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Tenant’s Rights: COVID-19 Fact Sheet

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions and resources for renters.

If you or someone you know is currently dealing with a landlord who is imposing self-help eviction or is not adhering to the executive order, call St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center for free legal advice and landlord-tenant counseling: (410)-366-8550 ext. 209.

  1. What is the eviction moratorium?
    1. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Larry Hogan has issued an emergency order (Executive Order 20-04-03-01), that prohibits Maryland courts from evicting tenants who can demonstrate they are suffering a financial loss due to COVID-19.
  2. What does this mean for tenants who are delinquent on their rent payments?
    1. A landlord can file for an eviction in court, however, because the Maryland court system is closed, the court system cannot process any open or recently filed eviction orders or cases. 
    2. Unfortunately, the eviction moratorium is a temporary fix and does not excuse tenants from paying rent. However, tenants who demonstrate their financial hardship can pay their rent at a later time.
  3. Examples of situations that demonstrate a tenant is suffering a financial loss due to COVID-19 (but not limited to):
    1. Diagnosed with or under investigation for COVID-19
    2. Lost or reduced unemployment benefits
    3. Needing to care for a school-aged child
  4. When will Maryland courts hear eviction cases?
    1. Even though the Governor’s office has not confirmed the end date for the eviction moratorium, the Maryland Courts will start to hear eviction, foreclosure, and “pay rent matters” on July 25th, 2020. Meaning, evictions can be issued once the courts open on July 25th, 2020. 
  5. What landlords cannot impose: self-help eviction
    1. Under the Maryland Code, Real Property, Section 8-216, landlords cannot use self-help methods to evict a tenant. Self-help eviction occurs when a landlord uses methods of intimidation to force the tenant to move out. These methods include: 
      • Cutting off utility services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable TV, and internet. 
      • Changing the locks so the tenant no longer has access to the property. 
      • Removing the tenant’s personal items from the property. 

Landlords CANNOT use methods of intimidation to evict a tenant. These methods include: Cutting off utility services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable TV, and internet, changing the locks, or removing the tenant’s personal items from the property. 

What renters can do:

  • If you were illegally evicted:
    • Call 911: 
    • File an emergency case:
      • “If you were illegally evicted, you may consider seeking legal assistance and filing a complaint in court against your landlord. Because the courts are only hearing emergency cases, the complaint should be filed as an emergency matter if you are trying to get back into the property.” Even though the court system is closed, the court has made an exception to hear emergency cases. 
      • During your time as an evicted tenant, you should keep track of all of the expenses you have accrued as a result of your illegal eviction. These expenses could include but are not limited to “hotel bills and lost property.”
    • Document communication with the landlord:
      • If you are experiencing COVID-19 related hardships that will affect your rent payments, you may consider writing a letter to your landlord. The letter would be part of a paper trail illustrating your situation and how your COVID-19 circumstance will affect your ability to pay rent. 
      • You may also consider keeping track of all of the communication between you and your landlord in regards to your COVID-19 circumstance. 
      • If the landlord agrees or disagrees to accommodate your financial situation, you should get that in writing.  
    • Call 211 for financial assistance:
      • If you are experiencing COVID-19 financial hardships, please call 211, text your zip code to 898-211 (service is only available to Maryland zip codes) or visit 211md.org for assistance. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and in over 180 languages. 

Conclusion

Under Executive Order 20-04-03-01, even if a tenant is unable to pay the rent, the landlord cannot evict their tenant.  Therefore, if a landlord uses self-help eviction methods in response to a tenant being unable to pay their rent due to their COVID-19 related financial loss, the landlord violated the executive order and imposed an illegal eviction.

Note: Once the courts open, it is unclear how the courts will respond to these unprecedented situations.

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If you or someone you know is currently dealing with a landlord who is imposing self-help eviction or is not adhering to the executive order, call St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center for free legal advice and landlord-tenant counseling: (410)-366-8550 ext. 209.

 

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Welcome Back, Grace!

Do you know Grace Parker?

Grace first came to St. Ambrose as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) from 2015- 2016. Grace returned to St. Ambrose as an Intake Coordinator and Housing Counselor from 2017-2018. Today, Grace rejoins the team as a Senior Housing Counselor!

“I am so happy to be back at St. Ambrose. I am proud to be a part of an organization that does such great work in Baltimore. As a Housing Counselor, I enjoy helping people buy their first home in Baltimore and experience Homeownership.”

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A Path Toward the Future

Stephen is a 23 year old young man who was born and raised in East Baltimore, Maryland. As a preteen, Stephen started exploring the City on his own and found himself making bad decisions about the direction of his life. Being a very private person who guards his family story and traumatic experiences close to his heart, Stephen knew he had to make some serious life changes. 

As a result of sleeping in his car for almost a year and a half, Stephen’s friend mentioned that St. Ambrose may be able to help. The path towards his future began with him being accepted into the Host Home Program at St. Ambrose. The process was a smooth transition for Stephen because it provided him a place to stay with a much higher level of comfort. He currently lives with a Host Home provider in West Baltimore with another associate of the St. Ambrose family. Today, Stephen is learning to become a professional driver.

If you are considering hosting a youth in your home, this is Stephen’s message to you: “I would like for people to have respect, faith, and patience with the youth and try to understand where they are coming from. Home to me is a place where you KNOW you can go anytime; somewhere you feel safe and comfortable.”

