In general, North Carolina homeowners are still required to make their contractual monthly mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis and their regular property tax and homeowner association (HOA) assessments. However, there are a variety of ways a homeowner may be entitled to relief or assistance:
Carolina Mortgage, Property Tax and HOA foreclosure court hearings postponed:
N.C. foreclosure court hearings (Special Proceedings or Superior Court) are
continued for 30 days, until April 17, or later pursuant to a N.C. Supreme
Court Order. If you have a pending foreclosure, you should receive a notice in
the mail about the new court date. Open all mail and be sure to attend the next
Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, USDA, and HECM reverse mortgages have suspended
foreclosures for 60 days, generally through May 17, 2020. VA-backed mortgages may also comply with this
moratorium. Contact your mortgage
servicer about specifics and to learn whether your loan is federally backed.
on the current N.C. Supreme Court directives in place, if a foreclosure hearing
is held after April 15 but before May 17, the clerk will need some evidence at
the foreclosure hearing that the loan is not subject to the 60-day federal
moratorium before authorizing any sale.
court filing and case action deadlines extended in many situations. The N.C.
Supreme Court Ordered that documents and papers due to be filed, or actions
required to be done, in a case on or after March 16, 2020 shall be timely filed
if done by close of business on April 17, 2020.
of the Order extending case deadlines, any foreclosure sale that had not
finalized before March 16 will be held open for upset bids through April 17,
2020. It also appears that a homeowner
may be able to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure during this
sales based upon a prior order are not prohibited by the N.C. Supreme Court
Order but may be affected by the federal moratorium if the loan is a qualified
federal loan (see below).
most Mecklenburg County civil court hearings on foreclosures will be postponed,
the clerk’s office is currently open for filing between 9 a.m. and noon on
weekdays. Please exercise caution and do
not enter the courthouse if you are experiencing symptoms of illness.
whether your mortgage is federally backed or a private loan to learn about
federally backed mortgages, which include FHA (HUD), HECM reverse mortgages, VA
loans, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHFA, and USDA have suspended foreclosures and
evictions of borrowers after foreclosure until May 17, 2020.
If you are going to face hardship because of a job loss or otherwise during the COVID-19 crisis, contact your mortgage servicer about specific relief available, even if not federally backed.
Many private mortgage lenders will likely be offering assistance during this time. For both federal and private loans this may include:
Forbearance and payment relief programs (application and supporting documentation typically required);
Suspension of negative reporting to credit bureaus;
Waivers of penalties and late fees;
Mortgage modifications to reduce interest rates and monthly payments;
“Stranger Danger” is not enough! Seniors often lose money due to schemes involving family, friends, or caregivers.
Grandparent Scam – Someone calling on behalf of a child or other relative claims they need money immediately (usually via wire transfer or overnight courier).
Sweetheart Scam – A con artist begins a friendship or relationship with a senior, often incapacitated, to win over their trust.
Financial Exploitation – A person, usually a caregiver or loved one, takes the assets of another person without their knowledge or consent.
Adult daughter uses mom’s debit card to buy groceries – She spends $50 on groceries and $150 on clothes for herself.
Son forges his mom’s signature on checks to “help her out.”
Step-daughter takes keys of her step-father’s car while he’s in a nursing home recovering from a stroke and refuses to give the car back.
Nephew takes his uncle with dementia to a lawyer’s office to sign some documents – a power of attorney and deed transferring his house to the nephew.
Reduced livelihood: One could possibly lose a house, car, savings, pension, etc. due to actions of the abuser or creditors
Health Risks: One could lose Medicaid benefits and access to health care due to transfer of assets penalty
Loss of independence: A court could appoint a guardian if the exploited individual lacks capacity to make decisions.
Tips to protect yourself:
Discuss finances only with people you trust.
Ask financial institutions about fraud monitoring services.
Consider executing a Durable Power of Attorney
Appoint trustworthy person, who is capable of handling your affairs
Name alternates to your Power of Attorney
Do not hesitate to report any suspected exploitation to financial institutions, Adult Protective Services, and/or police
National Elder Fraud Hotline 1-833-372-8311 Adult Protective Services (APS) 704-336-CARE
Seniors Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) 1-855-408-1212
Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for Social Security 1-800-269-0271
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 1-877-FTC-HELP
North Carolina Dept of Justice 1-877-5-NO-SCAM
Legal Aid of North Carolina 1-866-219-LANC
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Protect Yourself This Tax Season
Tax season is also the season for scams targeting taxpayers. Understand the most common scams to protect yourself, your personal information and your finances.
This occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your Name, Social Security Number (SSN) or other personal identifying information, without your permission. It is often used by scammers to fraudulently file tax returns and claim refunds.
If you file a tax return and then receive a letter from IRS that another tax return was filed using your name, OR if you don’t file a tax return and then receive a letter that a tax return was filed using your name, the false tax filing could be due to identity theft.
