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The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has announced that it is charging three Modesto, Calif. home loan modification companies and nine of their agents with violating the Fair Housing Act by targeting Hispanic homeowners for illegal or unfair loan audit and loan modification assistance because of their national origin. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing transactions, including those related to home mortgage loans, because of national origin.
“Families struggling to stay in their homes need real help, not false promises that make a bad situation worse,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to take appropriate action against individuals and companies that victimize unsuspecting homeowners because of where they come from or the language they speak.”
HUD’s charge of discrimination alleges that The Home Loan Auditors LLC; Century Law Center LLC; SOE Assistance Center Inc., and their agents lured struggling Hispanic homeowners into paying thousands of dollars for home loan audits that the homeowners never received and modification services that had little, if any, value. The companies allegedly exploited the homeowners’ limited-English proficiency and used deceptive marketing in Spanish, at times making false representations, in order to mislead them. Ultimately, the homeowners lost their properties due to foreclosure.
HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainants for their loss as a result of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest. If the case is heard in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the complainants.