Many people who consider moving off the grid have their home under threat of foreclosure. They do not know how they will pay the utility bills, never mind the mortgage. They do not know which way to turn.
Here is a great way to strike back at the faceless, remorseless banks who own your mortgage:
The secret – they may not own your mortgage!
In the housing bubble, mortgages were packaged up and resold so many times that it may be impossible to prove which entity owns a specific mortgage. Sloppy paperwork by the banks is to blame and cutting corners through mass “robosignings” of documents rather than proper reviews. Roughly 5 million households are somewhere in the foreclosure process, according to industry estimates
Most who cannot afford their mortgage might think, “I can’t afford a lawyer either.” \well, tts OK, you don’t need one.
But stay out of the hands of foreclosure advisers who will scam you. Do it yourself. Nancie Koerber, and Mark Thomas finally put off foreclosure on their Oregon home without help from a lawyer. They did it, they say, by writing a letter demanding the bank show them, among other things, a complete account of who owned the title to their property and the name of their pooling-and-servicing agreement. The process stopped for months, resuming only weeks ago.
In the meantime, Thomas went to school to learn how to audit a loan’s history. Together they mapped who owns the loan, where it was bought and sold, and whether notification requirements were followed.
“What we’re finding is most of these foreclosures going down are probably illegitimate,” said Koerber, who is seeking nonprofit status for her firm, Good Grief America, “We’ve got a lot of homeowners headed into court.”
Most homeowners would only try this as a last ditch effort, but actually it should be the first port of call. You are highly unlikely to get any help from Hope for Homeowners, the government foreclosure prevention program .
In the nearly two years since the launch of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), less than half a million homeowners have gotten relief, well below the 3 million to 4 million projected by the Obama administration.
It has stoked a groundswell of anger and disjointed responses that only complicate efforts to solve the problem. “We call it the HEMP Act,” said Koerber, of Central Point Oregon. “We all want to know if someone’s smoking on the other end.”
Foreclosures and canceled modifications have outpaced permanent modifications under the program, U.S. Treasury Department figures show, leaving troubled homeowners to fend for themselves.
Andrea and James Langen filed a class action lawsuit in Portland against Bank of America and its servicing arm on behalf of homeowners eligible for modifications since April 2009. They allege breach of contract and violation of Oregon consumer protection laws in how it has mishandled mortgage modifications.
According to the Langens’ complaint, unnamed ex-Bank of America employees said they deliberately told consumers they lacked paperwork when, in fact, they had it. When customers re-sent their paperwork, the bank would restart the application process.
“This whole thing is what we wake up and think about,” said Andrea Langen, a real estate agent and co-owner of Atomic A’s, a general contractor. “It’s all day, every day.”
In another case, suing on their own, with no legal representation. Medford hairstylist Renee Fisher and her husband, Edward, persuaded U.S. District Judge Owen Panner to stop their Aug. 27 foreclosure after Bank of America failed to show up to the first court hearing. The bank on Tuesday finally responded to their lawsuit, one of five in Oregon brought “pro se”(without a lawyer) by borrowers against the bank.
“Most people who are in foreclosure, they can’t afford to pay an attorney, and I really do feel that’s what the banks count on,” said Fisher, who works out of her home.
Heather and Ben Gaunt thought they’d done everything right to keep their Milwaukie home. They sought mortgage relief 10 months ago, after they went on food stamps, to offset Ben’s pay cut. They responded to repeated requests from Bank of America for the same forms. And then, in March, they qualified for a four-month trial modification that nearly halved their $1,100 payment.
In July, they were denied a permanent modification (“Request incomplete,” the letter said), then granted an appeal, then told their request was still in review.
Then another denial and a threat: Foreclosure would begin Sept. 25 unless they forked over $4,500.
“Each person we talk to never has the same story,” Heather Gaunt said. “I’ve literally spent hundreds of hours on the phone.”
And where was Hope for Homeowners, the government foreclosure prevention program Gaunt first called?
“I think it’s a joke,” she said. “I think it’s just meant for their favor and not to really help us.”
Brent White, associate law professor at the University of Arizona, surveyed more than 300 homeowners in the government’s program. He found a pattern remarkably similar to what the Gaunts experienced: repeated lost paperwork, rude treatment, conflicting stories, ruined credit scores. That triggered anger, frustration and a greater willingness to walk away from their homes. Yet few took that walk away lightly.
“People who are strategically defaulting, almost every one of them (is) making a very tough choice,” White said in an interview. He found that most don’t default until they’ve dipped into their retirement and savings accounts.
“We can talk about the fictitious person out there who has all the money in the world and doesn’t make his mortgage payment,” White said. “But those people are rare. It’s not a small thing if your primary investment has lost its value.”
No wonder, increasingly, homeowners are taking matters into their own hands.
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