Your identity could be stolen, or misused by a former
spouse, family member or business partner.
Phishing is usually carried out with unsolicited e-mails or fake websites to steal your personal and financial information. All you must do is click on false links and your personal information could be compromised.
Keep in mind, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information.
Some tax scammers also use snail mail; so be aware, when you receive regular mail that purports to be from the IRS too. If you are not sure, contact the IRS directly.
Tax Preparer Fraud
Keep in mind, as a taxpayer you are legally responsible for the information you represent on your tax return, even if the tax return is prepared by a third-party professional.
“Free Money” from the IRS
There is NO SUCH THING as “free money” from the IRS. Be skeptical of flyers and advertisements promising you “free money” from the IRS. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Charlotte was recovering from the Great Recession, which had destabilized thousands of people through job and home loss that eroded financial security.
As a result, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy saw the overall community need for legal assistance increase by 15%, including an overwhelming need from families facing foreclosure.
The Recession’s effects continued to be felt throughout the decade to shape our community, to define the issues of economic mobility and inequity we fight to address, and to steadily impact the people the Advocacy Center serves today.
As we mark the passing of a critical decade for Charlotte, we’re taking a look back at the work we’ve done to build a more just community for everyone in the Charlotte region.
Our name was Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, a name we had been operating under since 1978.
Number of staff: 19
Today we are Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy! In 2017, we changed our name and celebrated 50 years of service.
Number of staff: 50
Our new name reflects our commitment to providing both individual legal representation and systemic change to advance our mission of pursuing justice for those in need.
Growth to Address Systemic Problems in a Changing World
Since 2010, we’ve launched several projects to meet increased demand for assistance, creatively address the root causes of poverty and support our community’s most vulnerable populations, including:
Life altering decisions are made every day in our civil legal system that directly impact a person’s chance at a stable life and opportunity.
Despite the gravity of these decisions, no one is guaranteed legal representation in civil legal cases, leaving only those who can afford an attorney with true access to justice.
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and legal service organizations across the country fight to provide equal justice for all in a legal system that is currently inaccessible for those who lack the money and resources to navigate it.
Federal funding for legal service organizations through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) peaked in 2010. The funding increase was necessary to support legal service organizations assisting an increasing number of people while having lost key funding resources during the Recession. Funding has not increased since, despite the fact 25 percent more people qualify for legal assistance today than in 2007.
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy does not receive LSC funding (learn why), but we advocate for sustained and increased funding for our partners that do, such as Legal Aid of North Carolina.
A 2014 impact report from the N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission showed that 2.2 million North Carolinians qualified for civil legal aid services and 80 percent of civil legal needs of low-income people went unmet.
Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement
By 2010, the Advocacy Center was assisting families who were fighting foreclosure and trying to put their financial lives back together in the wake of the global financial crisis. When the housing crisis peaked in 2009, more than 12 million homeowners were experiencing negative equity across the U.S.
Today, the Advocacy Center helps families and communities navigate Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis as more people struggle to find and remain in affordable places to live. That assistance includes foreclosure prevention; defense against unfair and deceptive sales and purchases; property tax relief; and impact litigation on behalf of tenants to ensure safe and habitable housing conditions under N.C. law, including a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents of Lake Arbor Apartments.
Welcoming Immigrants into Our Community
Charlotte’s Immigration Court opened in 2008 to serve applicants from North and South Carolina. The Advocacy Center’s Immigrant Justice Program began serving applicants who could not afford legal assistance in the court, which quickly gained a reputation as one of the most hostile in the country.
With the Immigration Working Group, the Advocacy Center began the Immigration Assistance Project in 2010 to help unrepresented people in the court, providing consultation, education and referrals to assist them in court proceedings. Since its creation, it has been a vital legal resource to thousands of people that is not available in most immigration courts.
By 2014, violence and instability in Central America generated a wave of unaccompanied migrant children traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, safety and reunification with family already living in the U.S.
The Advocacy Center launched the Safe Child Immigrant Project to ensure these children had an advocate.
Without our intervention, these children would have had not have had legal assistance to make their case for asylum, special immigrant juvenile status or other forms of relief they were entitled to receive.
Due to an overwhelming backlog, the first green cards from many of these cases were finally granted in 2018, allowing these children and their families to remain safely in the U.S. without fear of return to dangerous situations in their home countries.
This victory is a stark comparison to the current reality for thousands of children seeking relief at the U.S. border. They will not see the same outcome under current federal immigration enforcement, even though they have endured the same hardships and have the same valid claims for relief as these new green card recipients.
The Advocacy Center fought to maintain public benefits that stabilize families, while also ensuring access to them with increased demand for social support after the Recession, including SNAP benefits (food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Today, the Advocacy Center is still fighting cuts and policies that destabilize families at the federal and state level, while helping families understand what is available under changing laws and policies.
