you have the power to solve this problem
Did you know that every day in Ohio courtrooms, some of the most vulnerable members of our society - single mothers, the elderly, victims of domestic violence - face being fined in excess of $10,000.00, arrested, and jailed simply because they do not have the money to maintain their properties? Take the case of 78-year old James Mader. Mr. Mader purchased two properties in Cleveland with the idea that rental income would provide some much-needed income for himself and his family. Things didn't go as planned (Mr. Mader's son was the one who did most of the work on the properties and he passed away unexpectedly) and Mr. Mader was summoned to housing court. Even after he conceded the properties were more than he could handle and sold them, he was still sentenced to 45 days in jail. Real jail. While serving out his sentence, Mr. Mader, who had to walk into jail on a cane, suffered a heart attack.
So, right off the bat, let's be clear and honest with one another. If you are looking to make friends at city hall or find an organization to work with that is well-liked by the powers that be, the Project is not the place for your skills. Our founder has carried and funded litigation against multiple cities; against the Ohio Attorney General's Office; against many of the largest banks on Wall Street. We are about being disruptive. Why? Because the abandoned homes problem was not started by homeowners (yet homeowners are the only ones going to jail). It was launched by greedy bankers and dishonest Wall Street fat-cats targeting urban cities and uneducated borrowers with garbage, subprime loans. Thereafter, the abandoned homes problem has increased as many cities have worked against those who presented any solution to the problem that was not willing to be controlled by government bureaucrats and funnel properties to county landbanks. Landbanks do not work. Have you ever asked yourself: Why is there no city landbank in Beverly Hills?
We're looking for a few good lawyers who realize that but for the grace of God, it could have been your grandfather sitting in a Cleveland workhouse for 45 days. From lobbying state lawmakers to our petitions on Change.org to our daily representation of families facing housing court prosecution, one thing is for certain: we've made a lot of work for ourselves.
We could use a hand.
The abandoned homes problem encompasses far more than just violation notices and housing court prosecution. Under current Ohio law, there is no "one and done" application applied to housing court defendants. Cities spend their resources jailing and fining defendants who lack the resources to solve the root cause of their hardship: family issues, healthcare costs for seniors, issues with citizenship status, incarcerated spouses, domestic violence, etc. That is why we need your help. In order to solve the abandoned homes problem, the Project must have the ability to litigate in multiple areas of the law including, but not limited to, our own ability to carry civil rights litigation in the federal court system and be efficient and effective at the appellate level. This table illustrates many of the root causes of abandoned homes:
Divorce and domestic violence contribute heavily to the abandoned homes problem. What happens when the partner whose name is not on title becomes violent and both incomes are needed to pay the mortgage? The answer: an abandoned home. Many of our clients need assistance with family law issues in order to cure the underlying issues that cause their property to fall into a state of disrepair.
In urban areas, jobs are far more prevalent than careers. Many of our clients worked their way to a respectable, blue-collar wage despite having prior convictions. Someone took a chance on them. But what happens when a factory or machine shop closes and now that same person has to go back into the job market and interview with employers who don't know them? Chances are, their new job will pay less. Suddenly and unexpectedly, they can't afford to maintain their home.
According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review in October 2017, since 1990 white applicants received, on average, 36% more callbacks than black applicants and 24% more callbacks than Latino applicants with identical résumés. Many of our clients are being prosecuted by housing court while simultaneously being discriminated against in the search for employment. How can a person maintain a property when they cannot find a job? And, unfortunately, the fact that a person, however qualified, cannot find a job is not a defense to housing court prosecution.
Civil Rule 41 Dismissals
A first lien holder files a foreclosure, litigates to judgment, and notices a sheriff's sale on a home. The homeowner's natural response: time to move. But what happens when the lender only filed the foreclosure to access fees set aside by a mortgage trust for litigation and has no intention of actually taking back the home? The home becomes abandoned and the owner is prosecuted for a crime they didn't know they committed.
Government Sponsored Loans
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were designed to benefit the housing market. But did you know many abandoned homes sit vacant because these government-sponsored entities only pay realtors a small fraction of what their time is worth? Under Ohio law, only a realtor or attorney can legally negotiate a short sale. As a result, without volunteer attorneys (and realtors), owners of these homes who want to sell often have trouble securing a realtor or attorney to assist them. Further, both entities have rules which make it difficult to short sell a vacant property.
Many abandoned homes sit empty because the owner has been deemed incompetent via a probate court proceeding. Though family members may agree to a sale, a guardianship land sale is one of the most complicated transactions in all of real estate. Further, if there is no equity in the property, why would the family pay for an attorney to litigate a sale only to receive nothing in return? For families in urban areas, this is often the reality. Many of our clients have complicated probate issues and need assistance from qualified attorneys in this very specialized area of law.
Needs for Highly-Specialized Skillsets
Needs for Highly-Specialized Skillsets
We also seek volunteers with more specialized areas of expertise to meet the growing needs of our clients.
Counsel on large-scale litigation matters
Provide independent counsel for long-term litigation and appeals at the state and federal levels
Provide advanced expertise and mentorship to newly licensed attorneys (for senior, experienced attorneys only)
Lead legal research and writing projects: varying in scope from issue briefs and white papers to large-scale collaborative research and writing projects
Develop our internal litigation processes