Our Proudest Accomplishment of 2020

Have you ever driven past the International Faith Center Church in Oakland? It’s a small white building in a predominantly African American neighborhood, with a peaked roof and a cross hanging over its arched doorway. Last year, saving that church — and the hopes of its congregation — was one of our proudest accomplishments.

If you’ve seen the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” then you’re familiar with the concept of greedy bankers. In it, Mr. Potter plays that role. He’s a crotchety old man who is already rich, but all he wants to do is make more money, and he doesn’t care who he knocks down to get it. Unfortunately, bankers like that exist in real life, too. They’re the kind of people who threaten to foreclose on a church in the middle of a pandemic.

As you’ve probably guessed, this was the very situation the International Faith Center Church was in this past June when they retained our services. The pastor of the church had passed away, and that caused trouble with the building’s mortgage. For a period of time, the bank accepted our clients’ payments on that loan.

Then, the bank representatives stopped communicating with the church. It ignored calls from the new pastor and the church board and refused to accept their mortgage payments, even though they were legally the successors-in-interest to the loan, and the church was private property.

As you can imagine, this was a disaster. Eventually, the bank threatened to foreclose on the church because it wasn’t being “paid,” even though our clients tried to pay the loan. The congregation was terrified that they would lose their place of worship and have nowhere to go back to when in-person services were allowed again. They also knew that if that happened, it would be almost impossible to find another affordable property in the area.

That’s when my team stepped in and took the bank to court. Our strategy worked. Not only were we able to stop the foreclosure, but we also came up with a long-term solution so that the congregation of the church will never have to face that situation again. Our clients paid a reduced amount of money on their loan, refinancing the property and coming to an agreement with the bank.

These simple steps restored hope to dozens of families. Winning that favorable resolution was one of the highlights of our 2020. When I opened Estavillo Law Group during the 2008 recession, I knew that hundreds of people would need our help to save their homes. But over the years, I discovered that we can also help save their livelihoods by defending the properties they’ve invested in.

We have helped hundreds of people save their homes and commercial properties from foreclosure, but this was the first time we went to bat for a church. The experience reminded me just how crucial our team’s work is, particularly right now during a pandemic.

African American communities like the congregation of the International Faith Center Church have been disproportionately impacted by this health crisis, and we are proud to stand up for them against Mr. Potter and all of his fellow greedy bankers.

Here’s to another year of successes and helping our neighbors!