Photo: Sharon Steinmann, Staff Photographer / Houston Chronicle
Bandit signs have been banned in public rights of way by state law since 2007, but that hasn’t stopped them from showing up on roadsides, utility poles and even in neighborhoods.
In northwest Harris County, these public rights of way—usually defined as the area from the center of the road out to about 30 feet toward the sidewalk on each side—have been staged as a battleground by public officials and community residents who have been combating illegal bandit signs for decades.
Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman has led the charge with a group of environmental deputies and civilian volunteers who are trained in how to identify and remove signs from areas where they don’t belong.
An uptick in bandit signs along the FM 1960 corridor between I-45 and Highway 249 led him recently to seek approval from the County Commissioner’s Court for “a list of civilian personnel to enforce Bandit Sign Laws in accordance with the Transportation Code,”
“These signs are becoming more and more prevalent,” Herman said. “Citizens hate them, they’re distracting, and they trash up the area.”
The penalties for cluttering up rights of way with signs like “We pay cash for houses” or “No credit needed” are administered two ways. On the criminal side, placing illegal bandit signs is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries up to a $500 fine.
The only catch, Herman said, is that deputies have to witness a person in the act, and these types of offenders are usually hired to go out and place signs in the predawn hours.
The other penalty is a civil offense, levied against businesses deemed to be repeat offenders. If a business is deemed to be skirting the law by continuing to have their bandit signs placed, they can face fines of up to $1000 per day.
In 2013, the county doled out a $106,000 judgment against a credit repair company for violating the bandit sign law. Herman said residents continue to reach out asking what they can do.
“People want communities clean from trash and clutter,” he said.
One of the ways that Herman’s office, along with the county commissioners court, helps empower residents to declutter their neighborhoods is by offering a state certified bandit sign ranger course.
“I’m probably the only constable doing this,” Herman said. “We’re very progressive up here.”
The class teaches volunteers how to pick up and photograph signs. Volunteers can then work with the county attorney’s office to fill out forms to identify companies and file suit, brought by the county attorney, against the company owners.
A community activist who helped set up this collaborative course between the agencies and the public named Larry Lipton was part of the cohort led by State Rep. Patricia Harless, who in 2009 got the bill passed that allowed the state to go after companies.
Lipton has been removing bandit signs for 20 years and said although the county attorney has limited resources, it’s good they have volunteers willing to assist in the effort. He helps volunteers understand the “broken windows” theory as a guide for how offenders may think residents view their community if they allow it to be overrun with signs.
“This is one piece for a cure for less crime in the community,” Lipton said.
Two community members who have taken the bandit sign ranger course, Mary Joseph and Betty Sperry, are active in fighting what Joseph calls the bandit sign “infestation” in their area. Both are decades-long residents who have seen a growing number of bandit signs across the area, which Joseph said looks more rundown than it did 20 years ago.
“When people see this, what are their first impressions … when they drive into 1960?” Sperry said. She was involved with the Renaissance 1960 revitalization initiative a decade ago, which she said, “sort of fell by the wayside,” but got back into the effort when she saw a Nextdoor post from Joseph about the bandit signs.
Joseph put together a group who went through the bandit sign course. She said that from March to June, about 15 people reported they had removed 790 signs from roadways and nailed to utility posts from up and down FM 1960 and cross streets near Champions, Old Oaks, Ponderosa and Huntwick Forest.
“Most community members don’t appreciate the signs,” Joseph said. “I don’t believe they get a lot of paying customers.”
Several businesses that have placed bandit signs were contacted, but all declined to comment for this story.
Joseph and Sperry are concerned for the environment, safety of workers who have to repair the poles, and traffic risks to the community from distracted drivers. The signs may also be detrimental to longtime area businesses that Joseph said must compete with bandit signs getting in the way of their own legitimate signage. Businesses are being forced to abide by “one set of rules and having to deal with people using another,” she said.
The group is able to pull down between 300 and 400 signs per month. Even with what some may regard as significant progress for volunteers “between 40 and 50” with a few retirees Sperry said, she wishes they had more help.
“It would be great if we had stiffer rules beyond the laws,” she said.
Residents like Joseph recognize that the FM 1960 area is a “sitting duck customer for bandit sign offenders” and that law enforcement personnel have more important work to do, but she wants to assist them without being a burden.
She keeps an open communication channel with the group via Facebook and understands that more people will join in if they can go at their own pace without too many restrictions.
“Keep it simple, get the job done,” she said.
Ultimately, she wants the kinds of efforts her group undertakes to spread across the county and into other communities. “If people stop tolerating it, maybe people will stop doing,” Joseph said.
Sperry’s message for would-be bandit sign offenders is clear: “Stop nailing this trash up,” she said. “We don’t want it.”
How to Get Help with My Credit?
A low credit score does not only make loans costly or inaccessible. It may affect your employment, and even prevent you from renting the best apartment. As an indicator of creditworthiness, it is checked by lenders, insurers, employers, and landlords. If the total is far from perfect, there are several ways to fix it. The best repair companies will do it on your behalf.
