Program Helps Renters Hurt by Foreclosure

Program Helps Renters Hurt by Foreclosure

The foreclosure crisis and subsequent financial fallout for homeowners have been headline news for years now. But a less visible aspect of the crisis has quietly emerged — the plight of renters whose landlords are facing foreclosure.

Real estate investors flooded the market during Baltimore’s housing boom in the early to mid-2000s, and during the bust, many of these investors-turned-landlords could no longer afford the mortgages.

Data from Baltimore Housing and the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance show that in 2010, an estimated 42 percent of the foreclosure starts in Baltimore were for investor-owned residential properties. This trend has increased in the first quarter of 2011.

Thanks to federal and state laws passed in 2009 and 2010, tenants of foreclosed property generally have the right to stay for 90 days after the sale date, or for the duration of their lease.

This gives tenants more time to secure a new home and make arrangements for moving, while preventing another vacant property from contributing to neighborhood blight. Unfortunately, many tenants are not aware of these rights, but a group of local and national nonprofits and philanthropies are working to change that with a new marketing campaign.

Getting the word out

Last month the Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition — based at the Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative, a project of the Maryland Philanthropy Network — launched a citywide campaign directed at tenants of foreclosed property.

The "Landlord Foreclosed? Renters Have Rights!”campaign kicked off with a press event featuring U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack” Young. It includes bus ads, television and print stories, and a public service announcement from Young.

The goal of this campaign is to let renters know that they do not have to vacate their home immediately and that free nonprofit legal assistance is available through the Public Justice Center. The Open Society Institute’s Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative supports the campaign, and the Public Justice Center is a key partner and legal services provider.

A unique collaboration

The Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition and the Rental Housing Coalition have been working together for over two years on this issue through the Renters and Foreclosure Committee. Activities of this group include outreach to city residents, data collection, and discussions with local stakeholders such as real estate agents and foreclosure attorneys.

Program officers at the Abell Foundation are active participants in the committee, volunteering both their time and expertise to the cause.

Baltimore is ahead of the curve with this unique collaboration. A representative from the National Center on Homelessness and Poverty who recently sat in on a meeting of the Renter and Foreclosure Committee commented that no other place she had visited had as sophisticated and comprehensive an effort as Baltimore.

We can take pride in knowing that funders and nonprofits are working together to empower some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

If you are interested in learning more about the Renter and Foreclosure Committee, please contact Committee Chair Beth Harber at


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