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HUD says company offering homeowner aid violated FHA

Federal Issues HUD Enforcement New York Fair Housing Act Discrimination Consumer Finance Mortgages

Federal Issues

On June 13, HUD announced a Charge of Discrimination against several entities and individuals accused of allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against New York City homeowners on the basis of race, color, or national origin. According to HUD, the seven complainants alleged that the respondents targeted them with offers of mortgage and foreclosure prevention assistance. Respondents allegedly filed illegitimate liens and instructed telemarketers to use “affinity marketing” to build relationships with elderly, vulnerable, and distressed homeowners by bringing up shared national origin and cultural practice. Homeowners who accepted respondents’ purported loan modification services were convinced to sign documents that unknowingly sold their homes to two entities named as respondents, HUD said, explaining that respondents would then attempt to force homeowners to vacate their homes. These efforts were disproportionately concentrated in neighborhoods with a high majority of persons of color (specifically persons of Black and Caribbean descent), HUD noted, adding that in order to persuade lenders to approve the short sale, some of the respondents would allegedly create private real estate listings for homeowners’ properties and present them to the bank as public listings, while falsely claiming no offers had been received in order to secure minimal sales prices. Homeowners were also allegedly promised that the short sales were part of the loan modification services and that the property would be transferred back into their names or that of a family member after a certain period, and that they would be able to remain in their homes until the title was returned.  In fact, however, respondents intended to flip the properties for profit.

The charge will be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge unless a party elects to have the case heard in federal district court. HUD requested that the respondents be enjoined from continuing to discriminate against any person because of race, color, or national origin, and asked for damages to fully compensate the complainants, as well as the maximum civil penalty for each respondent.