Since 2018, the Advocacy Center has fought changes to the federal Public Charge rule to consider use of public benefits to determine approval for people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. or applying for a green card to become legal permanent residents. Confusion and fear surrounding the rule change has led local families who are eligible to receive public benefits to forego support out of fear. Federal courts halted the rule’s implementation in October 2019, and the Advocacy Center continues to monitor ongoing litigation.
Our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic is educating N.C. taxpayers on new regulations stemming from federal tax reform passed in 2018, while continuing to help taxpayers protect themselves from scams and fraud.
In conjunction with a new state law changed the waiting period for expunging non-violent misdemeanor and felony criminal convictions in 2017, the Advocacy Center began helping Mecklenburg County residents apply for removal of non-violent, eligible offenses from their criminal records. This project sought to remove barriers to economic mobility that come with having a criminal record. In FY19, we assisted 217 people to expunge criminal records in N.C. and advocated for passage of expanded eligibility for expungements in the N.C. General Assembly.
In 2016, the Advocacy Center partnered with Central Piedmont Community College’s Single Stop program to provide legal assistance that helps students overcome barriers to their education and pursue economic opportunity. In the first two years, the partnership provided $72,855 in legal assistance while obtaining or preserving $103,462 in public benefits for students and their families.
Access to quality, affordable health care
The Advocacy Center has been litigating to ensure families have the health care they are entitled to receive under the law through major cases, including:
Pashby v. Cansler, later Pettigrew v. Brajer: The lawsuit, initially named Pashby v. Cansler, was filed in 2011 by the Advocacy Center, Disability Rights N.C. and the National Health Law Program, alleging that the state violated federal Medicaid law and the Americans with Disabilities Act by determining eligibility for personal care services under more restrictive criteria for people living at home than for those who live in institutional settings known as adult care homes. A settlement was reached in 2016, allowing vulnerable citizens who need health services to safely remain in their homes and have their services restored.
Pachas v. NCDHHS: The Advocacy Center brought the case on behalf of a terminally ill man, who had been the primary provider for his wife, two young daughters, and elderly in-laws. Pachas was trying to support his family on Social Security disability benefits before eventually qualifying for Medicaid benefits that covered his medical treatment for a stroke and a brain tumor. Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services determined Pachas’ income was above the federal poverty level based on the level of an individual, not for a family, and required him to pay a large deductible on his Medicaid benefits. In 2018, attorneys argued before the N.C. Court of Appeals that the state was violating federal Medicaid law in applying its definition of family size to determine eligibility for benefits. The N.C. Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in 2018 and unanimously ruled in favor of the Center to vacate the Court of Appeals ruling. The case is now with the Court of Appeals for a ruling on the merits of the case.
Hawkins v. Cohen: The Advocacy Center and the National Health Law Program filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2017 to stop illegal terminations of Medicaid benefits in North Carolina that resulted in a preliminary injunction and a certified class action. The improper actions included due process violations, failure to reasonably accommodate the disabled, and creating barriers to access for recipients with limited English proficiency. The class action is ongoing. As a result, the state changed its computer system earlier this year to stop Medicaid coverage from automatically terminating when a county worker does not timely complete a required eligibility review. Under this programming change, Medicaid coverage for more than 124,000 cases was extended in the past two months that would otherwise have been terminated without notice.
With the first open enrollment season for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Advocacy Center launched the Health Insurance Navigator project to help consumers understand their options and get the health care they needed under the new law.
Since 2013, we’ve helped thousands of people understand their options and get health coverage, while reducing the state’s uninsured rate. The navigator project has been recognized as a national model and received a visit from Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in 2015.
At the end of 2019, our health insurance navigators completed their seventh open enrollment season, helping residents in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties understand their coverage options in a changing healthcare landscape to select health plan that meet their individual needs and budget.
The ACA included opportunity for states to expand their Medicaid programs and close the coverage gap for low-income people to insure all Americans. The Advocacy Center began advocating for expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in the N.C. General Assembly, which has failed to act. Expansion would insure an estimated 500,000 NC residents who make too little to afford private health coverage but too much to receive financial assistance paying for coverage. Expansion also would have lowered overall health costs for residents and spurred an estimated $2.9 billion in business growth by 2020.
Today we are still urging the N.C. General Assembly to expand Medicaid so that more residents have access to health care. Residents like Allan.
The N.C. General Assembly approved changes to the state’s Medicaid program in 2015 that privatized the administration of the program. The Advocacy Center has been working with providers and beneficiaries to make sure they understand what the change means and how to continue receiving health care. The Advocacy Center is also monitoring the change to ensure access under the law. The implementation of the new program was supposed to take place in fall 2019, but it has been delayed due to the legislature’s inability to pass a budget.
