Viewed through the window of a car on Brighton Avenue, the house at the corner of Kenwood Street in Portland’s lovely Oakdale neighborhood doesn’t look that dumpy these days. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that all is not well with this single-family home.
Empty space and floral wallpaper are all that can be seen through the large, curtainless front window. The siding is streaked with dirt and plants are growing out of the gutters. One of the cellar windows is boarded up and the side door is posted with a notice informing would-be trespassers that the property is abandoned. Until recently, the yard was a tall tangle of overgrown grass and shrubbery.
The city assessor’s website lists the owner as Joan Symonds, whose mailing address is a P.O. box in Scarborough. But Symonds told me she hasn’t owned it for three years. “Ask Bank of America about that,” she said, and declined to provide more details.
According to Portland City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who lives down the street, 4 Kenwood is in foreclosure. Suslovic said B of A sold the mortgage to Green Tree Servicing. Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Green Tree is one of the country’s largest (and reportedly most aggressive) mortgage debt collectors. They specialize in the subprime stuff.
The company has been less-than-diligent about maintaining this asset. “This is the second year in a row we’ve tried to get whoever theoretically owns the property to do the bare minimum of maintenance,” Suslovic said. “I and others in city government made repeated calls to Green Tree and never got any response.”
Suslovic said the city finally put a code enforcement officer and a cop on the case, and “they at least got someone to come along and mow the grass.”
The empty house has attracted thieves. According to Suslovic, police arrested a copper robber who broke in last year, and there has been at least one other attempted break-in this year.
My attempts to contact Green Tree were also frustrating. The link on their website for press inquiries led to an invalid e-mail address. A call to their customer service number eventually led to the voice mailbox of Whitney Finch, an executive in the investor relations department of Green Tree’s parent company, Walter Investment Management Corp., which is based in Tampa. Finch did not respond by press time.
Oakdale residents aren’t the only ones fed up with Green Tree. A Facebook page called “Green Tree Servicing SUCKS” has over 1,600 “likes.” If it makes you feel better, you can “like” that page, too.
— Patrick Banks