• 9 Investigates: Dangerous eyesore homes in Orlando

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    ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigative reporter Nancy Alvarez looked into more than a dozen potentially dangerous eyesore homes in Orlando, at the center of a federal complaint.

    The complaint involves homes owned by Bank of America in predominately African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

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    Neighbors told Eyewitness News one of the homes in the Holden Heights neighborhood is a disaster and not much has been done to fix it since 2012.

    “It allows all types of illicit activity -- that's a problem,” said community organizer Thomas Alston.

    The city of Orlando is part of a national effort to hold banks accountable for foreclosed properties that fall into disrepair.

    Eyewitness News found out many of the federal complaint claims fall predominantly in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

    “It really breaks my heart to see what’s happening to these communities,” said Ad Escander, with Fair Housing Continuum.

    Escander helped coordinate the National Fair Housing Alliance's investigation into bank-owned properties in Orlando.

    In the latest complaint, the group said Bank of America has not maintained or marketed homes in minority neighborhoods to the same standards as predominantly white neighborhoods.

    Escander said her group has proof these homes are neglected for months, if not years.

    “It takes the same amount of time to mow the lawn in a community of color as it does to mow the lawn in a community that's predominantly white. It takes the same amount of time to change a lock,” Escander said.

    New complaints filed with HUD Wednesday bring the total to 1200 Bank of America properties in 201 cities nationwide.

    The Fair Housing Alliance has filed complaints against several other institutions, including Fannie Mae, Wells Fargo, Deuch Bank and US Bank.

    Bank of America said in a statement: “Bank of America has a strong track record and uniform policies for properly maintaining and marketing properties, yet NFHA has continuously presented inaccurate and misleading information as ‘research’ while, at the same time, seeking significant money from our company. We strongly deny NFHA’s past allegations.

    Previous reports issued by NFHA revealed dramatic flaws in their methodology, undermining the credibility of their claims. For example, the organization faulted the bank for properties that other entities had the responsibility to maintain and market, expressly declined to consider properties under repair, and included properties the bank had agreed to donate to local groups. And yet, through multiple amended complaints, NFHA has never contacted the bank about specific properties. Had they reached out to us, we could help them ensure the accuracy of their information.

    The disposition of a property is also dependent upon the requirements of the mortgage investor holding the property. For example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac immediately accept the foreclosed property and take over the maintenance and marketing of it. On the other hand, FHA/HUD properties must be put into “conveyance condition” prior to being turned over to the government agency for marketing. Repairs can be extensive, expensive and time-consuming, and vandalism sometimes sets the project back and can greatly extend the time leading to conveyance.

    The fact is Bank of America applies neutral and uniform practices to the management of vacant bank-owned properties across the country, regardless of the demographic makeup of their location. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue.”

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