A Joe Garza and sons at his home in Linwood poverty-stricken Rio Grande Valley, where the contracts are common. Those provisions, which apply only to properties in the Valley, require that the contracts be in Spanish and English, disclose the amount of interest paid, include survey and title information, and be registered at the county clerk’s office. “The protections for the buyer in the property code are minor,” said attorney David Flores, who is part of a Tarrant County Bar Association group that volunteered to help Linwood residents. “The people who buy houses this way couldn’t do it the conventional way. They have bad credit, or their income is too low,” Flores said. “For some people, it’s a pretty good way to buy a house. But, like everything else, how good it is depends on the people who are involved.” Horror stories abound. Take property taxes, for example. Tarrant County tax officials estimate that more than 100 families a year find themselves caught in a squeeze between the “sellers” and the county, when tax time comes around. Because taxes are the responsibility of the deed holder, “buyers” may not know that taxes haven’t been paid until it’s too late. If the taxes aren’t paid, the county will seize the house and the buyer can lose every penny they have paid, the officials said. Then there is the “late payment” trap. In general, under a contract-for-deed the time a IS:6114 c q:g Kes Gilhome buyer has to make up a late payment depends on the percentage of the sales price that’s been paid. If the buyer has paid 10 percent or less, he has 15 days after, written notice of intent to terminate payment; 10 to 20 percent, 30 days notice; more than 20 percent, 60 days notice. Because the buyer accrues no equity under a contract-for-deed, he can lose all the money paid on the house in the event of a late-payment repossession. After the storm, many Linwood residents on limited budgets found themselves making two paymentsone for their contract-for-deed \(to avoid losing the house they were forced to take because the damages to their own residences were so extensive. “One family had already paid $15,000 on their home,” said Gloria Reeves, of Emergency Assistance of Tarrant County, a disaster recovery group. “They had to make the payment [even though] the house has been destroyed. The landlord was refusing to fix it, but if they leave, he can repossess it, fix it up a little, and sell it for another $40,000. And they are out all of the money they put in,” she said. “These people are scared and some of these landlords have no problem coming out there and making them more afraid.” Most homes bought under contract-for-deed are in depressed 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 17, 2000
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