why should we just give up our trailers? A lot of people there had been there for years and years and years and just had to get up and go. I still hold my title. Give me what I'm owed,” she said, adding that she also had complained to the attorney general’s office.

    Raymond Parr, another of the few residents remaining in the park, said he has found space at another mobile home park but doesn't have the money to relocate. He estimates moving the trailer would cost $3,000.

    “Every trailer around me pretty much is torn down. I'm just at the point where I don't know what to do,” he said. He too, is continuing to pay the park’s owner for rent and utilities, he said.

    “I ain't got the money to move,” he said.

    With proper compensation, said Ms. Stumpf, “I would have been able to get an apartment, move my belongings. ...These people would have been able to have had their homes moved.”

    A spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office said he could not confirm whether the agency was involved, but urged people who believe they may have a complaint to contact the office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.

    Mr. Kalmeyer said the park’s owner intends to redevelop the land, though he was uncertain of the exact nature of the redevelopment.

    County real estate records show the property was last purchased in 2003 for $1.3 million.
Source: Residents say they are being forced out of Robinson mobile home park.
(1) Neighborhood Legal Services Association is a non-profit, public interest law firm that provides civil legal assistance to poor and vulnerable Pennsylvania residents of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence Counties who cannot afford a lawyer.

86 Low-Income Families Get Until October 31 To Pack Up & Leave Or Get The Boot To Make Way For Construction Of 87 Townhomes Slated To Sell For Between $650K & $900K

In Bellevue, Washington, Bellevue reports:
  • [Josefina Lara] has lived at Highland Village Apartments for 16 years, and now a developer is forcing her and 85 other families out so they can tear down the 76-unit "affordable housing" complex to build higher-priced townhomes.

    Multiple families share apartments so the exact number of residents is hard to track, but 85 children in the Bellevue School District call the apartment complex home. Very few speak English as a first language, most speaking Spanish but some speaking Somali and Russian. All are near or below the poverty level.

    The families at Highland Village don't stay out of a sense of loyalty or because they are afraid of a move. In fact, some of the housing units — including Lara's — are dilapidated, residents say.

    Hilda Sinfuentes's son has developed asthma, a fact she attributes to the mold growing from water damage in nearly every unit at the complex. Paulo Medina's windows don't lock, leaving his home at risk. Martha Lidia Lagos-Martinez said that if she uses a vacuum cleaner, the lights turn off because the breaker can't handle both at once.

    "We don't stay here because we love these apartments," Lara said. "We stay because we can't afford to live elsewhere."

    The families at the apartments have been given until Oct. 31 to find new places to live. The apartments are scheduled to officially close in November and a project to turn the 12-building complex into 87 townhomes is slated to begin shortly thereafter, with a completion date in late 2019.

    Intracorp, the developer behind the project (and previously of another controversial development in Newport Hills), is working well within legal bounds, but a forced eviction of low-income, working families leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many.

    Bellevue has no tenant laws that would apply in this situation. A landlord could theoretically give a renter 20 days and no financial assistance.

    Intracorp has offered each family $3,500 in relocation assistance and has given the residents several months to find new homes, even hiring a relocation specialist to help.

    Lis Soldano, a representative from Intracorp, said the issue stemmed from larger housing issues in Bellevue and on the Eastside.

    "The broader housing affordability issues facing Bellevue and our region are challenging — and it's why we've committed to voluntary financial assistance and retaining [relocation specialist Kerry Lynch] to help residents," she said. "Every step we're taking to help the families at Highland Village is voluntary. So, yes we definitely feel a personal responsibility to do our part."

    The Reporter attempted to contact the apartment complex's management, who hung up the phone without comment.

    The permit application for the Highland Village Townhomes states that the new units will more than double the square footage currently on the 4.48-acre property but will sell for between $650,000 and $900,000 each. This is billed as "middle-income" in the documents.

Nursing Home With History Of Dealing With Sexual Abuse Allegations Ordered Shut Down By State Regulators Over New Unreported Claims Of Unwanted Touching Of Demetia-Suffering Residents; Loved Ones Sent Scrambling To Find New Accommodations For Over Four Dozen Vulnerable Adults Getting The Boot

In Port Orange, Florida, WFTV-TV Channel 9 reports:
  • Families in Port Orange are trying to find where to move their loved ones after the state ordered the closure of a Volusia County assisted living facility in light of claims that residents were being sexually abused.

    According to these documents obtained by Channel 9's Jeff Levkulich from the Agency for Health Care Administration, officials allege the administrator at Grace Manor in Port Orange turned a blind eye when it came to a male resident who had been allegedly sexually assaulting female residents since May.

    ACHA said none of the incidents were documented, and there were no investigations.

    Neither police nor the Department of Children and Families were called in to investigate.

    One of the solutions to keep the man away from the women was to lock residents in their room at night. But officials said that could have had disastrous consequences if a fire were to break out. Levkulich was told to leave the building when he tried to talk to management. "We are just trying to find out what's going to happen to the people here," he said.

    Management handed Levkulich a statement from Tod Petty, president of Thrive Senior Living:

    “The safety of our residents is always a top priority. We understand the seriousness of this issue. This is why we have already made some internal steps. But we continue to review our policies and procedures and will make changes as needed.”

    A resident's wife, Kathy Catsantonis, said she was looking for a new place for her husband. "I'm shocked. The place is fabulous. I mean, it's immaculate. I'm just shocked," she said.

    An employee told Levkulich they are working to keep Grace Manor open.

    It is not the first time Grace Manor has been investigated. Investigators said a nursing assistant admitted to sexually battering three elderly women in 2015, but Channel 9 learned that prosecutors dropped the charges against him.(1)
Source: State orders Port Orange assisted living facility to close after sex assault allegations.

See also:

State-shuttered Port Orange ALF sued earlier for abuse (Grace Manor houses some 52 patients in the 54-bed facility, and must cease operation by July 26):
  • The 19-page AHCA order documents at least three incidents when a male patient attempted to engage in sexual acts with female residents — all of them unwanted. A Port Orange Police Department incident report states that the three alleged victims and the male patient all suffered from dementia and "due to their mental state, no crime occurred."
Nursing Home Accused of Ignoring Predator:
  • An assisted living facility in Volusia County, Fla. negligently hired a man with a history of extreme physical and sexual violence and gave him free rein in the institution where he raped mentally impaired residents, a lawsuit claims.
(1) See Despite confession, charges dropped in elderly sexual abuse cases, police say:
  • [C]harges have been dropped because, according to records, the patients' memories are so poor that they have no recollection of being sexually abused.

    "Without those key witnesses or DNA this case is dead. It does not matter if the suspect confessed, prosecutors need to prove a crime was committed," WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said.

City Code Enforcement Gives Tenants In 8-Unit Apartment House The Boot When Multiple Retaining Wall Failures Caused By Rainstorm Leads To Building Condemnation

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, WHTM-TV Channel 27 reports:
  • Tenants of a condemned apartment building on Mulberry Street face eviction if they’re not moved out by Tuesday.

