Photograph by Marshall Clarke
“No one wants to listen to you if you don’t have the education or the money.”
So says PJC client Judy Curtis, who nearly lost her home when her landlord entered foreclosure.
The bank wouldn’t talk to her. Ms. Curtis had called U.S. Bank about the notices ordering her to leave the home she had rented with her two children in Pasadena, Maryland, since 2007.
Sent in December 2010, one notice advised her that she must “immediately vacate, quit, and surrender possession” although she may have other rights. The other told her to leave by March 23, 2011.
It didn’t matter that she paid her rent every month.
It didn’t matter that she had moved her kids here to get them out of an unsafe neighborhood.
And apparently, it didn’t matter to the bank that the law required it to provide a notice to vacate of at least 90 days if it wanted her to leave.
In early January, U.S. Bank asked the Court to evict Ms. Curtis immediately.
But Judy Curtis is a fighter in the best sense of the word. “I don’t let the things that happen to me destroy me,” she says.
She found the Public Justice Center, and attorneys Matt Hill and Ronnie Reno represented her.
She drew strength from her family, friends, church, and co-workers at Jessup Elementary School.
The Court ruled in favor of the bank, but victory came on appeal.
The Maryland Court of Appeals found that U.S. Bank’s notices were “confusing and ineffective” to comply with the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. Judy Curtis and her children would not be thrown out immediately. They would have time to find a new place to live.
“Thank God for Mr. Hill,” she says. “He’s my angel.”
The victory extends beyond the Curtis family, too. The Court’s ruling affirms the rights of tenants to receive clear, accurate notice from foreclosure sale purchasers, like the bank. The ruling puts banks on notice that they cannot scare tenants out of their homes with misleading notices.
Yet the story isn’t over. People like Ms. Curtis do eventually have to find new places to live if their leases expire and the foreclosure sale purchasers decide to sell the home. And we know how hard it is to find a good place on a limited income when landlords let houses fall into disrepair or when someone wants to move into a healthy neighborhood, but the landlord won’t rent to people with Housing Choice vouchers.
The world is not often kind to low-income tenants.
You can help.
With your gift to the Public Justice Center, you help ensure that tenants are not wrongly evicted.
You hold landlords accountable for the condition of their property.
You bring the voices of people like Ms. Curtis to the Maryland legislature.
You help tenants, community organizers, and the PJC come together to push for housing that is fair, affordable, habitable, and accessible.
With your gift, you are building a society where banks and landlords must respect the needs and rights of low-income tenants like Judy Curtis.