Florida company took advantage of couple, suit alleges

By Chris Dickerson | Feb 29, 2008

WINFIELD - A Putnam County couple says a Florida company is threatening to take their home.

George Casdorph and Maria Halstead of Buffalo filed the complaint Feb. 19 in Putnam Circuit Court against Rebuild America Inc.

Casdorph, 61, is a former plumber who has a seventh-grade education and lives on a fixed income of Social Security disability benefits. Halstead, also 61, lives with Casdorph.

"They are unsophisticated in financial matters," the suit says.

In 2006, the plaintiffs were looking for a place to live and asked about the property at 100 Allen Street in Buffalo. Rebuild America apparently had bought the property at a tax sale.

Rebuild America agreed to sell the property to the plaintiffs for $10,000 plus back taxes, and Rebuild America agreed to finance the sale on a land contract which provided for an interest of 16 percent, a term of 24 months and a balloon payment.

The couple signed the contract prepared by Rebuild America on Aug. 31, 2006. The contract was recorded in December 2006.

Rebuild America didn't pay taxes on the home, resulting in a tax sale in November 2006. The plaintiffs made payments to Rebuild America for $441.57 per month, but had trouble with the payments in 2007 because of medical issues that arose.

In February 2008, the couple was months behind on payments. They contacted Rebuild America to try to send a partial payment, but Rebuild America refused it. In a letter dated Feb. 4, Rebuild America threatened eviction within five days if entire amount of arrearage wasn't paid.

The lawsuit says Rebuild America contracted a rate of interest that exceeds that permitted by law. It also said the contract had other unreasonable and unfair terms, such as an excessive annual percentage rate and a balloon payment.

They also allege Rebuild America breached the contract by not paying real estate taxes and of illegal debt collection via the threatening letter.

The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the loan was unconscionable and void. They also ask the court to enjoin Rebuild America from further attempts to enforce the contract. They also seek actual damages plus a civil penalty of $4,300, reasonable attorney fees, court costs and other relief.

The plaintiffs are represented by Bren J. Pomponio and Daniel F. Hedges of Mountain State Justice Inc. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Ed Eagloski.

Putnam Circuit Court case number: 08-C-51

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