Category Archives: Housing

Massachusetts HomeCorps Program

I recently rediscovered this article in the National Consumer Law Center’s Consumer Impact Newsletter about the early stages of HomeCorps.  The article is from the Spring 2013 newsletter, and on page 8, describes the Massachusetts HomeCorps Program as a “small battalion [of legal services attorneys that] has been deployed to stop foreclosures in their tracks.”

Starting in 2012, I was one of the 18 attorneys hired to advocate for homeowners, tenants, and consumers facing foreclosure-related issues.  We are housed in legal aid agencies across the state of Massachusetts with cases from various counties.  We advocate on behalf of our clients on a vast range issues like housing, consumer rights, debt collection, mortgage issues, tax lien cases, property lien cases, and loan modification issues.

HomeCorps and legal services was one of the most fantastic, humbling, fulfilling, exciting, and challenging jobs that I have ever had.  I truly loved working with my colleagues and clients.  After three years with HomeCorps and legal aid, I have started the next chapter of my life and moved to Washington DC to pursue an LL.M. at the Georgetown University Law Center.

As the Massachusetts HomeCorps Program continues to grow with the National Consumer Law Center, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, it will be interesting to see how it evolves and adapts to fit the needs of communities!

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In memory of a community lawyer, leader, and brilliant mind

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog post.  Yesterday, Dave Grossman passed away after a hard fought battle with cancer.

He was an inspiring attorney who touched so many lives with his community lawyering, Harvard law teachings, and brilliant mind.  When I was in Boston Housing Court or at Bank Tenants Association meetings, he would always let me ask him questions and run legal arguments by him.  He would always give me such insightful answers.

He brought so many people together and helped so many lives through his work with City Life Vida Urbana, the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and more.

Funeral services will be at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward St., Newton on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 11:30 AM.  The obituary is available here.

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Excellence in the Law Awards

Earlier this evening, I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Excellence in the Law Awards hosted by the Mass Lawyers Weekly and the Massachusetts Bar Association.  This wonderful event was held at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in Boston.  The room was packed!

In addition, my colleague, Jane Edmonstone, received an “Up & Coming Lawyers” Award given to impressive attorneys who have practiced less than ten years.

Below is a picture of Amy Romero, Faye Rachlin (Deputy Director), Jane Edmonstone, and me representing the Community Legal Aid contingent at the dinner.

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Legal Aid Legislative Briefings at the Massachusetts State House

Earlier this week on Monday, February 10th, I spent the morning at the Massachusetts State House for the 13th Annual Civil Legal Aid Constituent Services Briefing.  Legal aid advocates from across the state spoke to leaders, aides, and state house staffers about issues that impact people.  Specifically, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation brought in attorneys to focus on unemployment, the impact of the American Care Act on health care, housing, foreclosures, homelessness, domestic violence, and government benefits.  I have included a few pictures from the morning below.

Weyonnoh Nelson-Davies, Mehda Makhlouf, and I answering questions at the Community Legal Aid table at the State House.

Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Mehda Makhlouf, and I answering questions at the Community Legal Aid table at the State House.

Mehda Makhlouf talking about Medicare, Medicaid, MassHealth, Commonwealth Connector, and other health care items.

Mehda Makhlouf talking about Medicare, Medicaid, MassHealth, Commonwealth Connector, and other health care items.

Marc Potvin, from Neighborhood Legal Services, informing others about foreclosure law.

Marc Potvin, from Neighborhood Legal Services, informing others about foreclosure law.

Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies speaking about government benefits.

Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies speaking about government benefits.

In addition to meeting legislative staffers from offices based out of Worcester and Hampden County, I met Christine Lee who is a reporter for Channel 22 News.  I would just like to note that she was a lawyer before she became a journalist.  Follow her on Twitter at @christinenews .

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Case Blurb: U.S. Bank v. Edna and John Schumacher

U.S. Bank National Association v. Edna and John Schumacher is scheduled for oral arguments in front of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) on Thursday, November 7th.  If you want to watch the live streaming of the oral arguments, Suffolk Law has a webcast available here.  Suffolk Law also archives webcasts in case you are not available at the exact time the video is real-time broadcasted.

U.S. Bank v. Schumacher is a post-foreclosure case that was originally argued in the Worcester Housing Court before it was transferred sua sponte from the Appeals Court to the SJC.  In the Worcester Housing Court, Judge Sullivan ruled in favor of U.S. Bank.  Mr. Schumacher was originally represented by the Alliance for Affordable Housing.  When Mr. Schumacher appealed, he obtained legal representation with Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center.  U.S. Bank was originally represented by Harmon Law Offices.  U.S. Bank is currently represented by Nelson Mullins in the SJC matter.

In this case, Mr. Schumacher argues that the foreclosure is void because the Bank failed to fully comply with M.G.L. c. 244, sec. 35A.  Pushing for strict compliance of the statute, the Appellant emphasizes that the right to cure letter that was mailed to him did not state the name of the mortgage holder of record.  In contrast, U.S. Bank argues that substantial compliance is enough.  Through out Massachusetts, the courts are split on the interpretation of this particular law.

In addition to the appellant and appellee briefs that were filed, several amicus briefs were submitted in support of both sides.  For the Plaintiff/Appellee U.S. Bank, the Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts (REBA) and the Abstract Club wrote a combined brief.  For the Defendant/Appellant Mr. Schumacher, Community Legal Aid, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office submitted three separate briefs.  The docket and electronic versions of the amicus briefs are available here.

