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. That means a defendant who is fined and jailed today who is released and still cannot afford to maintain a property titled in their name can be fined and jailed again down the road. This is why cities hang up the phone on us and don't return our call or emails: they know we are likely to ask them what they are doing about the root causes of abandoned homes and the answer is "absolutely nothing". Instead, 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 this issue, we need the ability to litigate in multiple areas of the law. This table illustrates man 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 and their old job did and now 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 a 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 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 it 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.