Protection from exploitation
To improve quality of life and ensure independence, the Advocacy Center has worked to empower seniors through education, legal representation and specific services that enable them to remain self-sufficient, their property unencumbered and their finances protected through the Legal Services for the Elderly program and other projects.
The Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection program has continually worked to protect low-income people from scams and bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable groups who lack access to resources to understand their rights as consumers.
Immigrants have historically been targets for exploitation in our country. The current administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy toward immigrants who are undocumented has exacerbated their vulnerability and stoked fear in families, regardless of immigration status.
For 12 years, Mecklenburg County’s 287(g) program facilitated hundreds of deportations by assisting federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in implementing federal immigration enforcement at the local level. The voluntary program directed police to target, arrest and hold residents living in our community without a legal immigration status.
This practice tore families apart, made immigrants vulnerable targets and eroded trust of law enforcement, all while diverting local taxpayer funds away from public safety to enforce federal immigration policy, which is outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies. The Advocacy Center has long believed this policy has harmed our community by undermining public safety, depriving individuals of due process, wasting county resources, and exposing tax payers to potential legal settlements.
In 2018, the Advocacy Center fought against ICE presence in our courts after officials arrested a woman and her 16-year-old son at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, leaving her 2-year-old child behind in the court’s day care center as they took her into custody and placed her in deportation proceedings. This woman, Maria, and her son are survivors of domestic violence who were appearing for a hearing in their case.
The arrest became part of a national dialogue on how ICE activity in courthouses negatively impacts public safety and the ability for crime victims, especially victims of domestic violence, to seek justice.
The Charlotte Immigration Court later terminated her deportation case with the support of ICE, allowing Maria and her family to remain in the U.S. as they pursued a U-Visa, which provides protected status to victims of crime. The victory came after months of negotiation with ICE through the partnership of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Comunidad Colectiva and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.
In response to increased ICE activity since 2017, the Advocacy Center has partnered with community groups, including Action NC, Comunidad Colectiva, El Puente Hispano and the Latin American Coalition to help individuals understand their civil rights and provide emergency planning for families in the event of family separation through arrest and deportation.
A decade of justice
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has covered a lot of ground over the last 10 years, but the gap between access and justice remains wide.
In the decade ahead, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy remains committed to closing that gap by building a more just community where all are treated fairly and have access to legal representation to meet their basic needs and thrive.
In 2020 and beyond…
We will always fight to ensure
Access to our legal system
Affordable housing and protection from housing displacement
All feel welcome in our community
Access to quality, affordable health care
Protection from exploitation
While the means to accomplishing our mission will change with the needs of our community, our resolve to pursue justice for those in need remains constant. Because we believe …
justice lives here.
10 things to remember when buying a used car
Buying a used car can sometimes feel overwhelming. Consumer protection attorney Edward Byron lists the top 10 things to keep in mind when buying a used car.
Know the market value. Check resources at your local library or websites like kbb.com, nadaguides.com, or edmunds.com to find out the market value of the year, make, and model you want to buy before you visit the dealership
Research the dealership. Check out the dealership with the state Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or N.C. Department of Justice website. Also check your local Better Business Bureau before you go. Read reviews using websites like Google and Yelp.
Get pre-approved. Get pre-approved for a loan before you head to the dealership. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what kinds of cars you can afford and what interest rate you can qualify for. Be aware that dealerships may profit by charging you a higher interest rate than what you actually qualify for.
Price first, then the rest. Negotiate the price of the car before discussing the monthly payments or your trade-in’s value, otherwise you can be tricked into paying far more for the vehicle than it is worth.
Front-end add-ons like paint treatment, fabric finish, undercoating, appearance packages are very expensive and add little value to the car. If you agree to pay for them, make sure you get them.
Back-end add-ons like GAP insurance and service contracts may provide little coverage. Be sure you understand what is covered and what isn’t before you decide to buy.
Most used cars are sold “as-is.” This means that if the vehicle breaks down days after you buy it, there is usually very little that you can do. So, be sure to test drive the vehicle, inspect the car thoroughly, and consider taking the car to a mechanic and body shop that you trust before you buy.
Find out about the car’s history. Ask the dealership whether the car has ever been in an accident and get the answer in writing. Get a Carfax or AutoCheck vehicle history report.
Review the vehicle history disclosure statement. This document is required by law and shows if the car has been involved in a major accident or has been salvaged or flooded.
Always read contracts carefully before you sign them and make sure all written documents match what you’ve been promised. Never sign a document that you don’t understand or that has blanks to be filled in later.
Get a copy of all purchase and financing documents before you leave the dealership and keep them in a safe place (not in the car’s glove compartment, just in case the car is repossessed).
If you still have questions or you think you have been taken advantage of by a used car dealer, contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and ask to speak to someone in ourConsumer Protection Program.