    The city last month told residents to leave the eight-unit apartment building, part of the McFarland apartment complex where a retaining wall next to the parking lot collapsed May 5. After a further collapse during a June 25 rainstorm, officials said the remaining wall wasn’t safe and there was a risk of further collapse.

    Matthew Sachs has lived in the apartment building for six months and doesn’t want the hassle of relocating.

    “It’s been a long, grueling process,” Sachs said. “We’ve been trying to get help as much as we can. We’re still waiting. We’ve been trying the local church that helps with rental systems. It’s been about two weeks. It’s been a struggle. We’re barely making ends meet.”

    City officials have said the apartments must remain vacant until an engineer determines the building is completely stable.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Four Carefully-Placed Cameras Help Missouri Man Facing Foreclosure Capture Video Of Bankster's Trash-Out Contractor Going Through Home On 'Treasure Hunt', Looting Premises Of His Belongings; Local Cops Investigating

In St. Louis County, Missouri, KPLR-TV Channel 11 reports:
  • A South County man, trying to save his home from foreclosure, says he found it burglarized by subcontractors working for his mortgage company. You might not believe it, if he didn’t have video to prove it.

    When banks begin foreclosing on a home, it's common for the bank to send someone out to make sure the property is secured and protected. In this case, a homeowner's video cameras appear to capture the opposite.

    It happened on a quiet middle class neighborhood near Rock Hill and Laclede Station. Brent Evans was trying to save his home. He said, “I tried to work things out with Wells Fargo, but it just wasn`t going to work out with my finances. So the best thing to do was work with them to find somebody to buy the home.”

    Brent said he remained the legal owner at the time the bank sent unknown subcontractors in May.

    What the bank could not have imagined is what they did when they got there.

    The men backed a trailer into Brent`s driveway. One of the men walked up to his door. The man knocked, looked around and put a notice on the front door “Warning. This property has been winterized." He then waited before breaking in. Four cameras capture what happened next.

    Brent said, “Once they got in, then it was just a flood of everything coming out of the house.”

    You can see a man walk out with a tool set. Someone takes a large hunting bow. One box appears to be so heavy the man struggles with it.

    At one point it looks like a treasure hunt. One guy uses his phone light to look.

    Then someone notices a camera and points it down. The new camera angle later captures what appears to be more thefts from Bent`s trade as an auto technician.

    Over the course of two days, nothing was off-limits as one man rummages for food. A camera outside shows the men loading up. A bucket of stuff here. A box of stuff there.

    Then some remodeling inside as one man grabs a power drill to work on the back door. Brent says they replaced the door lock probably so they could get back in with their own key. He said he may not even have noticed if they hadn`t left behind the bashed in door handle.

    The sign on the door says to contact Wells Fargo subcontractor MCS – ‘Mortgage Contracting Services' with problems. But MCS sent another subcontractor to do the winterizing. Neither MCS nor Wells Fargo will give the local company's name.

    Brent added, “They still won`t give me any more information, so that`s why I contacted you.”

    St. Louis County Police are now investigating and a Wells Fargo representative tells Fox 2 it is 'cooperating.’ The bank added, “We did not direct or authorize our vendor to remove any personal property from the house and any such action by the third-party contractor would have been inappropriate.”

    MCS also sent a statement saying it's been in business for 30 years, it background checks its subcontractors and that "If the police investigation determines our standards have not been met, we will act accordingly."

    We'll stay on top of the police investigation and the response to Brent's loss.

Elderly NJ Homeowner Seeking Loan Modification Gets Victimized By Trash-Out Contractor While Temporarily Away From Home As Illegal Pre-Foreclosure Sale Bankster Break-Ins Continue

In East Hanover, New Jersey, reports:
  • Steven Kenner came home to a nasty surprise after a two-week vacation in Florida.

    Papers were strewn about the house. Cabinets were left open. Cigarette butts were ground into the floor. A lock on the door to the laundry room had been tampered with.

    Kenner, 71, thought his East Hanover home had been burglarized. But what actually happened may have been worse. It wasn't a burglar.

    Instead, Kenner's mortgage lender hired subcontractors to break into Kenner's home as part of efforts to see if the home was vacant or abandoned, according to a lawsuit filed by Kenner against Citizens Bank, Citizens One Home Mortgage, subsidiaries of the bank and its subcontractors. The suit was filed in May in Morris County Superior Court.

    While subcontractors broke into his home, Kenner was in touch with the bank about a pending mortgage modification and no one reported anything was amiss, he said. And the bank even knew he was away on vacation, Kenner said.
    When officers arrived, they proceeded as if there was a burglary, Kenner said. They dusted for fingerprints and took photos, and they asked Kenner to see if anything was missing.

    As officers searched the home, Kenner opened the front door, looking for the packages he was expecting from the mortgage company.

    That's when he saw a "6" -- Kenner's house number -- written on the outside of the door with some kind of marker. And then they saw a sticker affixed to the door. "This property has been determined to be vacant/abandoned," the sticker said.

    Police called the number on the sticker and learned it was all a mistake by Kenner's mortgage company, Kenner said.

    That's some mistake.

    "The police said they were told that the mortgage company more or less made a mistake," Kenner said. "The mortgage company had contracted with the company that broke into my home to see if the home was vacant."

    But the home was not vacant, nor had the bank ever started any foreclosure proceedings, said Kenner's attorney, Philip Vinick.

    Vinick said the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted amendments to court rules governing the foreclosure of vacant and abandoned residential properties in December 2012.

    If a lender brings a foreclosure action and it believes a property is vacant or abandoned, the lender can ask for a quicker judgment from the court so it can take steps to maintain the property. For that to work, the lender must prove that at least two of 14 conditions must be present at the property, such as overgrown or neglected vegetation, disconnected utilities, the accumulation of mail or newspapers and the absence of window treatments.

    None of the 14 conditions applied to Kenner's home, the attorney said.

    "In Mr. Kenner's case the lender did not even institute a foreclosure action much less prove that Mr. Kenner's house was vacant, which it obviously was not," Vinick said.

    Even after Citizens was made aware of the error, the bank's subcontractors continued to contact Kenner, the homeowner said. One wanted to come into the home. Another wanted to shut off his water.
    "I've been very upset," Kenner said, noting that he doesn't feel comfortable in his own home. "I'm thinking very seriously of selling because of what happened to me."

    After the suit was filed, Citizens offered to settle, but Kenner's attorney called the amount "insufficient" to "compensate him for his physical and psychological damages, including being embarrassed and having to explain to his neighbors what happened."

    "The laws were bypassed or disregarded. It will eventually be left up to jury to determine how much Mr. Kenner's nightmare is worth," Vinick said.

Chicago Contractor Ordered To Cough Up $2.4 Million For Duping Elderly Homeowners Into Getting Reverse Mortgages To Finance Home Improvements, Then Performing Work That Was Either Substandard Or Left Unfinished Altogether

In Chicago, Illinois, Reverse Mortgage Daily reports:
  • An Illinois judge recently ordered a Chicago businessman to pay $2.4 million to the victims of a reverse mortgage scam he allegedly perpetrated for decades.