Interested in becoming a Host? Looking for new opportunities? Our Homesharing Department has been working throughout COVID-19 so that individuals and families alike can achieve security and stability while maintaining their health and safety.

To learn more, contact Homesharing at St. Ambrose today by calling 410-366-8550 ext. 248.

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One Day at a Time

Jasmines’ story is one that resonates with many inner city youth.

Jasmine Garland, 20, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland and has spent the majority of her life living in East Baltimore. Jasmine’s mother was not present in her life and her father was very inconsistent in his role as her parent so, she often spent her childhood being cared for by her loving Aunt Barbara. As a teenager, Jasmine worked hard to graduate from Reach Partnership High School in 2017 and continued her education with Baltimore City Community College. However, life experiences dealt Jasmine several roadblocks which caused her to halt her educational pursuits.

During this time, Jasmine found herself homeless and living on the streets of Baltimore in abandoned houses. One day, she made the decision to seek help from the Joy Baltimore Program directed by Mr. Lonnie Walker. It was difficult for some to believe that she was homeless because of the way she carried herself; but it was all true. Mr. Walker then introduced Jasmine to St. Ambrose. At the moment, Jasmine admits that this was the happiest she had ever been! She was about to finally be off the street and living in a home, which was an accomplishment Jasmine hadn’t imagined possible. Unfortunately, tragedy came knocking at Jasmines’ door and she learned that her dear Aunt Barbara had passed away. She would now be faced with living her life without the one person who had always been her guide. But Jasmine tried her best to move forward.

The grief and loss began to settle in and Jasmine started to become more and more depressed. At times, Jasmine found herself in a room where everyone was there to celebrate her accomplishments, but she still felt alone. St. Ambrose stepped in to provide therapeutic intervention and Jasmine decided to continue services to address those feelings of grief and loss, one day at a time. During this period, St. Ambrose helped Jasmine connect with a home provider who welcomed her into their safe place that she could call home.

Since then, Jasmine has transitioned from the home sharer’s home to a more independent St. Ambrose program call Hope House. Hope House houses youth (18-24) who need more than the 90 days that the Host Home Program offers to prepare them for long-term sustainable housing. Program participants live in one of our two Hope House properties and receive case management services from St. Ambrose staff. In Hope House, Jasmine shares a home of her own with one other Youth participant.

“The process was very difficult for me because I had to get used to living with other people and calling the house ‘my home’. When I was living in an abandoned building, I isolated myself from everyone, and I was comfortable that way.”

Jasmine’s message to those considering sharing their home is simple:

“If you allow someone to move into your home, please take the time to get to know the person and set clear rules and expectations. We, as youth, need guidance and structure, not indifference.”

Interested in becoming a Host? Looking for new opportunities? Our Homesharing Department has been working throughout COVID-19 so that individuals and families alike can achieve security and stability while maintaining their health and safety.

To learn more, contact Homesharing at St. Ambrose today by calling 410-366-8550 ext. 248.

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Welcome New Staff

Please join us in welcoming Angela Robinson as St. Ambrose’s Senior Property Manager at Aigburth-Vale!

“I chose to come to St. Ambrose because of the outstanding reputation this organization has for helping Baltimore residents with housing assistance, support for First-Time Home Buyers, and much more.

I have been the Chaplin for Franklin Square Hospital for 9 years, helping with Pastoral Counseling and also have been the Chaplin for The Baltimore City Police Department for 5 years. I enjoy serving Baltimore community residents in all aspects.”

Welcome to the St. Ambrose family, Angela!

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Welcome New Legal Services Summer Intern!

We have a new addition to the St. Ambrose team! Please join us in welcoming Shereen Ibrahim as one of our new Legal Services Summer Interns.

“I am a student from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The legal fields I am interested in are environmental, constitutional and national security law.

I chose to clerk at St. Ambrose because I want to use my legal abilities to assist members of underserved communities navigate property decisions. As a law clerk, I will be assisting clients with their foreclosure process, review landlord and tenant issues, and prepare wills and deeds. Serving underprivileged communities is one of my ultimate goals as a attorney and being a law clerk at St. Ambrose is a great first step in my legal career.” -Shereen

Welcome to the team, Shereen!

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A Message of Hope

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears. Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by thy might led us into the light keep us forever in the path, we pray.The Negro National Anthem

It was a tense time! We were in national crisis, and we didn’t know how we could ever move forward. A black man was dead, our inner-cities were in the midst of a housing and economic crisis, we were engulfed in a foreign war, and people young and old, took to the streets in protest. The year was 1968 and the murdered man was Dr. Martin Luther King, and many of us felt like we had lost all hope.

In the past weeks, our country and the world have been witnesses to the brutal murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, confounded by the killing of Breonna Taylor, and felt the shame and sting of the blatant, weaponized, racist attack on Christian Cooper. For many of us, the events of the last few weeks have made us feel like we have come full circle – our communities dissected, our families destroyed, and our people crying out for justice.

Just over fifty years ago, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center was created with the Civil Rights Movement as its backdrop. Our mission is to create and maintain equal housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income people, primarily in Baltimore City, and to encourage and support strong and diverse neighborhoods. We believed then that treating all people with respect and dignity was our responsibility and their opportunity to move forward. We believed our engagement with our community could help eradicate the systemic racial injustice that plagued our country. These beliefs are as true today as they were in 1968, and though we have accomplished much over the past fifty years, this week we are reminded that there is more to work to be done.