Why Scores Go Down
In the US, the most popular scoring systems are FICO and VantageScore. They use a similar combination of factors to assess data on credit reports. Three major bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — document your payments and all events related to borrowing. For example, the three most important elements for FICO are:
- history of payments (35%);
- the total amount of debt (30%);
- age of credit history (15%).
From this, you can deduce the conditions for the best scores. You need to have an impeccable record without missed or late payments, and the total amount of debt should be as low as possible. The longer your history — the better. You may also raise the score by using more credit products (credit mix accounts for 10%) and opening new accounts (10%).
Do You Need Repair?
This term refers to the correction of official records. Today, affordable credit repair services help you clean the reports fast. These measures are not always necessary. The accuracy of the records determines whether you need repair. You may need to rebuild your history, not fix it. For example, you will see the credit score go up after paying debt.
Every year, you may request a copy of your reports. There is no need to contact the agencies individually. Until April 20, 2022, www.annualcreditreport.com allows you to get them for free once a week.
If the documents are accurate, there is nothing to fix. However, you may still raise the score by rebuilding your credit history. There are several ways to do this, such as:
- Increasing limits on credit cards or paying off the balances (this lowers the credit utilization ratio);
- Getting a new credit card (to bring down the same indicator);
- Taking out new loans and paying back diligently;
- Adding more data to your reports through Experian Boost, and more.
How Repair Works
Mistakes on official reports are not uncommon. You may find errors in spelling or completely false entries, such as judgments, evictions, or bankruptcies. These derogatories will tarnish your records for a long time. Most negative entries affect the score for 7 years, and some bankruptcies influence it for a decade, depending on the chapter.
Every consumer has a right to dispute such errors on their own. This is a challenging and lengthy process. Not only should you navigate consumer credit laws. It is necessary to liaise with bureaus, lenders, and collectors. Communication involves formal letters of specific formats. If you lack the expertise, a credit repair company is your best bet.
Overview of Professional Services
These providers have teams of weathered experts. They will collect your data, identify the most damaging mistakes and have them removed. This process involves four key stages and takes several months on average. The company will:
- collect your reports from all major bureaus;
- scrutinize the documents to identify inaccuracies;
- develop a strategy to fix the score as quickly as possible;
- collect evidence to prove that the items are false;
- send formal dispute letters to credit bureaus to have the mistakes deleted.
Most providers offer different tiers of services. The cheapest packages include five disputes per billing cycle on average. The core services are analysis and disputes. In addition, you may access score monitoring tools, personal budgeting apps, identity theft protection, and other extras.
On average, repair takes between 2 and 6 months. This depends on the number of mistakes you want to eradicate. The more derogatories — the longer you (or your hired experts) need to collect the evidence and initiate the disputes.
How to Find a Reliable Provider
In the United States, credit repair is a big industry. Dozens of companies offer to raise your total quickly, but choosing the right one is tricky. Pay attention to the following:
- reputation and BBB rating;
- range of services;
- money-back guarantee.
Your provider may or may not be accredited with the Better Business Bureau. Still, this platform offers crucial insights (e.g., the number of complaints in the past 3 years and any pending lawsuits). Feedback is also available on sites like www.consumeraffairs.com and TrustPilot. In addition, check expert reviews from reputable sources like Investopedia.
In terms of pricing, learn about the ‘first work fee’, or ‘setup fee’. It is paid upfront. Subsequently, the company will charge you every month as long as you need its services. On average, you may pay between $79 and $129 per cycle.
Pay close attention to the refund policy. Some companies will not return your money even if they fail to delete a single item from the records. At the same time, there are unconditional policies. These allow you to get a refund for any reason within the first 90 days.
You need convenient access to progress tracking. Most providers allow you to check the status of your case on their web portal. The biggest companies have proprietary apps. You may reach their office by phone on any weekday, and support is also available during shorter weekend hours.
If you need help with repair, choose trusted providers in your area. Check their reputation, legal status, and feedback from customers. Beware of scammers. With professional assistance, you may see the first results in just over a month.
La Reyna Del Credito Helping People Defeat the Financial System by Improving Their Credit Scores
Financial freedom is somewhat an alien word where Ivonne Arvizu comes from, and she made a solemn promise to make it happen for herself and as many others as possible. With a work rate that has cut across different clients with varying professions such as medicine, entertainment, business, legal, real estate, financial professionals, police officers, and thousands of other people who needed credit report at one time or the other, Ivonne Arvizu has created a strong impression about La Reyna Del Credito. Ivonne acquired her credit repair knowledge a long time before she established her credit repair company, and she started helping people fix their credit while she worked at a bank. The bank was against her offering such services due to a conflict of interest. Ivonne, not willing to let herself get tied down in some banking bureaucracy she didn’t agree with, resigned from the bank and made her company into a full-fledged, official credit repair business.