    Cook County Judge David Atkins entered the judgement last week against Chicago businessman Mark Diamond, who has been at the center of allegations in recent years that he deceived senior homeowners into obtaining reverse mortgages to help pay for needed home repairs on their residences.

    In 2009, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against Diamond, accusing him of bilking senior homeowners living in Chicago’s south and west side neighborhoods out of more than $1.3 million through the reverse mortgage scam.

    As part of the scam, Madigan’s lawsuit alleged that borrowers would pay Diamond with the proceeds from their reverse mortgages in exchange for various home renovation projects, many of which were either performed to a “substandard” degree or left unfinished altogether.

    The lawsuit also claimed that Diamond pocketed a portion of the money he received for his personal benefit, rather than completing the repairs.

    As a result of the scheme, the lawsuit indicated that 12 homeowners ended up in default on their reverse mortgages, while two borrowers lost their homes to foreclosure.

    At the time the suit was filed in 2009, Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau had received 36 complaints against Diamond and his affiliated mortgage and home repair companies through which he operated.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Manhattan DA Tags Landlord, Contractor With Criminal Charges, $3 Million Civil Forfeiture Suit For Allegedly Creating Life-Threatening Conditions To Bully Couple With Five Young Kids Out Of Their Rent-Stabilized Apartment

In New York City, WNBC-TV Channel 4 reports:
  • A landlord and two contractors intentionally created "life-threatening" conditions at an East Harlem apartment to push a couple and their five young children out of their rent-stabilized home, prosecutors say.

    The landlord and East 115th Street building owner, Ephraim Vashovsky, along with property manager and contractor Adam Cohen, 32, and contractor Shaoul Ohana, 56, allegedly made conditions perilous and unlivable for the parents and their children, who range in age from 1 to 12, including leaving them without water and heat and the building at risk of structural collapse.

    According to an indictment [], the trio conducted ongoing illegal construction and renovation at the apartment, and harassed and intimidated the family, threatening to report their status as undocumented immigrants, in a conspiratorial effort to get them to leave or pay more.

    "These defendants are charged with turning an East Harlem apartment building into a death trap,” Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. “They forced a family with five young children to endure life-threatening conditions on some of winter’s coldest nights. As demolition continued around apartment 5E, the entire building was at risk of a devastating fire, or worse, collapse."

    The alleged concerted effort against the family began shortly after Vashovsky acquired the building in May 2014, according to court documents. Vashovsky and his associates wanted the family out so they could make renovations to the building that would allow the units to command higher rents, court papers say. Amid pending eviction proceedings and litigation, the defendants moved to begin construction while the family still inhabited the apartment.

    In an effort to expedite the Department of Buildings work permit applications submitted by Ohana, Cohen allegedly submitted falsified documents purporting that the building was unoccupied, while the defendants simultaneously moved for the family’s eviction in housing court on the grounds that the apartment was overcrowded, court documents say. Based on the falsified filings, DOB approved a work permit in December 2014.
    The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit has filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit against the indicted defendants and their companies, seeking the forfeiture of more than $3 million in connection with the criminal case.
For the story, see Landlord, Contractors Turned Apartment Into 'Deathtrap' to Force Out Family of 7, Indictment Alleges (Prosecutors allege the landlord and contractors wanted the family out so they could renovate the apartment to command higher rent).

Go here for the Manhattan District Attorney press release.

Elderly NYC Tenant Goes To Florida For Extended Stay To Care For Dying Brother; Billionaire Landlord Responds By Trying To Give Her The Boot, Claiming Her Rent-Stabilized Apartment Is No Longer Her Primary Residence

In New York City, the New York Post reports:
  • A billionaire landlord [...] is trying to evict a blind 82-year-old woman from her longtime rent-stabilized apartment on the Upper East Side — because she was out of the city caring for her dying brother, a lawsuit charges.

    “It makes no sense,” fumed Valerie Miké, who says she has lived at 500 E. 77th St. since 1973 but was in Florida tending to her brother, who died this past spring after a stroke.

    “When someone has a severe stroke, he may die any day because of the infection or he may wake up. A family member had to be here. I had no option,” said Miké, a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. “I tried over and over again to speak with management.”

    After hiring a lawyer for the first time in her life, Miké is suing her landlord to keep her $1,800-a-month one-bedroom.

    Glenwood Management’s Leonard Litwin owns the high-rise, where one-bedrooms go for $3,700 a month.
    [In May], Miké got a notice that her lease wouldn’t be renewed.

    The letter claimed the apartment wasn’t her primary residence because she was living with her “husband” John Miké in Florida, according to her Manhattan civil suit.

    John is Miké’s brother, her suit says. She went to care for him last year but still uses the 77th Street address on her voter, financial and health forms, court papers say.

    Even after Miké’s lawyer, Justin Bonanno, sent Litwin documentation — including a doctor’s note saying she was staying with her brother — he refused to void the eviction.

    “The law is clear. The code says you can do that as long as you keep a substantial ‘physical nexus’ with the apartment,” Bonanno said. “She has 2,000 volumes of books, all her furniture, her entire life is in that apartment.”

    Miké said, “Everyone in the building knew why I was in Florida.”

    Reps for Glenwood did not comment.

Landlord Agrees To Cough Up Nearly $1 Million To Settle Class Action Suit Alleging It Squeezed About 14,000 Tenants With Bogus Charges By Loading Leases With Illegal Terms

In Iowa City, Iowa, the Press-Citizen reports:
  • Past and future tenants of Apartments Downtown will benefit from a settlement approved by a district court judge last week, their attorney said Monday.

    The settlement includes $65 repayments to about 14,000 tenants who rented from Apartments Downtown and Apartments Near Campus, which have the same owner, from 2010 to 2014 and also establishes a new and unique complaint process, said Chris Warnock, an attorney with the Iowa Tenants' Project who represented tenants in the case.

    The repayments are the result of lease provisions ruled to be illegal that included charging an automatic carpet-cleaning fee, regardless of whether the carpet was clean; shifting responsibility for repair and maintenance to tenants, including in common areas of a building; and a variety of illegal fees, penalties and other charges.

    Tenants who rented from 2010 to 2014 can find more information and register to collect repayment at, and will be asked to provide a building address and apartment number.

    Warnock said the repayments are expected to total about $1 million.

City Convicts First Landlord/Airbnb Host Under Its New Law Prohibiting Short Stay Rentals Of An Entire Residence For Less Than 30 Days; Landlord Vows To Leave Town After Thumbing Nose At Authorities

In Santa Monica, California, the Los Angeles Times reports:
  • Santa Monica, which last year passed some of the nation’s toughest regulations on short-term rentals, has now convicted its first Airbnb host under the new law, prosecutors said.

    Rental operator Scott Shatford, who listed five properties on Airbnb, was charged with eight misdemeanor counts of operating a business without a license and failing to comply with citations after he refused to stop renting out his properties, Deputy City Atty. Yibin Shen said [].

