Ocwen faces federal lawsuit alleging neglect of foreclosures in black, Hispanic areas

In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, fair housing activists accuse Deutsche Bank, Ocwen Financial Corp. and Altisource Portfolio Solutions of purposely neglecting foreclosed homes in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

“The poor maintenance of homes in communities of color resulted in these homes having wildly overgrown grass and weeds, unlocked doors and windows, broken doors and windows, dead animals decaying and trash and debris left in yards,” the National Fair Housing Alliance said in a statement.

Related: Advocacy group says Ocwen neglected foreclosed homes

The National Fair Housing Alliance is joined in its suit by 19 housing organizations across the country, including the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches in Lantana.

The suit is just the latest allegation of unsavory practices by West Palm Beach-based Ocwen (NYSE: OCN), a company that collects mortgage payments on behalf of lenders, and spinoff Altisource Portfolio Solutions (Nasdaq: ASPS). The new federal suit mirrors allegations housing activists made last year in a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

To illustrate what it calls racially unequal practices, the National Fair Housing Alliance’s HUD complaint pointed to a foreclosed house in a black neighborhood in Boynton Beach. A photo taken in 2016 featured dead grass, lopsided plywood covering a front window and a red flip-flop cast onto the front lawn.

Photos of homes in other Palm Beach County neighborhoods show broken windows, damaged gates, spray-painted interiors and yards strewn with old tires.

By contrast, a foreclosed home in what the National Fair Housing Alliance called a white neighborhood in Royal Palm Beach had a well-maintained lawn and no plywood.

Even after housing activists complained to HUD, Deutsche Bank, Ocwen and Altisource didn’t improve maintenance of properties in black and Hispanic areas, said Vince Larkins, president and chief executive of the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches.

“Basically, the response we got was that they did not want to do anything to repair the damage in the communities, which is unfortunate,” Larkins said.

In a statement Thursday, Ocwen disputed the allegations in the suit.

“We strongly deny the National Fair Housing Alliance’s allegations, and believe they lack credible evidence and have no merit,” Ocwen said. “The company will vigorously defend itself against these allegations. Ocwen cares about communities, and is committed to equal maintenance and marketing of bank-owned homes no matter where they are located in the U.S.”

The National Fair Housing Alliance says photos of Deutsche Bank foreclosures reveal “a stark pattern of discriminatory conduct.” 

The group said the lawsuit is the result of an investigation it started in 2010.

Larkins said neglecting homes creates a ripple effect, dragging down values of surrounding properties.

“We’re talking about basically robbing communities of color,” Larkins said. “Whole communities are stripped of wealth by these actions.”

Ocwen has been the subject of consumer complaints and regulatory actions for years, with perhaps the biggest blow coming in April, when 20 states told the company it no longer could take on new business in their states. Shares plunged on that news.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in

Treat your pearly whites to a sonic clean
Treat your pearly whites to a sonic clean

I’ve been brushing my teeth this week with the Swedish made Foreo ISSA 2, which the company touts as the world’s first silicone sonic toothbrush. It takes only an hour to charge, which is said to last for up to 365 uses before another USB charge is needed. Obviously, I haven’t used it that long, but after a few weeks, it’s running...
Stanford, Berkeley boost female computing grads
Stanford, Berkeley boost female computing grads

More and more women are getting computer science and electrical engineering degrees from the Bay Area’s two elite universities, a goal U.S. colleges have been pursuing for decades. But in the midst of the #MeToo era’s focus on sexual misconduct, harassment and gender discrimination in tech, some of these young women say they’re worried...
What’s the best way to speed up your computer?
What’s the best way to speed up your computer?

At the gym recently, a friend asked me for some advice about choosing a new computer. He asked what was the “one thing” he should look for when picking his next computer. Of course, there are dozens of decisions about various features you should pay attention to when computer shopping, but I knew he wasn’t in a position to write down...
Finding the cause of vanishing disk space

Q: My Windows 7 laptop has been steadily losing hard disk space as new data is stored on it from a source that I can’t determine. The amount of stored data has been climbing at a rate of about 270 megabytes per day for nearly five months. I haven’t added anything to the PC but recommended updates and a few spreadsheets and text files. I...
Sports tech firm Stats looks to bring A.I. to the broadcast booth
Sports tech firm Stats looks to bring A.I. to the broadcast booth

CHICAGO — When a baseball announcer rattles off your favorite player’s batting average with two outs and runners on first and third, he’s not pulling that figure from the back of his mind. There’s a good chance that timely information was provided by Stats, a Chicago-based sports data and technology company. Stats, which gathers...
More Stories