As we consider the events of the past month and walk through the days and weeks ahead, let us support each other as family, then turn outward and help our community. Let us commit to ensuring that the values and work for which St. Ambrose was created continues. And together we will march on till victory is won.

Yours in solidarity,

Gerard Joab, Executive Director
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Welcome New Staff!

We have a new addition to the Homesharing staff here at St. Ambrose! Please welcome Laura Bullock, Youth Homesharing Case Manager.

“I chose to come work at St. Ambrose because I believe in the mission which aligns with my personal commitment to support individuals in obtaining and maintaining adequate housing to prevent homelessness. I am motivated to give back to my community because I believe individuals can change when they have the support, guidance and resources they need to draw on their own strengths and abilities to move towards a pathway of healing.”

“The purpose of human life is to serve, to show compassion, and the will to help others.”- Albert Schweitzer

Welcome to the St. Ambrose family!

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Welcome New Staff!

The St. Ambrose family is growing! Please join us in welcoming one of the newest additions to the St. Ambrose team, Curtis McNeil.

Curtis is one of St. Ambrose’s Youth Homesharing Case Managers.

“I believe in the redemptive quality of human beings and the quote that I try to live by was said by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘We will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friend’. That is why I chose to come work with St. Ambrose because it provides me the opportunity to not only be a voice in course correction, but to be an avenue for the course which a person may take.”

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Are you a First-Time Homebuyer (FTB)? These Frequently Asked Questions are for you!

April is National Fair Housing Month!

As a HUD-certified Housing Counseling agency, St. Ambrose has the responsibility and privilege to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 protects individuals from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. “Housing, like food and water, is an essential basic need. Fair housing laws are in place to ensure everyone has equal opportunities to access appropriate affordable housing. This process in action doesn’t occur in a vacuum. For more than 50 years, St. Ambrose has assisted Baltimore and surrounding areas in making safe, affordable homes a reality for its residents,” said Erin Broussard, Deputy Director of St. Ambrose.

HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Anna Maria Farias, addresses the recognition of Fair Housing Month amidst the current Coronavirus pandemic.“I invite all of you to join me in using the occasion of Fair Housing Month to renew our commitment to the principles of justice and equality, beginning with our response to discriminatory policies and practices associated with Covid-19.”

FAQ’s

Are there incentives for FTB?

Yes. Many incentives are provided by local and state housing agencies. We can help you navigate the details and requirements to obtain many of the FTB incentives. Click here to visit the Maryland Mortgage Program: www.mmp.maryland.gov, which provides information on home loans, financial incentives and other assistance options for many homebuyers.

Do you think it’s a good time to buy a house in the current economic climate?

If you feel financially stable and have 3 to 6 months of living expenses saved, the current housing market could be a great opportunity to purchase. Mortgage rates are low, sellers may need to drop sale prices in order to make quick sales, and there is less buyer competition.

While the status of the housing market depends on how bad an outbreak an area is suffering, most markets are feeling some sort of hit. “The Coronavirus is leading to fewer home buyers searching in the marketplace, as well as some listings being delayed,” says Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors®. Conversely, here at St. Ambrose, our Real Estate program has been amazed at how active the market is during this crisis!

Bottom line: With fewer buyers in the marketplace, there is less competition plus the added benefit of historically low interest rates.

Will mortgage rates increase?

Based on a prediction from Freddie Mac and other housing authorities, rates will continue to hover around 3.32% for the next 90 days. Forecasts for 2020 say rates will average around 3.7%.

For instance, rates could bounce between 3.3% and 4% all year, and you’d get an average of around 3.7%. But when you lock in your rate during that range is important.

Still have questions? Please contact St. Ambrose’s Housing Counseling program at 410-366-8550 ext. 249.

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Thinking about adding somebody to your deed? Here are a few things to think about.

The St. Ambrose Legal Services Department often receives calls from Marylanders who have been advised to add a relative’s name to the deed for their house. It is a common misconception that this is the only way to ensure that a house passes to a family member after the owner’s death. In fact, there are several more ways to ensure that your loved ones receive your home after you pass away.

At St. Ambrose, we help clients prepare three different documents that help secure clients’ property for the next generation. Take a look below for an explanation of these documents and their benefits and risks.

1. Will

The simplest way to ensure that your house transfers to your family members after you die is to write a will. The will specifies who is to receive your home after you pass away – it can be one person or multiple people.

Benefits: Writing a will is a quick, easy way to make your estate plans legally binding. Will appointments at St. Ambrose are free and they typically take less than an hour. Wills also cover other property like your physical possessions (cars, clothing, jewelry, etc.) and money in your bank accounts.

Drawbacks: After you pass away, somebody will have to open an estate on your behalf. An estate is the legal entity that represents a person who has passed away. Your family members may have to pay money to open your estate after you pass away. Additionally, if you die owing debt (credit card debt, medical debt, etc.), those creditors may file a claim into your estate. All claimed debts that are allowed by the Orphans’ Court must be settled before any assets, like your house, can be given to the person or people that you designated to receive them in your will.

2. Joint Tenancy Deed

You can also have a deed prepared where you add one or more people as “joint tenants with the right of survivorship.” This means that once the deed is filed, you become a co-owner of the property along with whoever else you have added.

Benefits: This ensures that whoever you have added to the deed remains an owner of the property after you have passed away. There is no need for anybody to open an estate for your co-owners to retain ownership of the property. If you pass away owing any debts, your creditors will not be able to place a new lien on your property after you die.