    Shatford pleaded no contest on July 5 in a plea deal with the city, agreeing to pay $3,500 in fines and to stop renting properties within the city. He was also placed on two years’ probation.

    In May 2015, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously passed a law outlawing rentals of less than 30 days. The law allows so-called home-sharing, such as renting a couch or spare room while the owner is present, but bars renting an entire residence for fewer than 30 days.

    At the time, the new rule outlawed more than 80% of the city’s estimated 1,700 short-term rentals.

    The city now has a full-time task force dedicated to the issue, with two code enforcement officers and an analyst, said Shen, the prosecutor on Shatford’s case.
    Shen, the prosecutor, said city officials received a complaint from someone who had rented one of Shatford’s properties. The woman was surprised to learn that she was renting a unit that was illegal and was uncomfortable with the situation, Shen said.

    Before referring the case to the city attorney’s office, the new Vacation Rental Enforcement Task Force “attempted to work with and educate Mr. Shatford for many months, issuing multiple warnings and citations with fines,” the city said in a statement, adding that Shatford “boasted publicly that he was ‘not concerned’ about local law.”

    Shen said he hopes the case will serve as an example for the public.

    “The city views its rental prohibition quite seriously, and it takes enforcement of these laws quite seriously,” Shen said.

    As for Shatford, he’s moving to Denver this week, after 13 years of living in Santa Monica. He said he hopes people are more tolerant there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Non-Profit Public Interest Law Firm's Lawsuit: Municipality's Inspection Requirement As Condition For Issuing Rental License Violates Landlord's, Tenants' 4th Amendment Privacy Rights; Inspectors Seeking Entry Into Premises Told To Quit Snooping Around & Take A Hike!

In Highland, California, the Redlands Daily Facts reports:
  • A landlord and his tenants have accused the city of violating their Fourth Amendment rights.

    Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation(1) filed a complaint [] in U.S. District Court on behalf of property owner Karl Trautwein, accusing city inspectors of attempting to coerce his tenants, DeVondra and James Gill, into allowing a warrantless inspection of the property in order to issue the property’s rental license.

    According to the complaint, city inspectors made two attempts to inspect the single-family home owned by Trautwein, after he told city workers they did not have permission to inspect the property.

    The city now refuses to process the rental license application and has charged Trautwein a $40 reinspection fee, according to the complaint.

    “At the end of the day it’s about privacy and all these private places they don’t want government officials snooping around,” said Wen Fa, staff attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, which litigates cases involving property and civil rights for clients at no charge.

    Highland’s residential rental program requires property owners to obtain a rental license through the city. There must be a full inspection of the interior and exterior of the property before the city will approve the license.

    If a tenant or property owner refuses to allow an inspection, the city will obtain a warrant, according to the city code.

    In April 2015, Trautwein applied for a rental license for the home, which has been rented by the Gills since 2011, and paid the $161 application fee. He noted on the application that the city did not have permission to enter the property.

    When the Gills refused to let city inspectors into the home, they were told their landlord would “get in trouble,” according to the complaint.

    The city later sent Trautwein a letter informing him that he owed a $40 reinspection fee for the two missed inspections and could be cited.

    Trautwein sent a letter back to the city, restating that it did not have permission to inspect the property due to privacy concerns.

    Craig A. Steele, Highland’s city attorney, said in an email that the city was served [] with the lawsuit but had yet to evaluate it. He said he could not comment on the specifics of the case.

    Generally, Steele said, the city has worked successfully and cooperatively with most rental property owners in the city to ensure that rental housing is safe and habitable.

    “I would think that landlords in the rental housing business would welcome health and safety inspections of their business locations, just as inspections are conducted at other commercial businesses in the city,” he said.

    The city will evaluate the complaint and respond in a timely manner, he said.

    Trautwein is not seeking any monetary damages, but rather a court order calling the city’s action unconstitutional and demanding it stop attempting to conduct warrantless searches.

    This lawsuit is for principle, that’s why we don’t want monetary damages,” Fa said. “We want the court to tell the city to stop and we want the court to issue a declaration that what the city is doing violates the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs in this case.”

    In his letter to the city, Trautwein said the home was a vacant foreclosure that he improved and rented to a responsible tenant.

    “We pride ourselves in taking care of any maintenance issues at the homes we manage,” he wrote.
Source: Highland landlord, tenants accusing city of violating Fourth Amendment rights.

See also, Highland is sued for attempting warrantless snooping on rental property (go here for podcast).

For the lawsuit, see Trautwein v. City of Highland, et al.
(1) Pacific Legal Foundation is a non-profit, public interest law firm that fights for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection. Donor-supported, this firm represents all clients free of charge.

ACLU, NAACP Class Action Lawsuit Invokes Fair Housing Act Against Wayne County, Michigan Over Allegedly Inflated Property Tax Assessments; Complaint Also Cites Constitutional Due Process Considerations Concerning Method Of Granting Homestead "Poverty Tax Exemption" Which Reduces Tax Burden By Half Or Eliminates It Entirely For Qualified Impoverished Homeowners

In Detroit, Michigan, The Detroit News reports:
  • The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the NAACP Legal and Education Fund [last week] sued to stop the Wayne County Treasurer from auctioning hundreds of owner-occupied homes for unpaid taxes this fall, arguing the foreclosures were illegal.

    The county’s tax sale violates the Federal Fair Housing Act by disproportionately foreclosing on black homeowners,(1) a process driven by Detroit’s inflated city tax assessments, said ACLU Legal Director Michael Steinberg. The suit, filed [last week] in Wayne County Circuit Court, names Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree, the county and the city of Detroit as defendants.

    “Wayne County and Detroit are creating a human catastrophe by tossing thousands of homeowners into the streets for inability to pay unlawfully assessed taxes,” Steinberg said in a press release. “This short-sighted practice not only violates federal law, it destabilizes families, destroys neighborhoods and undermines the economic recovery of the region.”

    The city taxed the home of one ACLU client at risk of foreclosure as if it was worth $40,000, while a private appraisal paid by the ACLU pegged its value at $9,000.

    The controversial auction has drawn critics for years, who say residents are losing properties because of tax bills that bear little relation to market value. The sale has attracted hundreds of out-of-state speculators and local investors who buy for as little as $500, and many don’t pay tax bills either.

    The treasurer has processed more than 140,000 foreclosures countywide since 2002, according to Loveland Technologies, a company that studies tax foreclosure.

    The ACLU is asking the court to halt the sale of all properties that are owner occupied, an estimated 1,530, and stop future foreclosures until the city can properly assess them, according to the lawsuit.

    A total of 5,600 homes headed to the tax sale in September are occupied, which includes renters.

    The plaintiffs, seven homeowners and four neighborhood associations represented by ACLU attorneys, are also asking the lawsuit be designated as a class action for all homeowners affected.
    An investigation by The Detroit News in 2013 concluded that Detroit was over-assessing homes by an average of 65 percent, according to a review of state tax appeals. The series prompted state regulators to overhaul Detroit’s Assessment Division.

