Foreclosure tips and tricks from a professional listen10/27/11 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:
More than 7 million homes are in the midst of foreclosure proceedings nationwide and many residents in the Tampa Bay area are feeling the effects. A foreclosure attorney spoke to about 20 people last night at an information forum for homeowners.
According to a study by the Center for Housing Policy, one in every ten homes in large metropolitan areas is seriously delinquent on their mortgage payments. There are federal programs to assist people facing potential foreclosure, but attorney David Hicks says law makers in Florida aren’t doing anything to help homeowners.
"Our Attorney General is one of only four in the country that opted out of a settlement agreement that would force the lenders to reduce the principle balance on people’s mortgages. The reason: because that would promote more people to quit paying their mortgages. Our Governor has turned down millions of dollars of federal foreclosure help and the position of the Attorney General is right in line with his politics. I’m not Democrat or Republican, I’m just telling you right now, there’s nobody in Tallahassee that’s out there to help you."
Once paperwork has been filed for banks to repossess a property, homeowners have the right to burden lenders with proof of ownership and default on payments. Homeowners can do that by appearing before a judge. But Governor Rick Scott has proposed legislation that would limit the rights of people to argue their case.
"Right now, we are still what we call a judicial state in the state of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has recently introduced legislation that would change that so that we would become a non-judicial state. What that means is he’s trying to take away your right to appear in court and have a judge make a determination as to whether or not the bank has the right to be there. They say they need to hurry this process up. They say we need to get this done. This is even after all of the fraud that has been committed by the banks."
And Hicks gave some basic advice to people facing losing their home, like never making a partial payment to a bank. He said those payments, or even full payments made after a period of delinquency, will only go toward fees and penalties. He also cautioned homeowners being sued not to trust advice from the bank or the bank’s attorneys.
"These are firms and attorneys that have been hired for one thing only, and that is to foreclose on you. They don’t get paid extra if they talk to you on the phone about a loan modification. They don’t get paid extra if they work with you on a short sale. As a matter of fact, you will be very lucky if you can get anybody at that law firm to return any of your phone calls or even talk to you on the phone. If you can get a legal assistant, you’ll be doing pretty good. You will never get the attorney to speak with you."
Hicks recommended hiring an attorney to assist with defending a pending foreclosure. He said because so many mortgages have been sold to other companies multiple times, many lenders are unable to provide original documents required to win a foreclosure case. Attorneys can file a Qualified Written Request letter, or QWR as to avoid a foreclosure. Hicks said doing so gives the homeowner several options.
"Matter of fact most of the time what the bank will do is they won’t even respond to the QWR."
"I thought they had to respond within 20 days?"
"You’re right, they do.They’re federally mandated to do so."
"And so, if they don’t….?"
"You have a potential lawsuit against them for statutory damages. More important, for my sake if I’m looking to defend, it’s another quiver. It’s another arrow in my quiver. So that when I appear in court and I talk to the judge and I tell the judge, we’re not somebody who’s just not trying to pay our mortgage, we’re looking for an equitable solution to this problem. We’ve tried, we’ve reached out to the bank, we’ve asked for information and so far they’ve done nothing but ignore us."
President Obama announced the Home Affordable Refinance Program this week that would allow homeowners to refinance their homes at lower interest rates even if the homeowner owes more than the home is worth. Hicks said that program will help some people avoid foreclosure, but only those who have never been delinquent on their payments. He said that may be hard to find in today’s volatile housing climate and will do little to help people already facing losing their homes.