The Justice Center’s Consumer & Housing Project works to protect North Carolina’s consumers from abusive practices and ensure an adequate supply of safe and affordable housing for all communities. In 2013, the project used a combination of policy development, legislative advocacy, community education and litigation to accomplish its goals and objectives.
The year was dominated by a legislative battle to prevent payday lending from becoming legal again in North Carolina. Payday lending is an abusive and predatory practice that leaves borrowers trapped in debt, paying loans with extraordinarily high fees and interest. Payday lending legislation was introduced early in the legislative session that would have authorized annual fees and interest near 400 percent. The Justice Center and its allies immediately responded with an intensive lobbying drive and an extensive media campaign. We helped to educate our grassroots supporters and other allies on the effects of the proposed law and supported their active opposition to the bill. After a long battle, we were successful in convincing a majority of legislators to oppose the legislation. As a result of these efforts, payday lending remains illegal in North Carolina.
At the same time, some out-of-state banks attempted to use federal banking laws to make payday loans in NC. Thanks to a campaign by the Justice Center, other consumer advocates, and state leaders, Regions Bank dropped its harmful payday lending program in North Carolina.
Our successful efforts in 2013 to defeat efforts to bring payday lending back to North Carolina were just the latest in our longstanding campaign to protect consumers from these exploitive loans. In 2013, Justice Center attorneys paid the final settlement proceeds to victims of illegal payday loans recovered in three major class action lawsuits brought in 2004. Settlements in these cases also resulted in the payment of over $1 million to the state’s Indigent Defense and IOLTA programs to support the provision of legal representation for the poor. While fighting payday lending legislative battles, we also succeeded in maintaining important legal protections for tenants and homeowners. Our work stopped fraudulent real estate transactions and protected other important consumer protection laws that are routinely challenged in the General Assembly every session.
The project also saw progress on a major piece of housing litigation. The project, led by the Justice Center’s Jack Holtzman, co-counseled a case regarding the discriminatory denial by Brunswick County of water and sewer services and discriminatory zoning changes in an unincorporated African-American community. Finally, we settled a class action lawsuit on behalf of low income tenants. The lawsuit challenged illegal debt collection and late fee practices by the apartment complex. We secured over $100,000 in damages for the tenants and an agreement by the defendants to cease the illegal practices in all of their North Carolina properties.
Ensuring that strong protections are in place for consumers and quality housing options exist for low wealth people in North Carolina requires constant vigilance. 2013 brought many threats to these protections, but thanks to hard work by supporters, staff and volunteers we succeeded in defeating these threats.
Annual Reports on Consumer Protections 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Annual Reports on Housing Advocacy 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007