Kensington: Did the Landvest Scam Target Non-English Speakers?

Map courtesy of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation. (Click the image to enlarge)

The Landvest rent-to-own real estate scam in Kensington has only begun to take its toll on the community. With several open legal complaints underway and many of the over 400 Landvest properties changing ownership, it may be years before the extent of the damage is fully known.

One group that may turn out to be among the hardest hit is the community’s Latino population, particularly those for whom English is not their first language.

When courting new tenants, Landvest Real Estate often relied on vaguely worded contracts and in many cases, verbal agreements.

“People were put into really substandard housing, told that they were responsible for repairs and then all the while, the owner is taking out gigantic mortgages on the properties,” said Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, an attorney at Community Legal Services in North Philadelphia. “Very often, non-native English speakers were getting these letters [from the banks]. They came in thinking they were owners.”

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, combined with a mapping of the Landvest properties, does indeed show a heavy concentration of the houses in an area with the lowest levels of English proficiency in the area, according to documents provided by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation.

Map courtesy of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation. (Click the image to enlarge)

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