Drawbacks: You lose a certain amount of control over your property by filing this kind of deed. If you want to sell the property and a co-owner does not agree, you will not be able to sell without filing a lawsuit. Also, if a co-owner gets sued and loses, a lien could be placed on your property and you could be forced to sell it even if you are alive and living in the property. You will also have to pay fees to your local jurisdiction to record a deed.

3. Life Estate Deed with Powers

This is a special kind of deed that allows you to keep your ownership of the property during your lifetime and specifies a person or people who automatically receive the property after you pass away – these people are called “remainders.”

Benefits: After filing a life estate deed with powers, you keep full ownership of your property during your lifetime. This means that you can sell it, take out a loan on it, refinance a loan on it, or anything else that you were already able to do with the property. If you still own the property at the time you pass away, your remainder(s) automatically take title to the property after you die. There is no need to open an estate for the property to transfer ownership. If you pass away owing any debts, your creditors will not be able to place a new lien on your property after you die.

Drawbacks: You will have to pay fees to your local jurisdiction to record a life estate deed. Also, if you want to change who is the remainder on the deed, you will have to have a new deed prepared and recorded. If your remainder dies before you do and you do not change the life estate deed before you die, then your property will go to your remainder’s legal heirs.

If you would like any of these documents prepared for you or have any other estate planning questions, please call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8500 extension 209.

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What happens when you can’t pay the mortgage? A forbearance explainer

During the current public health emergency, many homeowners are facing difficulties making their regular mortgage payments on time. Here are some things to consider when it comes to forbearance agreements and managing your mortgage in general:

If you can afford it, try to continue making your mortgage payments.

There are a lot of mixed messages being shared about whether or not you should continue making housing payments. The truth is, the best thing for your financial future is to continue to pay your obligations if you have the means to do so. While it is true that some protections are in place for consumers during the pandemic, it is safer (and easier) to continue meeting your obligations until circumstances change. If you have to make tough choices, remember to take care of urgent needs (food, medicine, shelter) first whenever possible.

If you cannot afford to make your payment, contact your mortgage company ASAP.

Public assistance programs in the United States almost always require the recipient to request them. Assistance from your mortgage company is no different. The sooner you contact the mortgage company, the sooner you will be able to begin the process of applying for help. Some servicers are currently only requiring a few button presses to be entered into temporary assistance programs. Even then, make sure you keep a record of what day and time you applied. Also keep track of any information you may have provided to your mortgage company, in case questions arise at a later date.

What is a Forbearance Agreement?

With a forbearance, you and your mortgage company agree to temporarily suspend or reduce your monthly mortgage payments for a specific period of time. This option lets you deal with your short-term financial problems by giving you time to get back on your feet and bring your mortgage current.

If your mortgage company indicates that you are approved for a Forbearance Agreement, try getting it in writing.

When you are approved for a forbearance, try to get a in writing (or via email), if possible. If getting it in writing isn’t possible, record the time and date of the approval, as well as the name of the person you spoke with (if available). A Forbearance Agreement is NOT necessarily the mortgage company allowing you to “skip” payments, it is an agreement to allow you to make those payments at a later date in some form or fashion.

After the Forbearance Agreement ends, you may need to submit more information.

Some mortgages will allow the missed payments to simply be added to the end of the loan. Others may require you to apply for a loan modification once the forbearance period is over. Even if you “heard” from someone (including a mortgage company employee) that the missed payments will be automatically added on to your loan, it is best to be prepared in case you need to provide more information in the future. During your forbearance, keep detailed records of your finances (bank statements, tax returns, and paystubs- if you are still being paid) and be sure to open any mail you receive, especially from your mortgage servicer.

If you require assistance with any stage of this process, Housing Counseling Help is available. 

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center remains open and available to counsel individuals having difficulty paying their mortgage through our Foreclosure Intervention Counseling Program. Our counseling services are free of charge and available to all residents of the state of Maryland who need our assistance. Email us at intake@stambros.org or call us at 410-366-8550 ext. 249.
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New video: Three things to know about paying rent during a pandemic: Information for Renters during COVID-19

St. Ambrose Staff Attorney Tim Darby talks about what renters need to know about Maryland’s current eviction laws and what they mean and how to have effective conversations with landlords.

As always, if you are having trouble dealing with your landlord, or have any other questions regarding housing law, please call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209.

Legal Services at St. Ambrose copy 2

The COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak has caused a lot of uncertainty for all Marylanders, particularly renters like Tim. If you are struggling to pay your rent in Maryland there are three things that you should know. Watch the video here.

  1. First, open and honest communication with your landlord is very important. Unless your landlord tells you otherwise, you still have an obligation to pay rent during this period of time. If you think you might not have rent money by the due date, get in touch with your landlord and explain what’s going on. They might be able to work with you to establish a payment plan or defer your rent payment to a later date, though it’s important to note that they are not legally obligated to do so. If you do work something out with your landlord, make sure to get it in writing.
  2. Even if you do not pay rent, your landlord can not legally evict you right now. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, landlords could not legally evict tenants without going through the court system and then paying the local sheriff’s office to conduct the eviction. Landlords can NEVER legally evict tenants without the help of the local sheriffs office. The governor of the state of Maryland has issued an order halting all residential evictions for the duration of the State of Emergency. We do not know when this State of Emergency will end. This means that right now, your landlord cannot legally force you out of your home, even if you have not paid rent or if you have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  3. Lastly: If you do miss a payment, you will still owe that money to your landlord, even though they cannot evict you right now. Our state court system is currently running limited operations, and every county and Baltimore City is handling matters differently. However, once your local district court opens up to rent court hearings, trials may be scheduled for those who have not paid their rent. If you get to this point, you are liable for unpaid rent and also maybe fees and court costs. If you do not have this money by the hearing date, your landlord may be able to begin working with the sheriffs office to schedule an eviction.