In addition, Brandon Gee at Mass Lawyers Weekly recently published an article titled, “SJC to Consider Foreclosure Sale Notice Mistakes,” regarding the U.S. Bank v. Schumacher case.  The publication is available here, but you will need a subscription to access the full article.  Gee wrote in the piece:

[I]n an amicus brief submitted in support of the defendant-appellant, Community Legal Aid Inc. says the mistakes being made are more than mere technicalities and that strict compliance must be required.

Community Legal Aid attorneys Allen Acosta, Sora J. Kim and Uri Y. Strauss argue in the brief that one of the purposes of the notices was to allow the Division of Banks to develop a database to track foreclosure activities by particular lenders, brokers and servicers. Even if a mistake identifying the players has no practical impact on individual foreclosures, it undermines the monitoring effort, the organization contends.

Community Legal Aid says mistakes are widespread and varied and have included notices that list incorrect telephone numbers, that have been sent to the wrong people, that have identified the wrong mortgage, and that have included the incorrect amount of money required to cure a default.

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NCLC Consumer Law Conference Nov. 7-10, 2013

I want to draw your attention to the National Consumer Law Center‘s (“NCLC”) Annual Conference scheduled for November 7 to November 10th in Arlington, Virginia.  NCLC is well known for their extensive guidebooks on consumer law ranging from topics about student loans to foreclosure law to credit reporting.

The organization just released the agenda for the Consumer Law Conference and the program is filled with hot topics about class actions, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) regulations, maximizing damages, loss mitigation, litigating debts, and much more.  A full schedule with speaker bios and panel names is available here.  If you want to register for the NCLC Conference, click on this link here to access their website.  NCLC will also offer, for an additional fee on top of the regular registration fee, a one day symposium at the end of the conference on either bankruptcy for distressed homeowners or class actions in consumer law.

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April is Fair Housing Month

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, “fair housing” is specifically geared towards federal laws and policies that ensure people have equal access to housing of their choice.  Read more about fair housing at the Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) website.

In honor of fair housing month, I am posting about two different conferences:

  1. Worcester Fair Housing Conference on Saturday, April 6th from 8:30am to noon.  The event will be at the Worcester State University – Ghosh Science Center (486 Chandler Street, Worcester, MA).  You can register for the free event here.  There will be three different panels.  The first panel is about the legal framework of housing discrimination, the second panel is about knowing your rights as tenants, and the third panel is about landlords/homeowner concerns.
  2. 2013 Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference on Thursday, April 11th from 8:00am to 5:00pm and on Friday April 12th from 8:30am to noon.  The event will be at the Springfield Marriott (2 Boland Way, Springfield, MA).  You can register for the free event here.  There is a list of workshops and hot topic presentations available here.

I will definitely be attending the Fair Housing Conference in Worcester.  I hope to see you there!

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Housing, Land, Probate Court Dockets Available Online

Almost as if it happened overnight, Massachusetts Housing Court, Land Court, and Probate Court dockets are now available online.  Check it out at this website: http://www.masscourts.org/

The online resource is especially helpful for checking client case file schedules.  However, to access the actual physical filings you will have to go to the courthouse because the contents of the files are not available online.

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Two Days in Pictures

If I were to describe the past two days of my life in pictures, it would look a little like this.

This picture sums up my Wednesday.

Then, on Thursday…

I had an early morning meeting in Boston. This is the view from the very tall office building.

From left to right: Lonnie Powers (Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation), Martha Coakley (Attorney General of Massachusetts), David Rosenberg (Of Counsel at Englander, Leggett & Chicoine, P.C.), Justice Ralph Gants, and Willard Ogburn (Executive Director of the National Consumer Law Center).

I had the pleasure of hearing and meeting Attorney General Martha Coakley.  She spoke about the foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts and legal aid.

“Lawyers are nothing more than advocates. We speak for the people.”
~Martha Coakley

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Case Blurb: Henrietta Eaton v. Federal National Mortgage Association

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court released their long-awaited Eaton v. Fannie Mae decision on June 22, 2012.  For months now, former homeowners and their attorneys anxiously awaited the SJC’s final decision and remarks on whether a foreclosing entity requires possession of both the mortgage and note.  The Court held that moving forward, Banks and foreclosing entities require possession of both the mortgage and the note in order to properly transfer title and foreclose.  While it helps homeowners in the future, this may leave anyone who faced foreclosure prior to decision in a lurch because this new case law is not retroactive.

The specific holding for the case reads:

For the reasons we discuss herein, we conclude as follows.  A foreclosure sale conducted pursuant to a power of sale in a mortgage must comply with all applicable statutory provisions, including in particular G. L. c. 183, § 21, and G. L. c. 244, § 14.  These statutes authorize a “mortgagee” to foreclose by sale pursuant to a power of sale in the mortgage, and require the “mortgagee” to provide notice and take other steps in connection with the sale.  The meaning of the term “mortgagee” as used in the statutes is not free from ambiguity, but we now construe the term to refer to the person or entity then holding the mortgage and also either holding the mortgage note or acting on behalf of the note holder.  Further, we exercise our discretion to treat the construction announced in this decision as a new interpretation of the relevant statute, only to apply to foreclosures under the power of sale where statutory notice is provided after the date of this decision.  We vacate the preliminary injunction and remand the case to the Superior Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The Boston Globe published an article on the case which is available here.

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