For Immediate Release – May 30, 2017
Amy Nelson, Executive Director
Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana
Phone: 317-644-0673 x1001
FAIR HOUSING LAWSUIT ALLEGING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS OF COLOR FILED AGAINST INDIANAPOLIS RENT-TO-OWN COMPANIES
INDIANAPOLIS – Today, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) and four Indianapolis residents announce the filing of a federal class action lawsuit against Rainbow Realty Group, Empire Holding Corp., and James R. Hotka of Indianapolis, Indiana. The complaint alleges that the Defendants violated civil rights and consumer protection laws, including the federal Fair Housing Act, the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and Indiana landlord-tenant laws. The Defendants’ scheme involves almost 1,000 houses in Marion County, Indiana.
“The FHCCI has received numerous complaints about these Defendants and their rent-to-own scheme,” said Amy Nelson, Executive Director of the FHCCI. “We have found that people enter into the transaction believing they are achieving the American dream of homeownership only to discover a nightmare.”
The complaint alleges that Defendants have structured their rent-to-own scheme to saddle consumers with all of the disadvantages of renting and all of the disadvantages of buying, reserving all the benefits of both for themselves. It alleges that Defendants are fully aware of the terrible condition of their houses, but many of the serious problems cannot be discerned by prospective customers prior to contract. Defendants nonetheless vastly and unjustifiably inflate the sales price by 300%, 400%, even 500% when they sell a house through their rent-to-own program. Defendants will purchase a rundown house for $10,000, for example, and sell it without any repairs to an unsuspecting victim for $40,000. The complaint alleges that Defendants count on customers not knowing the true condition or value of their houses before they sign a contract.
In addition to inflated sales prices, Defendants strip what little wealth their customers have through exorbitant interest rates and high late fees. The complaint alleges that consumers sign contracts not just with a false impression of the quality of the house, but also with the false impression that they are entering into a typical house purchase with a typical mortgage. When they struggle to make the necessary repairs to live in their homes, Defendants offer them shoddy, overpriced repairs that are then incorporated into their monthly payments, again increasing the likelihood that the contracts will fail.
The complaint also alleges that Defendants intentionally target their predatory rent-to-own scheme at Marion County’s high-minority neighborhoods and minority residents.
“The FHCCI has interviewed dozens of people who put hundreds to thousands of dollars into their homes in the hope of getting their houses to a condition that was livable, depleting their finances, until eventually they were overwhelmed. They are then evicted, without any protection or recognition of the equity they had put into their homes,” continued Nelson.
The case has been filed in the US District Court, Southern District of Indiana. The Plaintiffs are represented by Glenn Schlactus, Laura Arandes, and Rob Friedman of Relman, Dane & Colfax.
A copy of the filed complaint can be found on the FHCCI’s News Page.
If you have entered into an agreement with the Defendants or believe you may have been discriminated against in a housing related transaction, please contact the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana at 317-644-0673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) is a private, non-profit fair housing organization founded in 2011 and based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Its mission is to ensure equal housing opportunities by eliminating housing discrimination through advocacy, enforcement, education and outreach. For more information, visit: www.fhcci.org
Part of the work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.