By Chris Horton
Twenty-four members and supporters of the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team (WAFT) recently gathered in front of the office from which ReMax realtor Tony Economou works at 179 Shrewsbury St.
Economou, a candidate for Worcester City Council, posted and mailed an illegal notice to a homeowner, just days after the auction in which the bank that she had been trying to negotiate with for a year purchased her house. We demanded he immediately stop these actions and give us the list of all addresses where he sent or posted these illegal and threatening notices, so we can notify them that they do not have to move and that the leaflet violated their rights. “In Massachusetts, where our neighbors do not have the right to a day in court before their homes are foreclosed, it is even more important that their rights to not be evicted except by the courts be honored,” said WAFT member Matthew Griffin.
“I know how devastating losing your home is, and like all the research shows, how hard it is on a family to be homeless,” said Christeen Friend, “But I joined the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team and found out my rights. When the wrong bank tried to evict me post-foreclosure, I fought them. In my case, they did not even know which bank owned the mortgage or the house post-foreclosure. So I fought and my child got to finish out the school year and we got a settlement.” She added: “Due to them illegally foreclosing I am still fighting to get my home back.”
“We are here today because we have had it with illegal behavior by the banks and their agents,” said Grace Ross, a WAFT member. “And we are here because we cannot afford – as residents, neighbors and as the City as a whole – to have any more of our houses emptied. This realtor is engaged in an intentional disinformation campaign to scare people out of their homes. It must stop.”
“I got this notice pinned to my door four days after the foreclosure and then mailed to me giving me ten days to move out or all my things would be declared abandoned and removed,” said the woman who brought this notice to our attention, who asked that her name be withheld. “Thank God, the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team came to my door. My heart was pounding. I had gotten boxes, terrified that at any moment the realtor would arrive to move my stuff out.”
The demonstrators presented Economou’s office manager with the demand that he stop posting illegal notices threatening victims of foreclosure, that he provide WAFT with the addresses where he has posted them so we could contact the occupants and set the record straight, and that he make public the letter from the foreclosing bank authorizing the illegal notices so we can take the fight to its source.
Mr. Economou has responded by email but has taken no steps to satisfy our demands, and we are considering what other actions can be taken.
We need to make this perfectly clear. If you are a tenant or former owner in a foreclosed property, and if you received a notice telling you that you must move right after foreclosure, it’s not true! You cannot be harassed or coerced out of your home. No one has the right to threaten your possessions, cut off your utilities, padlock your doors or touch your belongings until an eviction date set by a judge.
If you are a tenant the bank is pretty much required to let you stay, pay it rent and maintain the property until it is re-sold, and even former owners may be able to negotiate this right. But in far too many cases they are scaring former owners and tenants into panicking and abandoning their homes.