Missing paperwork saves loan company from closure

imageA payday advance business operating in Inglewood for nearly a decade without a permit faced closure for the violation – until the city was unable to find its own copy of the company’s business license.

The business, Cash ‘N Run, which is located less than half a mile from City Hall, had operated without the permit for almost ten years when a city employee eating at a restaurant next door went in and asked to see the permit.

Owner Bob Altieri said he pays for his business license every year but he didn’t know that he needed a special use permit to operate a payday advance business.

The Inglewood Planning Committee denied Altieri’s request for the permit, but the City Council overturned that decision in late February after the city staff was unable to find their copy of the company’s business license.

Without their copy of the original business license, city council members said they couldn’t do anything but side with the owner.

“This is not a good sign about how we find documents,” Councilman Eloy Morales said. “It would be unfair if we were to say we messed up so we’ll go back and take [Cash ‘N Run] out.”

Councilman Ralph Franklin wondered during the meeting how the city didn’t know until now that Cash ‘N Run didn’t have the correct permit.

“This is the same business that has renewed its license for ten years,” Franklin said.

Altieri was visibly relieved after his appeal was granted. “I would have gone and got it back then,” Altieri said. “Nothing was done intentionally.”

In order to operate a payday advance business in Inglewood, the city requires the owner to buy, and be approved for, a special use permit. Although Morales said he and his colleagues on the city council “are not fans” of the payday advances, Inglewood has approved 15 special use permits for these type of businesses since 1998.

Altieri, who owns similar businesses in Santa Monica, Torrance and Los Angeles, said he purchased a permit for a onetime fee of $1180 after the city council approved his appeal.

“It’s not a real tight ship here,” Altieri said about the Inglewood city government. “They don’t even know what businesses are in the community.”

The appeal at the city council meeting spurred talk among the council members and citizens about whether the payday advances are good for the city of Inglewood.

California allows payday advance businesses but imposes restrictions on how much they can loan to borrowers.

Altieri loans a maximum of $255 to customers and then collects $300 two weeks later – an interest rate of more than 17 percent.

“If their check comes the 15th and their tire blows on the 10th, what are they going to do?” Altieri asked. “I provide a service to the community.”

Some Inglewood residents attending the council meeting disagreed, saying the payday advances only create debt that the borrowers can’t pay back.

“It is nothing more than a vicious cycle that preys on the poor citizens,” said LeRoy Fisher. “They put families in a terrible position with the cycle that they can never get out of paying.”

Another resident said the blame lies with the borrowers themselves.

“If there was no demand for these businesses, they wouldn’t be here,” said Ray Davis, who regularly attends council meetings. “We’ve become addicted to debt and we spend more than we make.”

Further reading: The Los Angeles Times: Payday lenders may avoid U.S. oversight