A housing court judge ruled Thursday that Nafeesah Abdullah McReynolds-El could be evicted by the contract-for-deed company that owns her home--even though she had been told her sheriff sale was delayed until January 2014. Nafeesah faces a summary judgment hearing Tuesday, and after that could be evicted in as little as 24 hours.
After a medical condition forced Nafeesah Abdullah McReynolds-El to cut back on work, she struggled to make ends meet, sometimes delaying medical treatments or doctors appointments in order to pay the bills. The family survived in this precarious condition, from time to time running into problems with the mortgage company or back taxes with the city, until Nafeesah’s husband lost his full-time job and the family slid into foreclosure.
Since working with Occupy Homes MN, Nafeesah’s lender, Midlands Mortgage, delayed her sheriff’s sale until January 2014 to enter into negotiations with the family. Nafeesah could afford to pay for her home if the mortgage company lowered her monthly payments. Thinking things were starting to get better, Nafeesah was shocked when she received an eviction summons because of delinquent payments on her contract for deed.
For twenty years, Nafeesah wrote two checks: one to the mortgage company and one to a third party owner of a contract for deed. When the mortgage company stopped taking payments, which is standard process during a foreclosure, Nafeesah stopped paying her contract for deed as well. She intended to work out a payment plan with the contract for deed owner, who had personal connections to the family.
During this time, the contract for deed on Nafeesah’s home was sold to Northern Value Group, LLC. Nafeesah only owed around $8,000 on the contract; she was about $2,000 behind. Northern Value LLC immediately terminated the contract-for-deed, and prepared to evict Nafeesah and her family. Unlike foreclosures, a contract-for-deed has a two-month redemption period, meaning Nafeesah needed to hand Northern Value Group $8,000 cash virtually on the spot. Northern Value LLC never offered Nafeesah the option to make reasonable payments on the contract.
“I have offered to pay them three times the normal payments to get caught up,” said Nafeesah. “When I talked to the lawyer, he told me frankly, ‘they don’t want your monthly payments, they want to flip your home.’” On Thursday, a Hennepin County judge confirmed that Northern Value LLC had the right to carry forward with an eviction. When Nafeesah goes to court on Tuesday, she could be ordered to leave her home that day.
Contract for deed agreements have a notorious and dubious history as being an efficient vehicle to swindle poor people out of their homes. “I know from Minnetonka, where their office is located, Northern Value LLC might think my neighbors’ homes in South Minneapolis are real estate gambling chips, but they’re mistaken,” said Occupy Homes organizer, local elementary school teacher, and neighbor Chris Gray. “I’m tired of seeing gentrification rip apart the fabric my community, people of color kicked out so faceless rental agencies from wealthy suburbs thinking they can run venture-capitalist real estate schemes in my community.”
Nafeesah is ready and willing to make increased payments to pay off the contract for deed while she is negotiating with her mortgage company to get a modification. “I live in the Eviction Free Zone, where nine homeowners facing foreclosure are organizing neighbors to fight for our community’s right to have a say in what happens to our homes,” said Nafeesah, “Northland Value LLC bet on the wrong horse. They saw a free lunch. They were wrong. I’m not moving, and hundreds of my neighbors stand with me.”