The most important thing to know is that your landlord CANNOT force you to leave your rental property during this state of emergency. If you are having trouble dealing with your landlord, or have any other questions regarding housing law, please call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209.

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Foreclosure fears? Ten tips from Staff Attorney Tim Darby, Esq.

Many Marylanders are facing the threat of foreclosure due to loss of income because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. The St. Ambrose Legal Services Department has compiled the following tips for what to do if you having trouble making mortgage payments:

  1. Ask for help from a housing counselor or pro bono attorney as soon as you realize you are in financial trouble. The sooner you ask, the more likely you are to get the necessary support to resolve the problem.
  2. Stay in contact with your mortgage servicer so that they are aware of your situation. Your servicer may offer you a forbearance, meaning that they will suspend your obligation to make monthly payments for a certain period of time. Once that period of time ends, you will resume making your normal monthly payments. If you are upfront and transparent about your financial situation, your bank will better understand your needs and interests.
  3. Open all of your mail, promptly. Don’t assume you already know what’s inside.
  4. Know that the foreclosure process in Maryland takes many months from beginning to end. Many people are frightened when they start receiving mail about a foreclosure action. Take this seriously but know that your lender has to take several steps through the court process before you are legally obligated to leave your home.
  5. Know that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the court system is not processing any foreclosure cases and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, our state supreme court, has suspended all evictions.No evictions may legally take place at this time. Once the court system opens back up foreclosure proceedings will resume as normal. You still have an obligation to make mortgage payments unless your servicer tells you otherwise in writing.
  6. Do not pay fees for services to assist you with your financial situation when the service is available for free. Thoroughly investigate anyone who is charging you for financial services and what they are doing for the fees.
  7. Do not take advice from friends, neighbors, or family unless they are trained in financing.
  8. Understand your responsibilities under the debt obligation. A deed of trust is part of a mortgage agreement. A deed is the document that signifies ownership of a piece of real estate.
  9. Know your rights and don’t sign any contracts unless you fully understand the document. You may be offered a forbearance or deferment during this time, but make sure you understand the full implications of this sort of arrangement before agreeing to it.  
  10. Do not think the problem will just go away. If you cannot afford your house, start considering what next steps you will take in order to find a new living space.

The threat of foreclosure can be intimidating, especially in light of the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. However, being informed of your rights and responsibilities can make the process easier. Going through a foreclosure doesn’t mean losing everything. If you remain informed and proactive throughout the process you’ll be able to salvage the maximum amount of your investment. Find help, resolve the problem, and look ahead to life beyond foreclosure.

Call St. Ambrose for free legal advice and foreclosure counseling: 410-366-8550 extension 209.

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Navigating Legal Challenges in the Wake of COVID-19

The current COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a host of uncertainties in nearly every aspect of personal and public life across the state. St. Ambrose Legal Services is here to work with you to achieve clarity and confidence in challenging times. If you or anyone you know is in need of legal services, contact us today: legal@stambros.org.

Here are some of the questions our legal services team is addressing now:

Q: I recently lost my job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What resources are available to me?

A: You may file for Unemployment Insurance benefits through the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. You can do so online at http://www.mdunemployment.com or via telephone at 1-877-293-4125 or 410-853-1600.

Q: I am afraid that I will be evicted from my house. Can that happen right now?

A: All foreclosure proceedings in Maryland are currently stayed. That means that no foreclosure case will process through the court system until further notice. Additionally, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, our state supreme court, has suspended all evictions whether the property is owned with mortgage or rented from a landlord. Even in cases where evictions were previously authorized, Baltimore City and County have suspended evictions from taking place.

Q: Am I getting a check from the government?

A: The federal government recently passed the CARES Act, which will send money directly to millions of Americans. The Internal Revenue Service will use information from your 2018 or 2019 tax return to determine whether you are entitled to direct payment and the amount that you will receive. If your address has changed since filing and you do not have a direct deposit set up, you will need to contact the IRS to inform them. One way to do this is to call the IRS at 800-829-1040 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

The Treasury Department recently stated that people receiving Social Security benefits will not need to file a tax return and will automatically receive either a paper check via mail or a direct deposit into a bank account.

If you have not filed taxes for 2018 or 2019 and receive income beyond Social Security benefits, you should file your 2019 taxes as soon as possible.

Q: I cannot afford to make my mortgage payment this month. What should I do?

A: The first thing you should do is contact your mortgage servicer and explain the situation. Your servicer may offer a forbearance, meaning that they will suspend your obligation to make monthly payments for a certain period of time. At the end of a forbearance, you will continue making the same monthly payments as before.

Q: I cannot afford to make my rent payment this month. What should I do?

A: You should contact your landlord and explain what is going on. They may offer to work with you on a payment plan or suspend your obligation to pay rent for a period of time. Your landlord CANNOT legally evict you without utilizing the services of your local Sheriff’s office.

Q: What should I do if I cannot afford to pay my utilities?