    Steinberg said he believes “a huge percentage” of people on county payment plans are defaulting because they can’t afford them.

    The lawsuit also argues that the Detroit Citizen Board of Review’s process to grant poverty exemptions has violated homeowners’ due process rights by not giving them a reason for their denial. And some ACLU clients didn’t receive a response at all, according to the lawsuit.(2)

    Poverty exemptions can lower or eliminate tax bills if owners qualify.
    The ACLU, and NAACP Legal and Education Fund were joined by lawyers from the Washington, D.C.-based Covington & Burling LLP in the lawsuit filing.
For more, see ACLU, NAACP sue to stop Wayne County tax auction.

For the lawsuit, see Morningside Community Organization, et al. v. Sabree, et al.
(1) See ACLU, NAACP LDF Sue Wayne County to End Racially Discriminatory Tax Foreclosures in Detroit:
  • The [Fair Housing Act] bars not only intentional housing discrimination, but also neutral practices that have an adverse disparate impact on people of color. The Wayne County Treasurer's practice has a significant disparate impact on African Americans in the county. The complaint alleges that the tax foreclosure rate in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Wayne County is 10 to 15 times higher than the rate of foreclosures in predominantly non-African-American areas.
(2) Ibid.
  • Plaintiffs also allege that the City of Detroit has violated the due process rights of impoverished homeowners who are entitled by law to a "poverty tax exemption," which reduces a qualified homeowner's tax burden by half or eliminates it entirely. The complaint alleges that, prior to 2016, Detroit's process for eligible homeowners to apply for the poverty exemption was convoluted, difficult, and in some cases, impossible. Many of those who succeeded in submitting a timely, complete poverty exemption application never received a response from the City regarding the decision on their application or were denied for reasons that were arbitrary and capricious.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Another Hispanic Judge To Feel Trump Wrath? Miami Jurist Belts Mogul's Golf Course With Nearly $300K In Legal Fees After Losing Foreclosure Suit; Court Battle Started When Local 'Mom & Pop' Paint Store Slapped Resort Operator With Lien After Allegedly Being Stiffed Out Of Final Payment On $200K Contract; Foreclosure Sale Date On Hold Pending Appeal

In Miami, Florida, the Miami Herald reports:
  • While developer Donald Trump was busy getting the Republican Party’s presidential nomination [last] week, he was losing big in a Miami-Dade County courtroom.

    Circuit Court Judge Jorge Cueto, presiding over a lawsuit related to unpaid bills brought by a local paint store against the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort, ordered the billionaire politician’s company to pay the Doral-based mom-and-pop shop nearly $300,000 in attorney’s fees.

    All because, according to the lawsuit, Trump allegedly tried to stiff The Paint Spot on its last payment of $34,863 on a $200,000 contract for paint used in the renovation of the home of golf’s famed Blue Monster two years ago.

    Trump National’s insistence that it had “paid enough” for the paint despite a contract, according to the lawsuit, caused The Paint Spot to slap a lien on the property and Cueto to order the foreclosure sale of the resort.

    In time, Donald Trump’s company got the judge to cancel the June 28 courthouse auction after it placed the $34,000 in escrow, and the case was put on hold while Trump National’s owner, Trump Endeavor, considered an appeal.

    But the lien remained.

    And Cueto was asked to rule on the fees for The Paint Spot’s three $500-an-hour attorneys and two $150-an-hour paralegals that lawsuit loser Trump Endeavor will have to pay.

    The golf company, according to the court file, objected to the hourly rates because it paid its lawyers $400 an hour, according to court records.

    This week, Cueto ruled that the fees were reasonable, and then some.

    First, he ruled Trump should pay for nearly 500 hours of legal work, since the store’s legal team had to prepare for a trial that never took place.

    Then, Cueto tacked on a 75 percent “risk” fee, partly because the store’s lawyers took the risk that they would never be paid if they lost.

    Total: $282,949 and 91 cents, including copying and expert testimony.

    “I’m happy I have a judgment,” said Juan Carlos Enriquez, owner of The Paint Spot. “But he [Trump] hasn’t paid yet.

    “You know how he says he’ll surround himself with the greatest people if he is president? In this case, he might not be surrounded by the right people.”

    Trump bought the property in 2012 for $150 million then launched into a major renovation.

    Alan Garten, Trump’s in-house lawyer, didn’t return a call for comment.
Source: Judge orders Trump to pay nearly $300,000 in attorney’s fees in Doral painter’s lawsuit (The Paint Spot of Doral sued for $34,000 in unpaid painting fees at Trump National; Tiny shop slapped a lien on the property; judge ordered foreclosure date that was later canceled; But Trump must pay nearly $300,000 in attorney’s fees).

For more on those accusing Donald Trump of having deadbeat bill-paying habits, see USA TODAY exclusive: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills:
  • [T]he actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.

Philly Feds Pinch Mortgage Outfit/Title Agency Owner For Pocketing Nearly $13 Million In Customers' Refinancing Proceeds While Failing To Pay Off Their Existing Loans At Real Estate Closings; Over Two Dozen Unwitting Homeowners Left Stuck With Two Mortgages On Their Homes

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania):
  • An Indictment was unsealed [] charging George Barnard, 45, of Newtown Square, with 24 counts of wire fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and three counts of filing a false tax return, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger.

    The indictment alleges that Barnard, who from 2005 to March 2013 was one of the two owners of Capital Financial Mortgage Corporation ("CFMC"), based in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and also was the owner of several title companies, defrauded banks out of almost $13 million dollars and instead of using the money to fund mortgage loans for borrowers and pay off the borrowers’ existing mortgages, he took the money for his personal benefit, including buying yachts, luxury cars, multi-million dollar beach homes in Avalon, New Jersey, and paying the salary of a yacht captain.

    The indictment further alleges that in order to continue to have access to a large pool of money to fund his extravagant lifestyle, Barnard orchestrated a massive fraud scheme, which included selling other banks the mortgages that CFMC had written and representing to the lenders who purchasing those mortgages that they were first mortgages, when in reality they were worthless second mortgages.

    The indictment alleges that while the tax returns Barnard filed with the IRS showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, in reality Barnard had more than $2,300,000 in unreported income, and in order to convince other banks to issue mortgage loans to him so he could purchase yachts and multi-million dollar beach homes, Barnard gave false tax returns to the banks with inflated income figures, and on at least one occasion, told the bank that he was buying the beach home for more than $3,000,000 when in reality the sales price was $2,000,000. The indictment alleges that Barnard was able to conceal this deception by using his own title company to handle the closing of that loan and falsifying closing documents.

    The indictment alleged that as a result of Barnard’s actions, lenders suffered losses of more than $12,700,000, and more than 25 borrowers who obtained refinance loans from CFMC were stuck with two mortgages on their homes after Barnard’s companies failed to pay off the borrowers’ existing first mortgages.

