Yale Law Clinic seeks relief for homeowners burdened with underwater second mortgages

March 23, 2015
The Mortgage Foreclosure Litigation Clinic at Yale Law School, along with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CFHC), has filed an Amicus Brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of Respondents, David Caulkett and Edelmiro Toledo-Cardona, in Bank of America v. Caulkett. The case presents the question of whether wholly underwater second mortgages can be voided in bankruptcy as unsecured liens. The question of second mortgages is especially pertinent in Connecticut. Hartford, Connecticut, holds the dubious distinction of being the “most underwater” city in the nation, with a negative equity rate of 56%*. Connecticut is also home to three other cities in the top one hundred towns with the highest negative equity in the country, including New Haven. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Caulkett has the potential to affect the many Connecticut residents with underwater second mortgages by providing a helpful alternative to foreclosure for resolving their mortgage troubles, according to the clinic.
     The Mortgage Foreclosure Clinic provides legal assistance to individuals who cannot afford private counsel. The Clinic has been representing homeowners fighting foreclosure in Connecticut since 2008. The Clinic has also filed amici briefs with appellate courts in several states and its members have testified before the Connecticut legislature on foreclosure policy.

Lexington's handling of homeless shelter to be investigated by U.S. Justice Department

March 23, 2015
An investigation into whether Lexington violated federal fair housing laws when the city revoked a permit for a homeless shelter has been turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice, according to documents provided to the Herald-Leader.
     Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent a letter to the city and those who filed the complaint that the case — under HUD investigation for two years — has been turned over to the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.
     The letter, dated March 10, doesn't say why the complaint has been referred to the Department of Justice. It only says HUD is authorized to refer any matter involving the legality of "any zoning or land use ordinance" to that agency for review. The letter is signed by Carlos Osegueda, the HUD regional director of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Westchester to pursue HUD for held-back grants

March 17, 2015
Westchester County wants a court order to prevent three years’ worth of federal grants tagged for local municipalities from being spent elsewhere until a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is decided.
     The county is challenging HUD’s authority to withhold or deny a number of annual grants due to what the department views as noncompliance with the terms of a 2009 affordable housing settlement. An appeals court ruled last month that the county could pursue legal action challenging HUD’s authority and seek $750,000 left from $7.4 million in 2011 grants that were largely redistributed outside the county by HUD.
     County lawmakers voted Monday to also seek what is left from grants withheld by HUD between 2012 and 2014 and to prevent the department from giving any of the money to other programs before the case is ruled upon.

Utah lawmakers introduce bill balancing religious freedoms and nondiscrimination protections

March 11, 2015
Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Utah came together March 4 to publicly support a bill that provides robust religious freedom protections while also extending protections for LGBT people in areas of housing and employment.
     Other community leaders, including senior representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attended the conference and spoke in support of Bill 296, titled “Anti-Discrimination and Religious Freedom Amendments.”
     The LDS Church issued a brief statement as the press conference began.
     “The principle that we have urged legislators to address is that of fairness for everyone. In a society which has starkly diverse views on what rights should be protected, the most sensible way to move forward is for all parties to recognize the legitimate concerns of others. After a considerable amount of hard work, we believe that the Utah legislature has wisely struck that balance,” according to the statement.

Five Chicago housing providers sued over alleged discrimination against the deaf

March 10, 2015
The disability advocacy group Access Living is suing five Chicago housing providers for allegedly violating of the federal Fair Housing Act by discriminating against people who are deaf.
     Access Living, in partnership with Kirkland & Ellis LLP, filed the five housing complaints -- based on "fair housing tests" that paired deaf and non-disabled testers -- in federal court on Tuesday.
     "It's hard enough for people with disabilities to find accessible, affordable housing," Access Living's President and CEO Marca Bristo said at a news conference to announce the complaint filings. "But when people with disabilities face discrimination by housing providers, the struggle to find housing becomes exponentially more difficult."

Property owner sues Hillsdale, planning board over denial of proposed sober home

March 10, 2015
A property owner hoping to operate a home for recovering alcoholics in her two-family dwelling is suing the borough for discrimination after the planning board denied her application.
     Donna Lally, who owns the home at 150 Magnolia Avenue, alleges in her civil complaint that the planning board and borough violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against handicapped citizens — the four residents who would occupy the proposed sober home.
     The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark on Monday, alleges that the planning board did not recognize the four men who were recovering from alcohol addiction as a “family unit,” which would allow the application to conform to the district’s residential zoning. The board also “improperly” denied a use variance for the sober home, according to the complaint.
     “My clients’ intentions fit within the definiti

Disabled Santa Monica tenants get their parking revoked, Authorities say

March 10, 2015
A pair of disabled apartment dwellers in Santa Monica who already fought off their landlords' attempts to take away their parking are now facing the prospect of having their spots moved to tandem spaces that aren't close enough to their units, the Santa Monica City Attorney's Office says.
     The tandem spots, of course, would also mean that one of the tenants would have to come out and play musical cars if her vehicle is behind her neighbor's. One of the tenants has been in her unit since 1982; the other since 1995. Both are protected by Santa Monica's famous rent-control ordinance.
     The City Attorney's Office this week announced that it's taking the owners of the building on Seventh Street to court over this parking situation.
     The suit alleges violation of the city's anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. Assistant City Attorney Gary Rhoades told us that the city's anti-discrimination ordinance as it applies to folks with disabilities mirrors state law.

Can towns ban a disabled soldier's pit bull?

March 03, 2015
Although Wayne Tibbett still has the utmost respect for the U.S. military, his nine-month deployment in 2009 to Afghanistan left indelible marks.
     He remembers evacuating the bodies of wounded and dead compatriots.
     "One of (the medical evacuations) contained three of my (battle) buddies who were wounded and the other one contained my company commander who was actually killed," said the 27-year old who currently lives off-post in Felts Mills, New York, and is stationed at Fort Drum military base.
     About a year later, an Army doctor diagnosed Tibbett with post-traumatic stress disorder. To this day, he still experiences fear and anxiety, especially in crowded places.

Bank of America pays $155,000 in settlement of MN discrimination claim

March 02, 2015
Bank of America has settled a loan discrimination case with a hearing-impaired Minnesota woman for $155,000.
     Kathryn Letourneau of North Branch filed a complaint in 2012 with the Human Rights Department claiming that, due to her disability (a hearing impairment), she'd asked Bank of America to communicate with her solely through email on a $140,000 loan modification. At first, the bank complied with the request, but eventually stopped and then denied the loan modification.
     The Minnesota Department of Human Rights had determined probable cause in the case, finding that "Bank of America’s denial of the loan modification was attributable to Bank of America’s refusal to reasonably accommodate the deaf customer’s request to communicate by email," the department said.
     While denying that it discriminated against Letourneau, Bank of America agreed to pay $145,000; two-thirds to Letourneau and one-third to her attorney, Gilbert Law. Another $10,000 goes to the state's Dispute Resolution fund.

Coldwell Banker settles discrimination allegations with Massachusetts

February 19, 2015
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage reached a settlement with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Wednesday over allegations that it discriminated against renters with children.
     The real estate company will create new anti-discrimination policies and some of its agents will be required to attend fair housing training. The company also will pay approximately $17,500 to the Commonwealth, including $5,000 for the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
     The settlement follows allegations that Coldwell Banker agent Matthew Gore posted rental ads on Craigslist that discouraged families with children from applying.


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