By Curtis Black
August 11, 2011
A Lawndale activist who was arrested Tuesday while calling on Bank of America to follow the law – and fix code violations in foreclosed properties – has posted her comments at Action Now’s blog.
“I was in shock,” says Marsha Godard, 52, a mother and a Bank of America account holder. “How can my own bank arrest me for trying to speak to them about vacant properties that are in my neighborhood and all over the city of Chicago?
“Bank of America is not only ruining the lives of homeowners, the safety of communities and America’s economy, they are now arresting people like me that question their destructive actions.”
Godard was attempting to present the bank with a list of over a hundred code violations at foreclosed properties where it is legally responsible – quietly waiting for bank officials to take the list, while Action Now members protested outside, she says – when the bank called police and had her arrested and charged with criminal trespass.
Talking with Huffington Post, Linda Koch of the Illinois Bankers Association questioned the constitutionality of a new ordinance holding banks responsible for vacant properties during the foreclosure process. “The only way we are and should be responsible is if we are the actual owner and have title to the property,” she said.
That’s precisely the loophole banks have too often tried to exploit – and the city’s new vacant properties ordinance is designed to close.
As Newstips reported in January, “the Woodstock Institute has identified thousands of units of housing where foreclosure has been filed but not concluded, raising concerns that they’ve abandoned the process.”
Loan servicers “may choose to reduce the costs associated with a long-term vacant home by walking away from the foreclosure process instead of completing it or may avoid maintaining a vacant home,” according to a Woodstock report.
Woodstock estimated that the abandoned homes could cost the city as much as $36 million for legal, security, police, and demolition expenses.
HuffPost suggests problems result when “families in foreclosure [are] simply walking away from their homes.” But that’s the intended outcome when banks file for foreclosure. (In rental buildings, tenants are often illegally evicted.)
It’s up to banks to complete the process and take possession. When they don’t – and when they don’t secure properties — it’s the banks that are walking away.
Last week an Action Now staffer was checking on vacant foreclosed properties and found a fire set in a building where neighbors reported people had been going inside. Braden Listmann called it in and two firefighters were injured responding to the blaze, the Tribune reported.
That building was an “in-limbo” property, Listmann told Newstips; JPMorgan Chase had filed to foreclose on it over two years ago.
JPMorgan Chase failed to secure the property.
Godard returned to Bank of America on Wednesday, intending to close her account with the bank, and was barred at the door. Protests at the bank continue, with another scheduled for Friday, August 12, 10 a.m., Adams and LaSalle.
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