A home should be a secure place. A home should be a place that protects you. So how can making a few minor repairs, which should ensure that safety, end up putting homeowners in danger of losing their whole house? In the late ‘80’s, an increasing rate of home improvement fraud put vulnerable homeowners in our community in exactly that position. As long ago as 1989,St. Ambrose recognized the need for access to civil justice and the above article tells that story.
The following is an excerpt from an article in “The Evening Sun” published on December 5th, 1989.
St. Ambrose agency helps battle shady contractors by Nancy Pick
“Helen Willett was almost forced to pay $8,000 for seven leaky windows and a door.
But St. Ambrose Legal Services, which specializes in fighting unscrupulous home improvement contractors, intervened and negotiated the price down to $2,300.
‘I won’t have that worry any more,’ said Willett, a bakery worker who lives with her ailing mother in a South Baltimore rowhouse.
Since the legal services agency was launched in July 1988, it has looked into more than 100 cases of alleged home improvement fraud in Baltimore.
Typically the contractors charge outrageous fees for shoddy work, and often prey upon elderly women who live alone. The victims put their homes at risk, unknowingly signing a second mortgage to finance the repairs.
The legal services staff resolves some complaints itself, while farming out the more complex cases to lawyers who have volunteered to handle them for free.
Because the agency is funded by the Maryland Legal Services Corp., it is limited to helping low-income people. The current income ceiling is $23,200 a year for a family of four.
The non-profit MLSC provides legal representation in civil case to people who otherwise could not afford it.
St. Ambrose Legal Services was founded in wake of major home improvement fraud in the Baltimore area, including one scheme that led to a class-action lawsuit by nearly 500 low-income homeowners.”