Rhode Island Real Estate Agent With History Of Playing Fast & Loose With Homebuyers' Contract Deposits Hit With Emergency License Suspension For Failing To Tender Customer's Money To Employer For Deposit Into Firm's Escrow Account

In Providence, Rhode Island, the Providence Journal reports:
  • The state's Department of Business Regulation has issued an emergency order to summarily suspend the real estate salesperson's license of John Paliotta, after clients accused him of mishandling their $6,000 deposit check for a property in West Warwick.

    According to the DBR's order, signed July 1 by Director Macky McCleary, Paliotta asked his clients "to make the deposit check out to him, not Coleman Realtors," on Oct. 13, 2015. The deposit accompanied a $200,000 offer for a short-sale property at 5 Queen Anne's Court, West Warwick.

    Then, on Nov. 4, 2015, Paliotta "advised the complainants to submit a second, lower offer for the subject property," for $193,500, "with a deposit of $200 cash," the order added.

    The emergency order said neither deposit was ever tendered to Coleman Realtors for deposit into Coleman's escrow account. On March 23, 2016, the clients told Paliotta they planned to contact Coleman Realtors, according to the DBR. Paliotta, who worked in Coleman Realtors' East Greenwich office, responded: "'Now you are [expletive] with my livelihood. Do not call Coleman Realty. I took this one outside the box,'" the order stated.

    The clients met with Michael Young, principal broker of Coleman Realtors, on April 19, and Paliotta was terminated from the agency that day, the order added. "During the investigation, the Department received evidence of at least two additional real estate transactions in which Respondent was involved from July 2015 through December 2015 that failed to comply with the relevant law. ..."

    State law prohibits real estate agents from depositing clients' money into their personal accounts.

    In 2011, Paliotta, then working for a different agency, was fined $7,500 for depositing a $5,000 check from a client into a personal bank account. That client's offer to purchase real estate was never delivered to the sellers, DBR said at the time, adding that it had evidence that Paliotta "had listed, offered and/or participated in a significant number of real estate transactions which dated back to 2006 in which he solicited and accepted deposit funds made payable to himself personally or his wholly owned corporation, Diamante Realty." Paliotta could not immediately be reached for comment.
For more, see R.I. suspends real estate agent's license after client accusations (DBR: John Paliotta asked clients to make checks out to him, not agency).

Monday, July 25, 2016

Predatory Land Contracts/Contracts For Deed Are Built To Fail, Create "Mirage Of Homeownership" For Unsophisticated Homebuyers, Says National Consumer Advocate In New Report

The New York Times reports:
  • Seller-financed home sales are “toxic transactions,” a prominent national consumer law organization said [] as it released a report and called for greater federal and state oversight of the sales.

    In its report, the National Consumer Law Center said that many of the contracts in such transactions were “built to fail” and were predatory in nature — benefiting sellers at the expense of lower-income and minority buyers who could not qualify for mortgages.

    Such a transaction, called a contract for deed or land contract, is similar to buying a home on an installment plan, with a high-interest, long-term loan. For buyers lured by the dream of homeownership, the transactions can turn into money pits that result in a quick eviction by the seller, who can then flip the home again, an investigation by The New York Times found earlier this year.(1)

    The National Consumer Law Center study describes a shadow housing market that has emerged after the financial crisis. These contracts have flourished in communities where there was a large supply of cheap, foreclosed homes and a paucity of mortgages for properties worth substantially less than $100,000.

    “Land installment contracts are popular with investors because defaulting borrowers can be swiftly evicted, and traditional mortgage foreclosure protections do not apply,” the report said. “This allows investors to reap substantial profits.”

    Some state regulators and federal lawmakers are pushing for stronger action to clamp down on predatory seller-financed home sales.

    One of the larger national firms to emerge in the contract for deed market is Harbour Portfolio Advisors. The Dallas company has bought nearly 7,000 homes — most of them from the government-backed mortgage company Fannie Mae — and has been reselling them “as is,” often in need of major repairs, through contracts that critics contend lack basic consumer protections. The Times article in February focused on Harbour Portfolio.

    The National Consumer Law Center looked at 94 homes that Harbour Portfolio had purchased in the Atlanta area and found that the properties were overwhelmingly located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

    In one case, Charles Wright, 46, of Lithonia, Ga., spent more than $12,000 on repairs and improvements for a Harbour Portfolio home in 2012. The company then moved to evict Mr. Wright this year after he missed several monthly payments last year.

    Over three years, Mr. Wright paid more than $17,000 toward the balance of the 30-year contract, according to his lawyer and one of the authors of the report. Mr. Wright said he felt misled by Harbour Portfolio, which had bought the home for $11,745 from Fannie Mae.

    “They were wrong for telling me that I was buying a house and then getting me to put all this money in,” Mr. Wright said. “And now they are kicking me out.”
    The law center report also noted that from the 1930s to the 1960s, contract for deed sales were typically used by home sellers in black communities where mortgages were largely unavailable.

    But then as now, a contract for deed created a “mirage of homeownership,” the report said. It said that the housing lawyers who were interviewed described “marketing schemes that appeared to target African-American and Spanish-speaking consumers.”

Sneaky Landlords Accused Of Using Contract For Deed, Other Lease-To-Own Methods To Skirt Maintenance Responsibilities When Renting Out Dilapidated, Run-Down Money Pits To Unsuspecting Tenants

In Crookston, Minnesota, the Crookston Times reports:
  • As more and more comments were made at a public input session on the City’s proposed “Property Maintenance Code” held at Tuesday’s City Planning Commission meeting, it started to sound like there’s some sort of an under-the-radar, covert subculture in the community that involves rental property owners who are able to legally skirt the rules by frequently moving their dilapidated and otherwise run-down properties via contract for deed or other lease-to-own methods.
    More than anything, though, what emerged Tuesday evening in the council chambers was a strong belief that too many rental property owners in Crookston are able to own vacant, dilapidated and run-down properties that aren’t subject to inspection because they use contract-for-deed and other lease-to-own methods to quickly get tenants in and out of their properties without the involvement of a third party like a bank or governmental unit, which would likely trigger some kind of inspection.

    And, added rental property owner Sheryl Adams, those property owners were not in attendance Tuesday.

    “Everyone that’s here, they already maintain and keep up their properties,” she said. “The people who aren’t here are the ones with vacant or terrible properties. They need to be here.”

    People hide behind things like contract for deed, but is it really a contract for deed? Do they have to prove it?” wondered At Large City Council Member Wayne Melbye. “If you go legit when you’re moving a property, there are some real stopgaps out there. But when these people slip under the radar, they’re in it for the almighty buck and only the almighty buck.”

    Blake Royal, co-owner of JR Rentals, LLC with Justin Jerde, said it’s pretty easy for landlords to find loopholes in the system. “I’m not saying I would because I don’t, but I read this code and in five minutes I figure out how I can get around it,” Royal said. “I could find someone who doesn’t want all the hassle and just wants to get into a house because they can’t get in anywhere else.”

