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Mother of two wins foreclosure eviction case against U.S. Bank

August 20, 2012: In late December 2010, Judy Curtis received two notices simultaneously from U.S. Bank about a foreclosure on her rental home. Even though she was paying her portion of the rent each month, one notice advised her that she must “immediately vacate, quit, and surrender possession” although she might have other rights. The other instructed her to move out by March 23, 2011. Adding to the confusion, U.S. Bank submitted a motion in early January 2011 asking the Court to evict Ms. Curtis while asserting that it had the right to “immediate possession.” 

At that time, Ms. Curtis was employed as an Anne Arundel County teacher’s assistant and her two children were in the middle of the school year.  They were confused by the notices they received and unable to uproot their lives so suddenly from the Pasadena home that they had been renting with the assistance of the local Housing Choice Voucher program since 2007. Ms. Curtis retained the Public Justice Center to represent her in opposing U.S. Bank’s motion. Unfortunately, the Circuit Court decided in favor of U.S. Bank, and the case, Curtis v. U.S. Bank National Association, moved to the Maryland Court of Appeals.
 
Victory came on August 20, 2012, when the Court of Appeals found that U.S. Bank’s notices were “confusing and ineffective” to comply with the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. The PTFA requires any foreclosure sale purchaser to step into the shoes of the former landlord, and, if the purchaser wants the tenant to move out, the purchaser must provide the tenant a notice to vacate of at least 90 days. 
 
 The Court reasoned as follows:
 
"A tenant who chooses to stay in the face of such a notice and motion will be beset by uncertainty as to his or her immediate future in the residence.  This does not serve the PTFA’s goal of providing stability and adequate notice to tenants of defaulting landlord-borrowers…. In our view, under the circumstances of this case, it is not appropriate to find that a defective notice became effective through the simple passage of time.  The obligation to provide advance notice is a forward-looking requirement intended to allow the tenant to plan for the future.  Compliance should not be measured in hindsight, particularly when a misleading notice has never been corrected."
 
This significant victory affirms the rights of tenants to receive clear, accurate notice from foreclosure sale purchasers under the PTFA. It also helps ensure tenants’ right to security of tenure, which is essential to fully realizing the human right to housing.  
 
Ms. Curtis was supported by an amicus brief, emphasizing the human rights importance of the case, submitted by Maryland Legal Aid, National Housing Law Project, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Bay Area Legal Aid, Community Legal Services, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Ohio Poverty Law Center, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, and Florence Wagman Roisman. Ms. Curtis and the Public Justice Center offer sincere thanks to all.
 


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