The complaints were the result of an investigation in which the housing groups said foreclosed properties in predominantly white areas were much better maintained than properties in predominantly African American or Latino neighborhoods. The groups examined more than 1,000 properties in Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Ohio, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Washington.
U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo have denied discrimination and questioned whether the properties that got failing marks were even their responsibility to maintain.
“In the vast majority of cases where U.S. Bank is involved in a foreclosure, we serve as a trustee for an investment pool where the former mortgage was held, and have no role in servicing or maintaining the property,” Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, vice president of corporate public relations, said in a statement. “When we do own a property, we have a strong and comprehensive process in place to regularly inspect and maintain properties to marketing standards where we have legal access, regardless of their location.”
Wells Fargo said in a statement that the bank “conducts all lending- and servicing-related activities in a fair and consistent manner without regard to race, and this includes maintenance and marketing standards for all foreclosed properties for which we are responsible. Regrettably, the complaint does not include specific property information that can allow us to investigate the circumstances in any of the markets they list.”
The properties examined by the housing groups were evaluated on a 100-point scale. Points were subtracted for routine maintenance issues, including broken windows and doors, unshoveled snow, overgrown lawns and trash on the property.
Although properties in predominantly white neighborhoods “were more likely to have neatly manicured lawns, securely locked doors and attractive ‘for sale’ signs out front, homes in communities of color were more likely to have overgrown yards littered with trash, unsecured doors, broken windows and indications of marketing as a distressed sale,” the report said.
The report noted that properties in communities of color were 42 percent more likely to have more than a dozen maintenance problems compared with properties in predominantly white neighborhoods. In many cases, the report added, the deterioration occurred while properties were under bank ownership and could be attributed to lender neglect.