Mike the Mad Biologist

Maha Needs Your Help

Blogger Maha is one of my favorite political bloggers. She brings a unique perspective to politics, and her background is really interesting. Recently, like a lot of people, her income has been hit (although it seems to have bounced back a bit). Nonetheless, her co-op association is jerking her around, and essentially trying to steal all of the equity she built up in her home:

There it was, stuck on the door to my co-op apartment with chewing gum — a court summons. “Notice of petition to recover real property non-payment,” it said.

This had to be a mistake. Yes, I had gotten three months behind on my management fees — business was bad last year, and I hit bottom in February. But then my income picked up, and for five months I’d been sending the management company extra big checks to catch up. My last check, sent several days before, had paid off the entire previous balance, so that I owed only for the current month.

….Then I checked my mail. There was my check, for $1,609.55, returned uncashed by the management company. I was not to mail them checks, it said. I could send only certified checks to the co-op board’s lawyers.

This made no sense. My checks don’t bounce. The management company had been accepting my checks until then, and they’d all cleared the bank. Why were they being difficult?

I read the court summons. The lawyers had tacked hundreds of dollars of fines to what I owed. The debt I had thought I had whittled down to about $1,000 had suddenly blossomed up to nearly $4,000.

The next day I met with a lawyer, a guy with a long-established practice dealing with real estate law. His fee for representing me in court would eat most of the $1,609.55, but I felt helpless, surrounded by sharks. I couldn’t understand why the co-op board wouldn’t let me just pay off the debt, especially when I was so close. These people are crazy, I told the lawyer. I don’t want to deal with them….

Finally, a light dawned. No wonder the co-op board is trying to keep me from paying off the debt. If they can “recover” my apartment, that equity goes to the co-op corporation….

Apparently I still have to pay the hundreds of dollars in fines. And I have no assurance the co-op board will not continue to tack on more fines and haul me into court a few more times. I had been paying them every penny I could scrape together, and it wasn’t good enough. I sent a formal complaint to the state attorney general’s office, but I have not heard back from them. And tapping into the equity is not an option.

Here’s my situation: I had seen a light at the end of the tunnel. Now the tunnel is ten miles longer, and growing. I think the only way I can keep my home is to pay off the debt in one lump, so they can’t keep adding fines. I hate to keep asking for help, but I don’t see that I have a choice. So I’m rattling the tin cup, so to speak, and asking for donations. Please help me keep my home.

What Maha’s co-op is doing has a really sinister history: this strategy was used to screw over black people in the pre-redlining days (letting them supposedly build up equity, only to have the rug pulled out from under them). It’s nice to see that now everyone can be screwed over.

I know times are hard, but if you have the scratch, please help one of the great voices in the blogosphere.