Sentinel Fair Housing Research Cited in New York Times

Sentinel Fair Housing’s research and presentation of data regarding common interest development foreclosures have been acknowledged as pivotal to the understanding of the seriousness of these issues and to policy change in the interests of California’s homeowners.

Sentinel was inspired to begin this research two years ago when a counselor received a call from a disabled man whose condominium home of 38 years was being foreclosed by his homeowner’s association because of an unpaid water bill. With the assistance of Sentinel’s fair housing counseling department, the caller kept his home and the case initiated Sentinel’s interest in the frequency and seriousness of complaints such as his.

Sentinel’s research surrounding this case ultimately led to a study of foreclosures in Common Interest Developments (CIDs), and revealed that more than 10% of all foreclosure filings were by homeowner association for relatively small amounts of money (under $2500). In addition, Sentinel found evidence that Latino and disabled individuals were being foreclosed at rates that were disproportionate to their representation as homeowners.

Finally, there was substantial evidence that the non-judicial process was being used in ways which were not originally visualized or anticipated by the legislation that permitted it. The Congress of California Seniors presented the results of Sentinel’s research study to the California Assembly Housing Committee Housing and Community Development Committee in its effort to have legislation passed to protect Californians from having their homes taken away without due process.

Their bill (AB 2289) was passed almost unanimously by both Assembly and Senate and was signed into law by Gray Davis (effective January 1, 2003). The measure provided for essential homeowner protections in the more than thirty-five thousand common interest developments in the state of California (300 of which are located in Oakland). Given the affordable housing crisis in communities throughout California and constant efforts to promote affordable homeownership, the bill was widely supported by senior, consumer, disability rights, and legal service groups, as well as nurses, realtors, and trustees for common interest associations.

Sentinel’s research was also cited in a July 26, 2003 New York Times article, “Homeowner Boards Blur who Rules the Roost” which explored the phenomenon of foreclosures by homeowner associations.