By Margaret Chadbourn
WASHINGTON, April 10 A nonprofit group on
Tuesday filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S.
government accusing Wells Fargo & Co. of a failure to
maintain foreclosed homes in minority neighborhoods compared
with those vacant properties it owns in white areas.
The complaint was filed by the National Fair Housing
Alliance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
"We found that with Wells Fargo, there was a neglect of
simple things -- a lack of routine maintenance and security of
the property -- that just didn't happen in African American and
Latino neighborhoods across the board," said Shanna Smith,
president of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
The complaint stemmed from years of investigations by the
group, which advocates for minorities on housing issues, into
how major lenders maintain and market bank-owned properties in
various real estate markets across the nation.
In its complaint filed with HUD, the group said that in an
independent investigation it completed on foreclosed properties
owned by Wells Fargo, disparities existed in the maintenance and
marketing of vacant homes for sale in minority neighborhoods
compared with those homes in white neighborhoods.
A spokesperson for HUD declined to provide any comment on
the group's complaint.
Tom Goyda, a Wells Fargo spokesman, said in a statement that
the institution "conducts all lending-related activities in a
fair and consistent manner without regard to race, and this
includes maintenance and marketing standards for all foreclosed
"Regrettably, the complaint does not include specific
property information that can allow us to investigate the
circumstances in any of the markets they list," he said.
Wells Fargo said that when it is responsible for a property
it has a department that conducts monthly inspections, completes
maintenance work and secures and winterizes homes. In other
instances, the bank may service the loans, but the investors who
own the mortgages handle the maintenance and sale of their
properties after foreclosure.
The nonprofit group evaluated foreclosed properties owned by
Wells Fargo in eight cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Dayton,
Ohio, Miami, Oakland, California, Philadelphia and Washington,
D.C. They looked at 218 foreclosed properties owned by Wells
Included in the survey were 149 properties located in
neighborhoods occupied by minority groups, of which 99 that were
in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, while the
remainder were populated in mostly white communities.
The group used various statistics from its investigation to
allege that properties in white communities were taken much
better care of. For example, the group said that 56 percent of
the foreclosed properties surveyed in the minority communities
had substantial amounts of trash piling up, compared with 30
percent of Wells Fargo foreclosures in white neighborhoods that
had the same problem.
"I was just astonished by how poorly maintained so many of
Wells Fargo properties were," said Smith. "When you drive
through some of these neighborhoods of color, you would just be
stunned by the overgrowth of weeds, often there's no for-sale
sign in front of the house, some look completely abandoned."
In a report released by the group earlier this month, they
faulted the banking industry for discrimination in the care and
maintenance of foreclosures, and offered evidence of disparity
in how banks keep up properties and market them in white
communities compared to properties in black and Latino