    “These investors that come in, they grab cheap places and turn right around and rent for cheap or contract for deed to felons or others who have a hard time renting a place,” added Dean Adams.
For the story, see City Planning Commission Public Input Session on property maintenance code attendees ask about dilapidated properties (Many at public input session say landlords skirt the rules all the time). land contract

Disabled Man, Parkinsons/Dementia -Stricken Father Face Boot From Brooklyn Home Of Nearly 50 Years After Aunt Allegedly Sells Brownstone Out From Under Them & Swindled Their Share Of $1.525 Million Proceeds; Currently Fighting Off Eviction Against New Owners While Battling To Reverse Fraudulent Sale

In Park Slope, Brooklyn, DNAInfo New York reports:
  • Developers are trying to kick an elderly man and his disabled son out of the Park Slope building they've lived in for nearly 50 years so they can renovate the property, court records show.

    Lawyers for high-end housing specialists The Brooklyn Home Co. recently requested a court order to speed up eviction proceedings against Ernesto Bonilla, 79, and his son Ernesto J. Bonilla, 52, who's known as Junior.

    The father and son, along with the younger Bonilla's girlfriend, live in a three-story 19th century rowhouse on Fifth Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues that the Bonilla family has occupied since the elder Bonilla's parents bought it in 1967.

    The elder Bonilla, who worked as a dish washer at a restaurant and a factory worker in his younger days, now has Parkinson's disease and dementia and spends much of his time in the building's sunny third-floor apartment, where he was watching Spanish-language TV news on a recent visit.

    "[Eviction] would be a psychological disaster for this gentleman, who has lived in the same place for over 40 years," said the Bonillas' attorney, Mayne Miller, referring to the elder Bonilla. "[Evictions] happen all the time but this is a particularly notable example because the father is old and ill and the son is disabled."

    The younger Bonilla was a toddler when his family moved from 15th Street to the Fifth Street brick and brownstone building. He and his parents and grandparents lived there with other relatives and rented out one of the floors to tenants.

    In 2015, unbeknownst to the father and son, an aunt who had lived in the Fifth Street house with them sold the building for $1.525 million to an LLC linked to Brooklyn Home Co. The Bonillas received no money from the sale, and the aunt left the state shortly afterward.

    The Bonillas' three-bedroom apartment is rent-controlled, and the legal rent is $86.25 a month, according to the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which oversees rent-regulated units.

    The Bonillas found out the property's new owners wanted them out last fall when they were mailed a copy of an application the new owners had filed with DHCR to start the eviction process.

    Property owners have the right to kick out rent-controlled tenants if the owner plans to demolish the building, a process that requires DHCR approval.
    Miller says his clients have been subjected to harassment by the building's new owners. The cellar has been padlocked, and the Bonillas went without hot water for 12 days last winter, he said. The younger Bonilla documented both issues with complaints to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

    The new owners have not given the Bonillas a lease or offered them money to leave, according to the younger Bonilla.

    The father and son were awarded $26,000 last year after they took their aunt, with whom they had a contentious relationship, to court in a dispute that wasn't related to the new owners or the sale of the building. The younger Bonilla refused to accept the money, he said. He believes his aunt swindled him out of rightful ownership of the building, and fears accepting the money would damage his legal battle to regain ownership and reverse the 2015 sale.

    The younger Bonilla said his father used to enjoy sitting in the backyard, but hasn't been able to since new owners took over the building last year and padlocked the door that gave them access to the yard.

    Eighteen months ago the elder Bonilla could walk for blocks, but his health has gone downhill since the building changed hands — his son thinks it's because of the stress — and he uses a walker to get around now, his son said.

    The younger Bonilla was once a computer systems engineer but can't work anymore because of health problems, including diabetes and asthma, he said.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

NYC Non-Profit Public Interest Law Firm Gives Hope To Tenants In Lawsuit Against Gentrifying-Seeking, North Bronx Landlord Looking To Give Them The Boot

In the Bedford Park section of The Bronx, Norwood News reports:
  • For the past six months, the small band of tenants at 267 E. 202nd St., a 2-story apartment building, have dealt with an uncertainty that hasn’t quite been resolved: are they staying or going?

    It’s a question that’s been on the minds of these tenants who’ve built lives there for as long as 30 years.

    “Everybody’s been living in that building for so long,” said Cynthia Garcia, a tenant and single mother of two children. “Everybody’s like family.”

    The piece of property, resting at the tip of Briggs Avenue in a sleepy part of Bedford Park, remains a source of attention for a lawyer looking to keep tenants in their homes, a lawmaker who’s kept an eye on developments, and housing advocates who balk at the ongoing urbanization of the neighborhood.

    Together they’ve all set their sights on the new owner, Peter Fine, a housing developer who spent some years building homes in wealthy parts of Florida state. He’s since been taken to court, propagating a situation that, at its core, is arguing the future look of Bedford Park. It’s since inspired petitions demanding lawmakers downzone the district.

    Fine is now answering a lawsuit originally filed against Genesis Realty, which had sent 30-day eviction notices to tenants in February. The original suit, filed by the tenants’ attorney, Andrew Darcy,(1) demanded repairs inside the building be made. The suit doubled as insurance to keep the tenants in their homes. The two sides are expected in court in July to conference with the court over repairs.

    For tenants, their fears seem rooted with one conclusion: Fine wants to clear the building so it could be bulldozed, making way for new housing. Just what kind of housing remains unclear.
For more, see Residents, Holding to Bedford Park Home, Plug Away.
(1) Andrew Darcy is a staff attorney with MFY Legal Services, a non-profit public interest law firm that provides free legal assistance to vulnerable and under-served residents of New York City on a wide range of civil legal issues.

Sneaky Landlord Agreed Not To Permanently Displace Tenants As Condition For Scoring $16 Million In City Rehab Loans, Then Tried To Boot Over 30 Families Anyway; Protest Thwarts Mass Eviction Attempt

In Austin, Texas, The Austin Chronicle reports:
  • [T]he owners of the Cross Creek Apartments retracted more than 30 notices to vacate that had been served on their current tenants. The move comes less than a week after some of the residents – organizing as the Cross Creek Tenant Association – led a march through the Rundberg-area complex to protest the eviction.

    The owners recently received $16 million in private activity loans approved by the Austin Housing Finance Corporation [AHFC] to renovate the complex, but the notices to vacate, delivered to more than 30 families living at Cross Creek, violated the AHFC rules and regulations that the owners had agreed to follow.
    [T]he tenant association will continue organizing to put pressure on both the city and the owners to follow through on their commitments. Residents have been supported since the end of May by Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA), a Texas RioGrande Legal Aid program funded by the city. Shoshana Krieger, the program's director, said that her team originally got involved because of [a] hot water issue, but that they have increased their efforts after the notices to vacate were distributed. "If the owner wants to use city money, then he should honor his commitment not to displace his tenants," she said.

