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.
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Bank of America typically gives renters $2,000 in its cash-for-keys offers and gives them 60 days to vacate the premises before starting eviction proceedings, says Mr. Simon. He says the time frame gives tenants enough time to make new housing arrangements but also respects lenders’ desire to get the property on the market as soon as possible.Skip to next paragraph
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But these rules have drawn criticism from a number of community groups in Boston, including City Life/Vida Urbana. The group wants Bank of America to follow in the footsteps of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which in recent months announced new policies that let tenants stay in their homes until the dwellings are sold at foreclosure.
Since the policies apply only to tenants of buildings owned by the two banks, their impact will be limited, but some housing advocates hope the policies will be a model for other lenders.
“Fannie and Freddie have shown us that it can be done,” says Ms. Marx. Her organization has asked eight of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders to enact similar policies. Their response, says Marx, has been consistent: The banks say they aren’t responsible for setting eviction policy; that responsibility lies with the mortgage-servicers who act on behalf of the investors who have bought the loans from the bank. “We view it as the bank’s responsibility to oversee the situation, and to be engaging in discussions with tenants and their legal advocates,” Marx says.
But there are signs of change. Community groups like City Life are raising awareness among renters. Weekly meetings of its bank tenants association draw more than 60 renters and former homeowners living in properties that are now bank-owned. Many of them meet with volunteer lawyers afterward.
City Life also canvasses neighborhoods to inform renters whose buildings have entered foreclosure. When negotiations with banks stall, the group stages eviction blockades, physically blocking constables from entering homes. Other bank tenants associations, modeled after City Life’s group, have recently formed in other Massachusetts cities and Rhode Island.
With more homes entering foreclosure as unemployment rises, the time for action is now, says Brenda Clement, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition of Rhode Island. Though most banks haven’t changed policies and legislative battles are ongoing, tenants are learning their rights and banks are showing more willingness to negotiate, she says.
“Last year, they wouldn’t even talk to me, but their whole world has changed so dramatically,” she adds. “Now, there’s a lot more willingness, at least to discuss, though we haven’t gotten a final resolution.”
Ayda Rivera of Providence is hopeful. Freddie Mac recently foreclosed on the single-family house she rents. But she and her lawyers are negotiating with the company to try to work out a rent-to-own arrangement. Renters in her community are “afraid, nervous, and panicking,” but she says there must be a solution.
“There are so many in this situation,” she says. “The government can’t just let all of us get thrown in the street.”