A: BGE has suspended all service disconnections and late payment fees until at least May 1 and will be working with customers to establish payment arrangements and identify energy assistance options. For further information, contact BGE at 800-685-0123.

Both Baltimore City and Baltimore County have suspended water shutoffs for failure to pay.

Could I be evicted_

Q: I have not paid my property tax. Can my property still go to tax sale?

A: Yes. The 2020 Baltimore City has been delayed, but may still occur this year. The 2020 Baltimore County tax sale is scheduled to take place in early May. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR HOME IMMEDIATELY AFTER IT IS SOLD AT TAX SALE. Even after a property is sold at a tax sale, the owner has a right to pay what is owed (possibly along with fees) until at least six months after the tax sale.

Call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center for more information at 410-366-8550 extension 209.

Q: Can I still vote in the upcoming elections?

A: The Special Congressional District 7 Election (to replace Rep. Elijah Cummings) will be held exclusively by mail. If you live in the District and you are registered to vote, expect to receive a ballot in your mailbox in early April. In order to have your vote counted, if must be filled out and returned, postmarked on or before April 28, 2020.

The 2020 Primary Election will take place on June 2, 2020 from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm. Early voting will be open from Thursday, May 21 to Thursday, May 28.

Please keep up to date with the State Board of Elections as these dates and procedures are subject to change.

Q: What should I do if I need further assistance or receive a document that I do not understand?

A: You should contact the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209.

Q: Will any of this information change?

A: Maybe. This information was compiled in early April and all information is subject to change. Call the Legal Service Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209 with any questions you may have or to confirm that any of this information is still valid.

Featured

A Match Made at Home

Ms. D. and Ms. L. were first matched in 2009 and have been Homesharing together for 11 years!

A Homesharing Case Manager with St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center met with Ms. D. to begin the process of finding her perfect Homesharing match. In the next few days, Ms. D. met a couple of potential homesharers but in 2009, she decided to choose Ms. L. to share her home with.

Even though Ms. L. had already had one stroke, she was still able to take care of herself and remain independent. When a second stroke hit Ms. L., she was taken to a skilled nursing facility in order to regain her health. Ms. L.’s sister was unable to take care of her so Ms. D. made the decision to step up to the plate for her long-time friend who needed her help.

Ms. D. and Ms. L. were once strangers, now great friends. Ms. D. has been the primary caregiver to Ms. L. since 2012 and now the pair is inseparable. The two friends are also cross-country travelers venturing on trips to Connecticut, Delaware and even Las Vegas!

Ms. D. said, “Homesharing is an excellent program that provides companionship and someone to talk to and go places with. I’m retired now but am working part-time which is why Homesharing has been a wonderful match for me.”

Featured

A Survivor’s Story

Ms. C. is the epitome of a survivor.

Ms. C. has been taking care of others practically her entire life, which she has spent all of in Baltimore. She has 13 brothers and sisters, three biological children and four foster children who she later adopted. Ms. C. was a nurse for many years in the City but when her son became very ill and hospitalized with asthma related illnesses, she could no longer work.

“I have also been a very sick person. Open heart surgery, breast cancer, bladder cancer… but I try very hard to take care of myself. I asked God for the strength, and He gave it to me.”

Ms. C. first came to St. Ambrose for Homeownership Counseling in the late 1980’s when she was looking to buy her first home. She said, “It was very helpful!” She also contemplated the Homesharing Program at St. Ambrose but then decided she was going to adopt her then foster children. She has lived in her home now for well over 20 years! “God has always been there for me; especially after finding my home.” 

Unexpectedly, severe rain and debris began rushing in from a hole in Ms. C.’s roof which was filling her children’s bedroom with water. She knew she had to do something. That’s when she decided to reach back out to St. Ambrose and the HUBS Program (Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors) for help.

HUBS is a program through which legacy homeowners can age-in-place by accessing much-needed home repairs and modifications to ensure housing stability for themselves and for future generations. Delays in processing requests for public home repair programs have led to a backlog of low-income older adults waiting to receive vital home repairs. “St. Ambrose rushed my roof job and made it a priority. ‘Home’ to me is my pride and my joy.”

“I have told several people that the HUBS program can assist older adults who have limited financial capabilities,” Ms. C. continued. “Older adults just don’t have money like that, but there are programs like HUBS that can help.”

Gail MacInnes, St. Ambrose HUBS Case Manager explains that “By providing support for critical home repairs or modifications to improve safety, HUBS helps older adults in Baltimore City to stay in their homes and to continue to thrive in their communities.” St. Ambrose became a HUBS site in October 2018 and has completed home modifications and accessibility concerns for 76 older adult households to date.

Featured

Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS)- A St. Ambrose Story

As a third generation Baltimore community leader and advocate, Ms. B. is no stranger to the challenges our community faces, especially seniors. Ms. B. has previously served on the 45th Legislative District of Maryland, has been voted “Mother of the Year” twice in Baltimore City (along with countless other awards) and has a street named after her in honor of her service to the community.

When Ms. B.’s health began to decline, she reached out to community resources to see what help would be available to her in making minor repairs and modifications to her home. That’s when she found the HUBS Program at St. Ambrose.

As part of the HUBS services we deliver, St. Ambrose helped Ms. B receive home modifications through Civic Works Cities for All Ages Program. Ms. B. has had her front walkway fixed, exterior rail at rear entrance installed,motion light at top of basement stairs installed, grab bar in bathroom installed in addition to other minor modifications and repairs.