    In 2014, the Austin Housing Finance Cor­poration awarded the owners $2 million in general obligation bonds, and then in April of this year they approved $16 million in financing, provided that no tenant was permanently displaced as a result of redevelopment. While the city has taken action in regards to the hot water issue and code violations, it did not take a position on the notices to vacate. "The question should not be whether or not the buildings are up to code, but whether or not they are up to code for the people living there," Krieger said.
For more, see Cross Creek Evictions Retracted (Tenants' efforts to organize prove successful).

Landlord's Failure To Clear Open Electric Code Violations Leads To Power Shutoff; Failure To Bring Premises Into Compliance May Lead To Closure Of Wisconsin Mobile Home Park, Forcing Lot-Leasing Homeowners To Abandon Their Residences

In Superior, Wisconsin, the Superior Telegram reports:
  • Some homeowners in the Downtown Mobile Home Park on North 12th Street face uncertainty after the city served notice June 30 the electricity to their homes would be shut off later this month; others are making plans to move on.

    The city secured a warrant to turn off the power to the mobile homes at 8 a.m. July 25 after years of battling the park owner to correct electric code violations.

    While some repairs have been made by the owner, Brian Androski, city officials say he failed to act on violations with the electrical infrastructure going to residents’ homes.

    It’s life safety issues out there … electrical issues mainly,” said Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director. “It’s bare wires. It’s leaning pedestals. It’s electrocution type of stuff.”

    However, Androski said the leaning pedestals are just a normal function of standing in clay soil.

    “We live in clay country,” Androski said. “Once somebody has a leak or it gets kind of damp, the pedestal, they will eventually start to lean. We take and straighten them back up in the spring and pound them down real tight again and it’s back to normal.”

    Caught in the middle

    “I’m just so frazzled, I don’t know what to do,” said Kathy Mains, a six-year Downtown Mobile Home Park resident who cares for a disabled veteran, Henry Niemann. “It’s home, but it’s not no more … Where are you going to go that’s going to be handicap accessible for him?

    He has two dogs. I’m just packing and hoping for the best.”

    Mains said they may move in with her son until they can figure it out, but she’s worried what will happen to the home Niemann owns, built in 1978 and older than some mobile home parks will accept.

    Residents were notified June 30 that the power would be cut to their homes July 25, at which time they could no longer live there.

    “Just give us more time,” said David Sickler, 62, who lives in a 1968 mobile home owned by his sister. “It’s just a mess … It’s a scary proposition to have someone say you have to leave your house.”

    He said he knows he can’t stay. He needs electricity because a lung condition requires him to be on oxygen, and he needs air conditioning to cope with hot weather.

    “The worst thing is this has been going on for six years, and this is the first we hear about it, 26 days before you decide to close the park up,” Sickler said. “And there are people worse off than me.”
    The city noted code violations going back to 2010. It wasn’t until 2013 and 2014 when the city started in earnest to address the problems at the mobile home park. In June 2014, the city issued orders to correct electrical issues, according to city officials.
For more, see Homeowners forced out.

For follow-up story, see Lights to stay on at Downtown Mobile Home Park:
  • Residents of the Downtown Mobile Home Park received official word Friday that the lights will remain on Monday.

    The city is hand-delivering and mailing notices to residents to let them know a warrant issued to cut the electrical power Monday won’t be executed after all.

    “Downtown Mobile Home Park owner Brian Androski has entered into a contract with Benson Electric to make repairs to the electrical system necessary to bring the park into compliance with electrical code as ordered by the city of Superior Building Inspection Division,” the notice signed by Building Inspector Peter Kruit states.

    The Downtown Mobile Home Park was slated to have the power cut at 8 a.m. Monday after the city secured a warrant, making more than 20 homes their uninhabitable under the law.

    Kruit said he signed off Friday on the permit for the work to proceed.

Another Aging, Money-Losing Nursing Home Bites The Dust, Causing Displacement Of Over 70 Seniors By Thanksgiving; Significant Medicaid Cuts Impact Closure Decision

In Hutchinson, Kansas, The Hutchinson News reports:
  • Staff and residents of Dillon Living Center were notified [] that the facility at 1901 E. 23rd Ave. would close its doors at the end of November.

    Officials blamed ongoing losses by the 96-bed assisted-living and skilled nursing home, as well as a need for $3 million to $4 milliown in building upgrades to make the facility competitive in today’s care-home market.

    The closure will affect 71 residents and about 70 full-time-equivalent staff, said Ken Johnson, president and CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System.

    “The hardest part of this decision is the burden we’re placing on our residents, their families and our staff,” Johnson said. “Moving to a new home or place of work is stressful, so our priority is to ease that transition for everyone.”

    The organization is planning to schedule meetings with officials from other long-term-care facilities in the community to help residents transition to new homes, Johnson said.
    The home, [...] has been “sustaining very significant losses” annually for the past decade, Johnson said, including losing about $1 million per year the past two years. [...] “The industry is moving to a homelike atmosphere,” Johnson said. “We feel very much like an industrial or institutional assisted-living facility, on both sides.”

    While housing about 20 people in assisted living and 50 in skilled nursing, the operation lacks an independent-living segment, which helps feed new residents into the home as they transition through different levels of need, helping maintain the facility’s census, Johnson said.

    Recent cuts to Medicaid through KanCare by the state also have had an impact, though they are not directly the cause for the decision, Johnson said.

    “This decision has been in the works a long time, but significant cuts on Medicaid payments add to the prudence of the decision,” he said.

200+ Unit Apartment Complex's Date With Wrecking Ball Spells The Boot For Over 600 Rent-Controlled San Jose Tenants; Believed To Be Largest Mass Eviction Ever In Silicon Valley

In San Jose, California, KGO-TV Channel 7 reports:
  • A mass eviction could be the largest ever in Silicon Valley with hundreds of tenants being told they must move out of their homes.

    The Reserve apartments located on South Winchester Boulevard near Williams Road in San Jose are slated to be demolished and replaced with new development.

    Everyone in the 200-plus unit apartment complex must be out by March. In its place will be new market-rate housing shops and restaurants.

    It's a project that's going to triple the number of apartment units at the expense of the people living there now.

    San Jose has no laws requiring compensation packages for evicted tenants, but the landlord is offering assistance to tenants who make less than 80 percent of the region's median income.
Source: Mass Eviction Could Be Silicon Valley's Largest Ever.

See also, Mass Eviction—San Jose’s Largest—to Displace 670 People:
  • For context, consider that San Francisco called a drawn-out eviction of 100 tenants from 86 rent-controlled units the largest in the city’s history. At The Reserve, nearly seven times as many people got the boot with far less notice.

    To make matters worse, the South Bay city of a million has no policy on the books to help tenants pay for the forced move. This was never supposed to happen, says Randi Kinman, who chairs the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s policy advisory subcommittee, a regional planning body. Evicting 600-plus people from rent-controlled units conflicts with state-set goals to maintain housing stock for all income levels.

    “We kind of brush off displacement from four units here or five units there,” Kinman says. “But at no point has there been any idea that we would see this scale of displacement or that it would remove this many rent-controlled units. When I brought this up at our meeting two months ago, people wanted to know how could this possibly be happening? Everybody just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Holy smokes.’”