Marfa Woman Fights Back Against Predatory Property Tax Lender

For Immediate Release
May 28, 2019

Contact:

Julie Balovich, Attorney, TRLA (432) 837-9965; jbalovich@trla.org
Nancy Nusser, Press Officer, TRLA (410) 934-9588 or (512) 374-2764; nnusser@trla.org

MARFA, Texas – A 68-year-old Marfa woman, who was deceived into transferring her homestead so predatory lenders could obtain a high interest loan against the property, is fighting back. Maria Anita Benavides, represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), intervened in a countersuit filed by Ovation Services LLC to stop them from repossessing the home she shares with her 92-year-old mother and her two grandchildren.

“They told me they could solve my problems with my property taxes,” Benavides said. “Instead they’re trying to take away the home that I’ve lived in for more than 20 years.” Ms. Benavides court filing is available here.

“Ovation Services and its related company, FGMS Holdings LLC, are predatory lenders,” said Julie Balovich, the Alpine-based TRLA attorney who is representing Benavides. “They profit off elderly and low-income people who are in a desperate situation and lack knowledge about their rights to property tax relief. As a senior citizen, Ms. Benavides was entitled to homestead protection against the local taxing entities. Ovation Services knew that and convinced her to enter a transaction that was likely to result in her losing her home. It’s unconscionable.”

A home health care provider who supports herself and her grandchildren on barely more than minimum wage, Benavides had struggled for years to pay her property taxes. By 2015, she was behind on six years of property tax payments. In 2016, after receiving a flier offering help with property taxes, she called the number listed and was put in touch with Ovation Services, which services loans for FGMS Holdings.

Ms. Benavides was entitled to defer payment of her property taxes because she had turned 65 the year before. Although Ovation Services knew that fact, they instead told her the only way to qualify for a property tax loan was to transfer her home to a younger person willing to take out a loan for her. Trusting them, Ms. Benavides signed documents that Ovation Services provided to transfer the property to her adult daughters. The daughters then signed the loan documents provided by Ovation Services. Ovation Services did not tell the family that the loan, at 16 percent interest, would accrue at a far higher rate than the rate for delinquent taxes.

Not long after Ms. Benavides and her daughters signed the documents, the loan went into default. In April 2018, Ovation Services filed a foreclosure suit against her two daughters in Presidio County District Court. Ms. Benavides originally owed less than $6,000 to the taxing entities; Ovation is suing her daughters for $13,000, which includes their attorneys fees.

Ms. Benavides intervened in the suit on Friday, May 24, bringing claims against Ovation and also suing FGMS Holdings, LLC, which holds the loan.

“Ms. Benavides is suffering extreme emotional distress over the risk of losing her home,” the countersuit states. “Every single day she thinks about what will happen to her mother, who is blind and uses a walker. She has nausea, insomnia, heartburn, aches, and numbness in her left and right arms from worrying about what will happen to her family and her belongings as a result of Ovation and FGMS’s wrongful actions.”

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to about 23,000 low-income Texans in 68 counties. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and access to justice for low-income Texans by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.

 

 

nancy nusser