Ms. B. recalled, “I became familiar with HUBS due to my health challenges that caused me to be a recipient of the program. The HUBS Program was there when I needed it. I am grateful for everyday I see.”

In this way, the HUBS Program at St. Ambrose assists seniors in remaining safe and independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

Featured

The Story of Ms. J.

St. Ambrose Rental Services Client Story     

Ms. J. may be 22 years old, but her life experiences quickly gave her the tools necessary to survive life on the streets as a young mother in Baltimore. When Ms. J. graduated from high school, her newborn son Luke was there in the audience to support her. Following graduation, Ms. J. had been kicked out of the only home she has ever known due to her mother’s struggles with addiction.

Ms. J. only had one option: to move in with her boyfriend, the father of her child. This would allow her to begin schooling and obtain her Medical Assistance certification. Unfortunately, due to a volatile home situation, Ms. J. had to withdraw from school and she and Luke had to flee to a domestic violence shelter. As a single mother living on the streets with a baby she wondered, “Why didn’t I just wait to have a child? But I didn’t.” Ms. J. knew it was time to reach out to community resources for help. 

Ms. J.’s Case Manager from Maryland Health Care Connection referred her to St. Ambrose’s Rental Services Program and Leah Mason-Grant, Senior Manager of Rental Services. “Leah is always so kind and helpful to Luke and me. She treats us exactly like we are all a part of one family.”

Ms. J. was then connected with Darrell, St. Ambrose Case Manager, whom she found to be extremely helpful on her journey. “Darrell helped me find the job I have now. I was only babysitting when he helped me find an on-call, floating IEP (Individualized Education Program) position in the Baltimore city schools. This allows me to help children in the school system that require extra assistance, guidance and are special needs.” After one year, Ms. J. will be eligible for a full-time position at a permanent school location.

Ms. J. and Luke, almost 4 years old, now live in a St. Ambrose rental property. They have a two-bedroom townhouse to call their own and they love their new life. “The home was so big and beautiful! I never had anything like that before. It means everything to me that I have a nice home to raise my son in.”

What’s next for Ms. J.? Ms. J. would appreciate the opportunity to go back to college. Her sister is a driving force for this because as a Phlebotomist and Mortuary Science student, her sister has expressed an interest in opening a family mortuary business with Ms. J., but she has to get a degree first.

Ms. J.’s plan is to get a more permanent job, get accepted to college and start her son in school. “Thank you Darrell, Leah and St. Ambrose for everything you have done for us!”

Featured

St. Ambrose is now a HUBS site! (Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors)

Housing Upgrades Benefiting Seniors (HUBS) is a program that assists older adults (over 65) in Baltimore city. This program allows seniors to continue to live in their homes and neighborhoods as they age by helping them with home repairs and modifications. Older Adults like Ms. G.

Ms. G. has been a lifelong member of the Baltimore community. Born and raised in the city, Ms. G. knew she wanted to devote her life to serving others. She started working at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore in 1965 registering patients at their time of need and loved every minute of it. Ms. G. moved into her home in 1986 with her husband, son and daughter. She came to know St. Ambrose through the pastor at her church, Garden of Prayer Christian Church. The pastor went above and beyond to connect his parishioners with St. Ambrose and the services that are available. Additionally, the church was an Adopt-A-Family participant and contributed yearly to this fund serving families who just need a little extra help.

Ms. G. was forced to retire after 33 years of service to St. Agnes Hospital due to a debilitating car accident resulting in four major surgeries over a 12-month period. The accident left her and her husband permanently and significantly disabled. Due to several years of medical issues following the death of her husband, Ms. G., like many clients, was left tackling the challenges of senior homeownership alone.

She came to St. Ambrose when faced with a homeownership crisis. Understandably, the routine maintenance of the home fell through the cracks which left her with a severe roof leak. Since she had no homeowners insurance, she was financially unable to make the repairs to her roof.

Over time, the leak became a gaping hole in the ceiling that had debris, snow and rain water rushing into her upstairs bedroom. She has maintained the leak with over 20 receptacles catching the rain water/snow/debris but it has become too much to handle. Although she has a son nearby and a friend to check on her, Ms. G. knew this was too big a problem for them to handle on their own. Ms. G. turned to St. Ambrose and the HUBS Program for help. Gail MacInnes, HUBS Case Manager, met with Ms. G. to devise a plan of action to make the repairs to her roof that she desperately needed. With the assistance of grant funding, St. Ambrose was able to facilitate the repairs which will allow her to utilize the space in her home while giving her the safety and security that she needs at this time in her life.

“I have lived in this home forever. I have put roots here. This home is what I have created and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Thank you, St. Ambrose for giving me the ability to stay in my home. St. Ambrose has truly been a blessing in my life. I never knew how much fixing a roof could cost and I couldn’t have afforded it on my own, especially as a widow. I know there are many other seniors who could benefit from the services provided by the HUBS Program and St. Ambrose. They need to know they are not alone.”

In this way, the HUBS program assists seniors in remaining safe and independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

How this Advocate jumped in to help St. Ambrose and never looked back

“When I was a law student looking for a summer job that didn’t involve standing in a file room or making copies for 10 hours a day, I came across the opportunity to apply for a public interest grant and St. Ambrose was one of the eligible sponsors. Vinnie Quayle was the contact so I reached out and we met for a few hours in his office one spring afternoon sharing war stories. Prior to that encounter, I had never stopped to think about how much depends on safe, stable and affordable housing; from children’s performance in schools to job stability, mental and physical health, safety and future financial security. St. Ambrose had just filed a lawsuit against a predatory lender preying on vulnerable minority communities in Baltimore at the time of our meeting. The stories of abusive lending practices were heart wrenching and infuriating. They were short staffed and up against large law firms on the defense side so I jumped in to help and really never looked back.

