ACTION Presses Legislation Against Predatory Land Contracts

By Brianna Gleghorn
Jambar Contributor

Legislation is being written to protect renters and buyers from predatory land and rent/lease-to-own contracts.

These contracts are marketed to buyers or renters who are unable to get a loan or have bad credit. Through these contracts, they can make every payment on time but still lose their home.

Members of the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, including the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation have been protesting predatory land contracts in Youngstown.

Elder Rose Carter, executive director of ACTION, has been working on passing this legislation along with other members of the organization.

“We want an enforceable ordinance passed and code regulations enforced by the city,” Carter said.

Carter said cities like Toledo, and more recently Cincinnati, have enacted legislation protecting renters or buyers from being stuck in unfair land contracts or unexpectedly losing their home.

According to Lucas County, where Toledo is located, a website certificate is required when filing a land contract and failure to comply with this requirement the owner will be fined.

Ian Beniston, executive director of YNDC, said land contracts are not all bad.

“We’re not saying land contracts are bad,” Beniston said. “They need to be more fair.”

In an average scenario, an investor will buy a home for $5,000 and rent it to someone with low credit who wouldn’t be able to get a loan. Theoretically, the renter could make all their payments on time, but if they default on one payment the owner can both keep the money and repossess the home.

Any issue with the property would usually be up to the owner to fix but in lease-to-own situations, the renter is forced to pay thousands of dollars to repair the property. These renters have no legal protection if anything were to happen to the house or if the owner were to foreclose.

Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, acting chair and associate professor in the department of politics and international relations, said she felt the land contracts targeted certain groups of people.

“These predatory land contracts target poor people and people of color,” Jackson Leftwich said. “Do they really need targeted even more?”

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and others met on July 2 to go over the predatory land contract initiative and work over the details of the legislation.

“We won’t have a written draft for another week,” Carter said.

For help on how to get out of a potentially predatory land contract, please contact Community Legal Aid at (330) 362-8350.