Ivonne Arvizu has always been about excellence and flying the flag high all her life. Despite coming from a humble background and a poor family that never fulfilled the American dream, Ivonne set out to make a difference. She became a homeowner at the age of 20 and has dedicated more than 18 years of her life helping the Latino community elevate its financial status. Ivonne has been featured in Spanish programs on television networks like Telemundo, Univision, Radio Nueva Vida, Radio Inspiracion, and other broadcast services educating the public about financial freedom. Through La Reyna Del Credito, Ivonne is changing lives and shaking things up in the financial world.
La Reyna Del Credito was established on the premise of “Life happens, and anyone can get into a bad credit situation.” In Ivonne’s words, “Nobody ever hopes to have bad credit. It just happens, and it does not discriminate. There are so many variables that cause people to have bad credit and fortunately for them, ‘La Reyna del Credito’ exists.” Beyond fixing bad credit scores, La Reyna Del Credito helps people get their mortgage credit within days so they can buy their dream homes without stress. The company established a FICO program that ensures this guarantee, and it has boosted La Reyna Del Credito’s credibility in the Latino community.
La Reyna Del Credito has proven to be a game-changer for the Latino community and has pushed its members to focus on becoming more financially stable in their retirement age. With more than 1,087 real estate deals closed in 2018 alone and a money-back guarantee on all credit fixes if the company does not deliver the score, La Reyna Del Credito has given people more confidence in its services as it continues to deliver excellent results. The bulk of the company’s clients are Spanish-speaking Latinos who migrated to the United States without knowledge of how credit scores work, and they need guidance. Ivonne Arvizu has built something outstanding, and she’s willing to see it through till she has fixed the finances of hundreds of thousands of people.
Learn more about La Reyna Del Credito on the company’s official website.
Improve Your Credit Score with a Credit Repair Company
Securing a loan for your home or business investment can turn out to be quite overwhelming for individuals and businesses out there. People with poor credit scores often struggle with their loan applications, as it gets a bit challenging to have your loan application approved at a low interest. In fact, a credit score happens to be the first thing a bank or a financial institution is likely to notice when reviewing your loan application.
Sometimes, simple things such as late payments and irregular bill payments can lower your credit score significantly. Even if you manage to find a private lender who’s willing to approve your loan application, there is a good chance they will charge you a high interest for the loan.
Why Do I Need to Hire a Credit Repair Company?
It isn’t always your utility bills or debt payments that lower your credit rankings, but sometimes, you might end up with a bad credit score because of a small error on your credit report. Regardless of the complexity of the issue you are facing, you can’t deal with the problem on your own. It is important that you seek help from a credit repair company to look into the matter and fix the issue quickly. As the name suggests, the credit repair company is in charge of fixing the errors in your credit report and removing the items that might be lowering your credit score. This includes charge-offs, late payments, liens, debt collections, and so on.
With a large number of credit repairing companies claiming to offer high-quality and cost-effective services, the decision of choosing the most reliable company could be a little overwhelming. Each company offers a set of unique services that are designed to improve your credit score in different ways. You might have to apply for a loan to finance emergency health requirements, your dream home, a startup, business capital, child’s education, and other requirements. Here are a few other reasons why you must hire a credit repair company:
· Fix Inaccuracies on Your Credit Reports
Research shows that more than half the population of the United States report inaccuracies and unnecessary errors in their credit reports every year. These errors occur due to the miscalculation is wrong information. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t always your debts and late payments that affect your credit rankings.
Sometimes, small errors in the report could have a profound impact on your credit score. It is, therefore, important for businesses and individuals to get their credit reports reviewed once in a while. Only a credit repair company has the expertise and skills it requires for reviewing the credit reports thoroughly and fixing the errors. The sooner you get these errors fixed, the faster you will be able to apply for a home loan.
· Job Opportunities
Many reputable companies ask applicants to attach a copy of their credit reports with the job application so that they know their staff is trustworthy. A good credit score increases your chances of getting hired by a reputable company.
· Insurance Policies
You can’t secure the best and low-priced insurance policy with a bad credit score. It’s important to work on your credit score to get the best deals on insurance policies. That’s because a majority of insurance providers offer insurance plans based on your credit reports. A reliable credit repair company will help fix your credit score, saving you a significant amount of money on an insurance policy.
Best Credit Repair Companies
There is no denying that good credit repair companies can help improve your credit reports by erasing the negative items and fixing the inaccuracies. Here are a few popular credit repair companies you can count on for premium services.
· Credit Saint: With more than 10 years of experience in this industry, Credit Saint tops our list of the best credit repair company. The Better Business Bureau has rated it A+ for the variety of services it offers. The company has undoubtedly improved the credit rating of a large number of customers successfully over the past few years. It reviews your FICO credit score, evaluates the negative items, and fixes the damaged credit score.
· Sky Blue Credit: If the price and quality of the services are your main concerns, Sky Blue Credit is your best bet. The company has kept a fixed price, which is $79 a month, for an extensive range of credit repair services.
· The Credit Pros: With over 200,000 customers based across different parts of the world, The Credit Pros is a 12-year old company that has received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. You can enroll in its monthly plan that costs a flat fee of $49 or choose the prosperity package – whatever fits your preference and budget.
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