During my tenure as a law student and then attorney at St. Ambrose, there was a guiding statement featured prominently in the halls and in many individual offices that read: The temple stands unfinished until all are housed in dignity. This statement is a personification of the work accomplished from the rowhouse on 25th street and forever etched in my own conscience. For this perspective and for the freedom I had to grow and become a better person and lawyer, I will always be grateful and supportive. The work that is done and the lives impacted by the Agency deserve far more support than my nominal monthly donation. Giving a voice to those who are without and ensuring that the most vulnerable are housed in dignity has never been needed more in my lifetime than it is today and I hope others will give as generously as they can in support of this critical mission.

Every day at St. Ambrose, we help our families make themselves at home in strong, stable communities where they can develop relationships with neighbors and create stable home environments where their children are able to live, learn, and grow.

When people turn to St. Ambrose, your generosity ensures that we’re able to provide for them.  Whether it’s preparing someone to buy their first home, making it possible for an aging homeowner to continue to live in the neighborhood they know and love, or helping one generation care for the next, your support can help us change lives.

Monthly giving to St. Ambrose ensures that individuals and families have a pathway to secure, stable housing, which is critical today and every day. You can make sure the families and individuals that come to St. Ambrose have what they need to survive and thrive by mailing a check or by donating online. To become a monthly donor at St. Ambrose, please visit www.stambros.org/donate and select “Monthly” under Recurring Payment options.

Your generosity makes it possible for us to consistently provide the highest quality services to those who turn to us in times of need in order to ensure a brighter, better future for all.

“St. Ambrose staff works tirelessly to ensure that all persons are treated with dignity and integrity. They make sure that our neighbors are given their basic human rights and Constitutional processes when one illness, one death, one divorce or one job loss brings them to the brink of homelessness. I am very fortunate to have learned these principles at the very start of my legal career. I had never purchased a house, read the fine print of a credit card disclosure or car loan application. With all of the wisdom and arrogance of a 2nd year law student, I walked into my first client meeting in the row-house turned office on 25th street, expecting to impart great wisdom on my first client. Instead, I was the one that very quickly realized I had much to learn. I was mentored and supported by my St. Ambrose colleagues and Board Members from that day forward as I stumbled through many more client meetings, hearings and legislative sessions. I quickly learned that during down economic times, the voice of the most vulnerable amongst us is often the one first ignored and too quickly vilified. And I learned that it is up to all of us to stand up for those marginalized and fight for equality. St. Ambrose has never backed away from fighting for what is right and just and I am so grateful to have started my career on the right side of our evolving history.” – Anne Balcer

About Anne

I was born and raised in Northeast Baltimore in Mayfield. I lived in other parts of Baltimore City and County except for when I was in Virginia for my undergraduate degree and then ended up in Montgomery County, Maryland in 2013. I currently live in Kensington. My parents were children of Polish immigrants that landed in the Canton/Fells Point area of Baltimore City. My Mom went to the convent and my Dad to the seminary and both graduated but never took their respective vows. They met a few years later in a chemistry class at the University of Maryland where my Mom was studying pharmacy and my Dad medicine. My Mom passed away when I was young so it was up to my Dad to raise 3 girls on his own. I’m the youngest and he instilled in us a relentless work ethic and insistence on doing what is right even if it’s not popular. He came from very little and worked at Bethlehem Steel during the summer and a car garage during the school year to put himself through medical school. He remarried another Baltimore native, years later, and I was lucky enough to become the youngest of 6 total children, 4 are still in the Baltimore area. In terms of my immediate family today, I’m married to an incredibly supportive husband, Matt, a New Jersey native, and have two girls. Melli just turned 11 and is kind, compassionate and already a staunch advocate for social justice. Lucy is almost 2 and strong-willed (maybe a bit stubborn) and determined just like her older sister.

I’ve been fortunate to have the time and opportunity to coach my daughter Melli’s lacrosse team. It has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences to watch young girls develop confidence and teamwork that I know will help them navigate the difficulties of being a female in today’s world as they grow older. I also volunteer with local and national political campaigns. Having the right leaders in office and ensuring that our collective voices are heard through voting and demonstration is so critical to our future and that of my girls. Otherwise, my career as General Counsel for Congressional Bank, a community bank headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, and my family keeps me pretty occupied but I do sneak in some yoga, running, gardening, reading and cooking when I have a few spare minutes.

St. Ambrose Staff Update

Many of you know already know Pam Petty because she has been with St. Ambrose for 23 years! Pam is the Interim Director of Housing Counseling at St. Ambrose so please join us in congratulating her.

“As a Housing Counselor, I have considered myself lucky to have a position with such an amazing organization that creates change and offers support to families in Baltimore. I’ve enjoyed my position as counselor and I love what I do. I have the opportunity to meet individuals from diverse backgrounds, many of whom become friends, resources and referrals.

As I move into my new position, I will continue to provide support to my department and focus on improving our services to families who look to us to improve their housing situation.”- Pam

Congratulations on your new role, Pam!