BOA neglect of foreclosures worsens

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Mary Shanklin

Published September 2, 2016


Four years after a national housing group complained that Bank of America neglected foreclosed houses in Orlando minority areas, the group on Wednesday said conditions have worsened.


The National Fair Housing Alliance and nine local fair housing organizations on Wednesday released details of new complaints about the bank's care-taking practices, particularly in neighborhoods with mostly African-American and Latino residents. The coalition showed what it described as new signs of neglect at foreclosures in Orlando and other cities.

South of downtown Orlando last month, an abandoned-looking house owned by Bank of America was unsecured and showed signs of squatters living inside, black plastic bags of trash and tree-limb debris piled up in open carport bays. Photos released four years earlier show the same house was vacated but not used as a dumping ground and camp for vagrants.

"The property was poorly maintained on each visit, but it is actually in even worse shape in 2016 seven years after the National Fair Housing Alliance put Bank of America on notice about its problems maintaining foreclosures," according to a report released Wednesday by the alliance.

Bank of America officials have said the bank shares concerns about neglected, foreclosed properties but stands behind it property maintenance practices.

David Baade, president of the Melbourne-based nonprofit Fair Housing Continuum Inc., said conditions of foreclosures in Orlando and elsewhere have eroded as complaints have languished with the federal government and the Bank of America.

"We don't think any of the lending institutions are taking it seriously, other than Wells Fargo," Baade said Wednesday.

The fair-housing coalition added Orlando to its eight-city complaint in 2012 and added six new cities this week to the complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In 2013, the group's concerns led Wells Fargo to announce it would invest $39 million to support home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, property rehabilitation and housing development in 45 communities throughout the U.S., according to HUD. The settlement came through the federal agency.

On Tuesday, HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said the agency takes the complaints seriously and continues to review the condition of bank-owned homes in various types of neighborhoods to determine whether Bank of America or other institutions are discriminating in their maintenance of properties.

HUD had closed an investigation into U.S. Bank maintenance practice but is taking another look based on the group's continued concerns, he added.