Even renters who are paid up are getting kicked out
Some 40 percent of foreclosure-related evictions involve renters. Congress and 13 states weigh giving them greater protection.
Judith Watler is a landlord’s dream. She’s lived in Mattapan, a blue-collar Boston neighborhood, her entire life. She’s worked for the same healthcare company for 20 years. Her family rented their last apartment for 15 years until May, when they moved into a duplex blocks from the church where the Watlers married and their children were baptized.Skip to next paragraph
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But last fall, Mrs. Watler’s landlord defaulted on his mortgage and Deutsche Bank foreclosed on the building. Now, the bank wants her family out.
Nationwide, as many as 40 percent of families facing foreclosure-related evictions are renters, and stories like Watler’s are drawing fresh attention. Congress and 13 states are considering laws to protect responsible renters and prevent communities from the blight of abandoned buildings that are stripped even of their copper fittings by scavengers, driving down property values.
Earlier this month, Rep. Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota introduced new legislation that would give tenants who rent on a month-to-month basis 90 days notice after a foreclosure before they have to leave their homes.
Likewise, Rhode Island and Nevada are considering laws that would give tenants more notice when their buildings enter foreclosure. Massachusetts and Connecticut are considering going further with so-called “just cause” eviction laws that allow tenants in good standing to stay in their foreclosed rental homes until they are sold at auction.
The problem is particularly acute in the Northeast, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. By their estimates more than 50 percent of foreclosure-related evictions in some Northeastern cities involve renters.
‘No copper left’
The result is most apparent in neighborhoods like Mattapan. Drug users now hang out in vacant buildings, and crime is rising. Watler says she worries when her kids walk even the short distance to the bus stop. “The longer these houses are empty, the more trouble it’s going to create,” she says.
The scene is similar in the west end of Providence, R.I. The streets of the predominantly minority neighborhood are studded with deserted and derelict buildings. Many have been on the market for more than a year. Some are intact, but most have broken windows and yards full of garbage and debris. One has a message written on its boarded-over door for would-be scavengers: “no copper left.”
A few blocks away at La Execelencia restaurant, employee Gracia Bello says business is way down. “It used to be full. Now there’s nobody,” she says, standing over a hot line of Dominican stews. On good days, the restaurant did about $700 a day in business, now it’s down to $150 a day, she adds.