CRM Property Management, widely known as City Realty, agreed to a settlement on Tuesday after only two days in housing court. The case dealt with the treatment of their tenants, Lucky Ormorodion and his family, whose foreclosed home was bought by the company in 2012. The settlement includes $20,000 in damages and legal fees awarded to Lucky, as well as a one-year lease with up to five years of autorenewal at a 3 percent rent increase. Bottom line: Lucky keeps his home, and there’s very little City Reality can do to change that.
In court, the brutal mismanagement of Lucky’s home and possessions resurfaced. As reported in DigBoston, in June 2012, Lucky’s then-pregnant wife Susan was home alone with her two young children when she heard somebody moving things. Upon investigation she discovered three men who said they were from City Realty and had received instructions to clear all of the items from the basement. Confused and concerned, she asked repeatedly what they were doing. The men told her that they had permission—she believed they said the fire department—to clear the basement. Distraught, she returned to her kids and waited.
Lucky and Susan never saw their stuff again. Among the missing items: marriage and naturalization certificates, hardware equipment, and her wedding dress. On Tuesday, tears surfaced as Susan described the gown—her church at the time threw a bridal shower to help her buy the dress. She says she planned on giving it to one of her daughters.
Lucky’s plight has some idiosyncratic tangents—most complaints against City Realty, for one, don’t involve thousands of dollars worth of missing property. But at its core, this is merely one case on a list of City Realty transgressions that many tenants, and particularly local housing nonprofit City Life/Vida Urbana, have been fighting. City Realty’s business model is to gobble up foreclosed homes, renovate them, raise the rent, and turn a profit. It’s simple house-flipping, unless you consider that many of these properties have tenants. In Lucky’s case, he was told to pay hundreds of dollars more than what he’d previously been paying.
Lucky’s is just one of many cases being brought against City Realty. In the next few months, Greater Boston Legal Services and Harvard Legal Aid, which both provide legal counsel and advice to members of City Life/Vida Urbana, will bring cases to court, and there’s also the recent victory of Ray Fernandes to consider. Ray was close to buying back his family’s house out of foreclosure, but City Realty snatched it out from under him for only $3,000 more. Like Lucky, Ray settled his case, and will stay put.
Finally, City Realty has become a notorious household name in Boston’s slumlord landscape. At a hearing on October 20 called by City Councilor Tito Jackson, tenants, activists, and city officials lambasted the realty group, accusing its CEOs of disrupting communities to turn a profit. In June, for example, CEO Fred Starikov told Jamaica Plain residents that bedbugs were in fact an STD, though his point in saying this can only be inferred since the crowd would not let him continue. And let’s not forget the time a City Realty employee landed on the front page of the Metro flipping off a group of housing activists and tenants. Come to think of it, that may have been the most sincere and authentic interaction they have ever had with the public.