Judge denies Bank of America’s motion to dismiss in critical fair housing lawsuit
Court rejects defendants’ arguments that foreclosed properties are not covered by the Fair Housing Act
July 19, 2019 — Yesterday in Maryland, a federal judge denied (read the decision) motions by Bank of America and Safeguard to dismiss a fair housing lawsuit concerning housing discrimination against communities of color. The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center joined the National Fair Housing Alliance, 18 other private fair housing organizations, and two Maryland homeowners in filing a lawsuit in June 2018 against Bank of America, N.A., and Safeguard Properties Management, LLC—alleging that Bank of America and Safeguard intentionally failed to provide routine exterior maintenance and marketing at Bank of America-owned houses in African American and Latino neighborhoods in 37 metropolitan areas, while consistently maintaining similar bank-owned properties in comparable White neighborhoods.
“This is a significant decision in the case,” said MVFHC President/CEO Jim McCarthy, “and we stand ready to continue litigation on behalf of our African American neighborhoods in the Miami Valley. Bank of America and Safeguard need to be held responsible for the neighbor destablization their discriminatory actions have caused. The residents of these neighborhoods deserve better.”
The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation undertaken by MVFHC and its partners, who examined more than 1,600 Bank of America-owned houses in White, African American, and Latino neighorhoods.
More than 35,000 photos document the relevant routine exterior maintenance conditions of the properties. In neighborhoods of color, plaintiffs found evidence of consistently poor exterior maintenance, such as wildly overgrown grass and weeds; unsecured doors and windows; damaged steps and handrails; accumulated trash and debris; unsecured pools; grafitti; and even dead animals decaying in yards.
In response to the lawsuit, Bank of America and Safeguard filed a motion to dismiss the case. Judge Catherine Blake ruled against Bank of America and Safeguard and in favor of the plaintiffs on every challenge. Judge Blake held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged disparate impact, that all of the plaintiffs have standing, that there was no statute of limitations with respect to the alleged claims, and that the court has specific jurisdiction.
The judge also found that the plaintiffs satisfied the proximate cause challenge and, importantly, found the defendants’ arguments insufficient as to every section of the Fair Housing Act that was pled by the plaintiffs. In doing so, the judge rejected the defendents’ ill-based arguments that foreclosed properties are not for sale or rental and that maintenance is not sufficiently “housing related” to be covered by the Fair Housing Act.
“Bank of America and Safeguard must make substantial changes to their policies and practices and must make the communities they have harmed whole,” said Lisa Rice, CEO & President of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Their inaction and refusal to maintain properties in communities of color has created a dangerous and harmful environment.”
Summer 2019 newsletter now available
Download our Summer newsletter!
The latest edition of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center’s newsletter is now available to download.
The newsletter has information about Celebrate THE MOVEMENT 2, National Fair Housing Alliance 2018 Trends Report, and Best Fair Housing Practices for Marketing Apartments.
To receive new editions of the newsletter via e-mail, become a MVFHC member.
Previous news items are available here.
Resources and useful links
If you shop at Amazon.com, did you know that by shopping instead at smile.amazon.com you can direct 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice?
MVFHC is an eligible charity, and we’d appreciate your support. Designate MVFHC as your Amazon Smile charity today.
Copies of special reports such as Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice released by local jurisdictions as well as other reports done by MVFHC on zoning and predatory lending are available on the reports
HomeOwnership Center of Greater Dayton
The Home Ownership Center
is a non-profit organization that empowers local residents to achieve and sustain homeownership and financial success. They’ve helped thousands of individuals and families meet their homeownership goals through a variety of services offered at low or no cost. You can reach the HomeOwnership Center at 937-853-1600
Fair Housing webinars
In conjunction with the Greater Dayton Apartment Association, MVFHC is offering one-hour fair housing webinars on the second Wednesday
of every other month in 2018 (odd months). For more information, visit our GDAA webinar page
Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST
is an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that promotes compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements. Visit www.fairhousingfirst.org
for instruction programs and useful online resources.
Additional Landlord/Tenant info
Also, if you are a landlord or a tenant wanting information on your rights and duties under Ohio law, the Dayton-Montgomery County Ombudsman's Office has a page about landlord/tenant issues
Mobile Home Park residents
rights and responsibilities
A booklet outlining your rights and responsibilities when renting mobile homes or lots in mobile home parks is available on the Ohio Legal Services website
Equal Housing Opportunity usage guidelines
on the usage of the "Equal Housing Opportunity" logo and slogan are available online in the Services/Reference section.
Fair Housing Advertising Word and Phrase List
A word and phrase list
intended as a guideline to assist in complying with state and federal fair housing laws is available online in the Services/Reference section.
Reasonable Modifications and Accommodations
Have questions about what your rights or responsibilities are under the federal Fair Housing Act for persons with disabilities? Now available online in the Services/Reference section are joint statements from the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development that explain reasonable modifications
Service Animal Policy
A Service Animal Policy
is now available available online in the Services/Reference section. The policy explains what service animals are and how they are a reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Act and also provides practice guidelines for housing providers
and for tenants
is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. To learn how you can save money in your home, visit www.energystar.gov