Real estate maintenance company accused of racism - KPTV - FOX 12

Real estate maintenance company accused of racism

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One group says a national company is discriminating when it comes to keeping up foreclosed homes in the metro.

A complaint filed Tuesday with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development says the Florida-based company hired to keep dozens of Kansas City-area Fannie Mae homes in shape is more likely to slack off in African American and Latino neighborhoods than in Caucasian neighborhoods.

The company under fire is Cyprexx.

The complaint is based on a survey of conditions in the metro in March, looking at eight maintenance categories like cutting grass, trimming shrubs, clearing trash and fixing vandalism.

It found one or more problems at 37 percent of the foreclosed homes in predominantly white communities. In communities of color, that figure jumped to 67 percent.

"It doesn't matter about the value of the house. These are routine maintenance issues," said Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Renter Marland Bell has a host of issues with vacant property on his east Kansas City block.

He and other residents in his neighborhood are also upset on how windows on vacant homes are secured with boards - something not part of the legal issue but looking at the bigger picture.

They say the other banks, in predominantly white neighborhoods, usually secure the windows with something that looks more like an actual window.

"And once you start boarding windows, you send a message that we don't care about this house," Smith said.

It the kind of thing that leaves Bell hesitant to buy the house he is currently renting.

"That depreciates my value. I lose out as soon as I sign the papers," he said.

KCTV5 News left messages at both Cyprexx and Fannie Mae. Cyprexx sent a written response on Thursday, saying:

"Cyprexx is extremely disappointed that the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and two of its member organizations announced on July 23, 2014 the filing of a federal housing discrimination complaint against the company without first engaging the company in supplying data, and discussing their concerns and allegations."

"These allegations appear frivolous, and without reasonable merit."

"It is somewhat alarming considering that NFHA did not communicate with the company, nor did they provide Cyprexx with a copy of the Complaint. Cyprexx only learned about the allegations from the media and had to go to the NHFA's website to obtain a copy of Complaint. One cannot help questioning whether this is a part of a publicity stunt rather than a good faith effort to determine if there is any basis for its charges. Unfortunately this behavior has all the signs of an organization operating without fully understanding the industry, nor a clear understanding or basis of knowledge of the foreclosure process."

"The question is if NFHA were really concerned with Cyprexx's services, should they have contacted Cyprexx before filing this Complaint, investigated the processes and had an open dialogue about these allegations?"

"We take allegations of this nature very seriously, and are considering all the options available to protect our reputation as well as the livelihood of our employees and business partners."

"Cyprexx has requested and demanded that the NFHA supply the metrics and data for which they based their allegations."

"Cyprexx receives assignments from our clients with no information regarding neighborhood demographics. Our clients have uniform standards to which all properties must be cleaned and preserved. We assign our vendors and instruct them according to the same set of standards. After servicing, properties are frequently inspected by Cyprexx and our clients as well as by third party inspectors. The properties inspected are selected randomly without regard to the neighborhood demographics."

"Cyprexx and its clients strive to remove neighborhood blight, and one of the company's initiatives to help with blight and unsightliness is a clear polycarbonate alternative to plywood boarding of vacant properties."

"We believe any responsible agency that will take the time to objectively analyze the facts regarding how Cyprexx handles assignments from our Clients, will come to the conclusion that the NFHA is factually incorrect in their complaint."

"While the NFHA has a key role in this country in ensuring Fair Housing Laws are enforced, one would hope this does not give them clearance to make unfounded allegations and we fully expect that an investigation will find no basis for these claims against Cyprexx."

"Cyprexx is looking forward to an unbiased review of the facts which will substantiate our position."

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