YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Valley lawmaker is taking aim at a potentially predatory lending practice — land contracts.
State Sen. Michele Lepore-Hagan’s proposed law would prevent extremely run-down homes from being sold as land contracts.
“A growing number of dishonest firms are using this agreement to trap trusting buyers into predatory situations,” she said.
Problems include land contracts in condemned homes, being sold for ten times their value with hefty fines attached.
Dozens of homes in Youngstown are owned by national land contract companies. Many of them are uninhabitable but the companies are still making money off the properties.
“They require the occupant to make all the repairs. They charge interest rates well above market, sometimes in the double digits. We’re seeing grossly inflated prices,” said Ian Beniston, with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.
The new law would require appraisals and cap annual interest rates that landlords can charge for the lease agreements. It also prohibits landowners from selling houses with code violations under lease-to-own agreements.
Pastor David Kamphuis, from Martin Luther Lutheran Church, said land contracts can be good for the community.
“I’m not against land contracts. I want more people to own homes because I want neighborhoods to be vibrant and life-giving. But they can’t be vibrant and life-giving when other people are preying on those who are most vulnerable.”
Rose Carter, with the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), said land contracts can be great.
“I’ve did land contracts in my life but we want to make sure that it is not a land contract…left without inspections, left without appraisals.”
Beniston agreed, saying land contracts can be another path to home ownership.
“We’re not saying that all land contracts are bad,” he said. “What we’re saying is they do need to be fair and just.”
The proposed law is modeled after other laws around the country.
There will be a community meeting on October 29 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Wilson Avenue for people looking to discuss the bill.