Orlando, Fla., June 27, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc., (CLS) has obtained a $4,595,000 consent judgment to compensate Hispanic landlords who were harmed by a firm of Miami attorneys claiming to provide loan modifications and foreclosure defense services to borrowers in financial difficulty.
CLS attorneys Jeffrey Hussey, Alicia Magazu, and Morgan Cardinal represented three families in a fair housing lawsuit against Advocate Law Groups of Florida, Jon B. Lindeman, Jr., and Ephigenia Lindeman (“Defendants”).
The Fair Housing Act (the “FHA”) is a federal law that prohibits housing discrimination against people in seven categories: race, national origin, color, religion, sex, marital status, and disability (states and counties also have fair housing laws that may cover additional courses). The FHA protects members of these classes from unequal treatment in real estate-related activities, including the act of interference with a person’s right to live in their home without discrimination.
This case began in 2014 when CLS originally filed fair housing complaints on behalf of Lucia Hurtado, Noemi Roman, Argentina Roque and their families with the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD). “When these families first asked us for help, I was so compelled by their stories that I had to find a way to seek justice from them,” said lawyer Alicia Magazu. “Because it was clear they had been targeted because of their national origin, I reported the activity to HUD.”
Upon completion of its investigation, HUD found a case and charged the defendants with discrimination in September 2018. HUD transferred the case to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which filed suit in the Central District of Florida. CLS intervened shortly thereafter on behalf of Lucia Hurtado, Noemi Roman and Argentina Roque (“Intervening Claimants”).
In their complaint, the intervening plaintiffs alleged that the defendants intentionally focused their loan modification and foreclosure defense services on Spanish-speaking borrowers and targeted them with false advertising. These ads promised to cut mortgage payments in half, suggested that nearly half of homeowners didn’t need to pay their mortgage because their bank had committed fraud, and dramatically increased the success rate of foreclosure defenses. defendants.
An agreement has been reached between the intervening plaintiffs and the defendants that includes immediate payments to the three intervening plaintiffs, judgment against the defendants, and a permanent ban on the defendants from providing mortgage relief assistance services, such as modifications loans or foreclosure defense services. The judgment also imposes reporting and record-keeping requirements for the defendants’ other real estate activities.
Across the country, owners and future owners will benefit from the results of this lawsuit. “This case sets a historic precedent that law firms and other loan modification assistance providers could be held liable under the FHA for interference with homeowners’ rights. This is an important tool to combat future scams targeting protected class members,” said Jeff Hussey, Director of Public Interest and Litigation at CLS.
“It has been a pleasure to represent these incredibly strong women,” said Morgan Cardinal, chief fair housing attorney at CLS. “It’s results like this that motivate us to fight for the right to fair housing for all Central Floridians.”
At Community Legal Services, we believe in legal aid for all. Everyone has the right to a lawyer. CLS’s service area covers twelve counties in central Florida and ranges from urban to rural areas. As a PILLAR in the community, our mission is to provide free legal services to Central Florida’s most vulnerable residents. Fair housing work at CLS is supported by funding through a grant from the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.