WILKES-BARRE — Wyoming Valley Habitat for Humanity has initiated foreclosure proceedings against the owners of a Stanton Street home that made headlines last year after neighbors complained the property was being rented out to multiple tenants.
According to documents filed in Luzerne County Court, mortgagees John and Tawana Simpson have fallen behind on payments for their mortgage on 171 Stanton St., and owed Habitat $48,907 in principal, escrow and late fees as of June 1.
The couple have not paid their mortgage in more than 13 months, Habitat says, and the Simpsons were served with notice of default on Jan. 28.
The 1,700-square-foot building is a former doctor’s office which was donated for renovation by Dr. and Mrs. Eugene Pelczar.
Habitat is a non-profit Christian housing ministry that provides housing to families in need across America and internationally. Participating families are required not only to pay off a mortgage, but help build or renovate the home in which they will live.
The Simpsons spent more than 400 hours of work — “sweat equity,” in Habitat parlance — transforming the building into a home suitable for themselves and their five children. They took occupancy in late 2009.
Court documents show the couple signed a $55,000 mortgage on Nov. 6, 2009.
Last summer, neighbors told The Times Leader that while John Simpson was serving a prison sentence on drug charges, his wife had moved somewhere else and was renting out the home.
Officials confirmed Friday that John Simpson is still incarcerated in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, although he will be eligible to apply for parole next month.
Efforts to reach Tawana Simpson were unsuccessful.
A Times Leader reporter visited the property last summer and found the Simpsons’ names were still listed on the mailbox, along with two separate pieces of paper bearing the names of people with two other last names.
A man who answered the back door during one visit declined to speak with a reporter. A written message left for Tawana Simpson later was not returned.
Habitat officials previously said they cannot discuss individual cases, but acknowledged that their policy prohibits homeowners from leasing Habitat homes while they are paying off their mortgages.