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What Is HAMP Loan Modification: Can It Stop Foreclosure

Christofer Yogi
602 427 6172
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New homeowner protections go into effect Jan. 1

The New Year will bring more protections to California homeowners, mainly those who are trying to save their properties from being repossessed.

The Homeowner Bill of Rights, signed by the governor this year, is a set of new laws that puts the onus on banks to help consumers through the foreclosure process. They go into effect Jan. 1. The legislation, lauded by housing advocates and heavily criticized by the lending industry, forces banks to:

• Stop dual tracking, the process of starting the foreclosure process while a loan modification has been submitted or being reviewed by the bank. Borrowers in the past have lost their homes to foreclosure as a result of this situation. Under the new law, banks must give loan-modification applicants a response before starting the foreclosure process. Banks also will have to inform consumers who don’t apply for a loan modification that they have the right to do so.

• Stop robo-signing, the process of approving foreclosure documents without proper review.

• Assign one point of contact to borrowers who are trying for a loan modification.

One of the laws also allows borrowers to sue loan servicers for violating any foreclosure laws.

Some of the provisions in the package echo those in the national mortgage settlement, a deal struck earlier this year between five major lenders and 49 states, including California. The Homeowner Bill of Rights though firms up those provisions into law, which is key because the mortgage settlement terms will end in 2015.

“For too long, struggling homeowners in California have been denied fairness and transparency when dealing with their lending institutions,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris in a statement. “These laws give homeowners new rights as they work through the foreclosure process and will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes.”

Homeowner advocates also applaud the legislation.

“Too many Californians have lost their homes despite doing all they can to avoid foreclosure,” said Norma Garcia, senior attorney at Consumers Union, the advocacy branch of Consumer Reports, in a statement. “California’s new law will help more homeowners avoid foreclosure and keep their homes. Ultimately, that will help stabilize California’s housing market and benefit California families, communities and our economy.”

Financial groups including the California Bankers Association and California Mortgage Bankers Association opposed the bill of rights, saying the new regulations will prevent the housing recovery from moving ahead, clog up the foreclosure pipeline and push lending institutions to further tighten their grip on credit to consumers.

“Our industry cannot support legislation that promotes meritless litigation, particularly in an environment where our court system is already overburdened, that will ultimately have no impact on the underlying financial condition of the borrower who cannot afford to stay in their home,” said Rodney K. Brown, president and CEO of the California Bankers Association in an editorial published in the Sacramento Bee in June.

California was a hard-hit area in the foreclosure crisis. More than 900,000 were recorded between 2007 and 2011. More than 61,000 were recorded in San Diego County during that timeframe.

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Monday Is Deadline For Foreclosure Review

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you lost your home to foreclosure, you could be eligible for some cash — up to $125,000. But, you need to hurry up and apply because the deadline is Monday.


Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes to foreclosure — and the federal government believes it happened to many people unfairly.

The feds have ordered 16 banks and lending institutions to pay for an independent review of those foreclosures and to reimburse people who were mistreated.

In the Kansas City metro, that could be thousands of people.

Two of those people are Angela and Bill Graham. “They never answer the phone. They won’t return your messages,” Bill said.

The couple has been fighting with Citibank for more than a year — trying to hang on to the home they love in Chillicothe, Mo.

The couple said their problems began when Bill lost his job selling cars. He quickly found another job — but for significantly less money. And, although both Bill and Angela work, they couldn’t make the mortgage, so they applied for a home loan modification.

That’s when, they say, their carefully documented nightmare with Citibank began.

“They asked for 100 different documents and we did every one of them,” said Bill. “The next month they needed the same documents again. Some documents she sent 7 to 8 times. “

For months, they fought with Citibank and they thought they were making progress — until one day a relative told them to look at the newspaper.

“That was the way we found out about it in the local newspaper. There was a notice our home was going to be sold.”

The Grahams found out not only would their home be sold, but on the courthouse steps.

Frantic, they hired an attorney who told them their only option was to file bankruptcy and stop the bank from taking their home.

But even now, after declaring bankruptcy, they still don’t know where they stand with the bank and whether this Christmas would be the last at their home.

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Home foreclosure rate declines in Beaufort County

When clients call Realtor John Robinson searching for good deals on foreclosed homes on Hilton Head Island, he doesn’t have much to show them.

“When it comes to Hilton Head, there’s not much there. There’s very little inventory and very little variety,” said Robinson, outgoing president of the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors.

Other areas of Beaufort County are reporting a similar drop in foreclosed properties on the market as the county’s foreclosure rate ticks downward.

One of every 423 housing units in the county went into foreclosure in November. That’s a lower rate than the one in every 339 reported in November last year, according to data from RealtyTrac, a California-based firm that tracks foreclosure filings on houses, condominiums and villas.

In real numbers, that’s 220 foreclosures this November compared to 249 last November.

Within the county, Bluffton and Seabrook experienced the highest foreclosure rates. Beaufort and Hilton Head Island were among the lowest.

Robinson said that makes sense considering Bluffton was a pre-recession hot spot for homebuilders and first-time homebuyers, some of whom took advantage of risky mortgage deals and found themselves in financial trouble when the recession hit.

“It’s led to more foreclosures in that area,” Robinson said, noting it’s a different situation on Hilton Head.

“Hilton Head purchasers may be more affluent. They had more cash for that home purchase. They had more of a safety net,” he said.

There’s a similar trend in northern Beaufort County, said Edward Dukes, a Realtor with Lowcountry Real Estate.

“(Foreclosed homes) are being scooped up by investors, first-time homebuyers,” Dukes said.

And while inventory is dropping, there are still plenty of good deals.

“With interest rates as they are, it’s still a great time to buy,” Dukes said.

The number of foreclosed homes on the market could soon increase, predicts Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac’s vice president.

Properties scheduled for foreclosure auction in Beaufort County increased 134 percent from a year ago — 82 in November 2012 compared to 35 in November 2011.

And it’s not a one-month anomaly.

November marks the seventh consecutive month in which scheduled foreclosure auctions increased from a year ago, meaning that after a lull in foreclosure activity caused by processing and documentation delays, another batch of deferred foreclosures should hit the market soon.

Blomquist said it’s a pattern seen in about half of the states, including South Carolina, where a judge must review and rule on every foreclosure case, leading to delays in the foreclosure process.

South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Toal added to the backlog in May 2011, ordering a moratorium on all foreclosures that were moving through the state’s courts in hopes of getting banks to work with homeowners and avoid foreclosure proceedings. Toal also ordered a moratorium in 2009.

“The good news is that these foreclosures are likely not a sign of a new wave of distress hitting the local market,” Blomquist said. “It is more of a sign that the market is finally dealing with distress that was created a year or two or three ago.”

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Lowcountry Realtors say a drop in local foreclosure filings indicates the area’s real estate market is on the rebound, Feb. 28, 2012

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North Texas home foreclosures fall to lowest level since 2005

North Texas home foreclosures have been tapering off for the last couple of years.

But Dallas-Fort Worth foreclosure postings for January have fallen at an even sharper rate.

Just under 2,400 area homes are threatened with forced sale by lenders next month. That’s a 42 percent decline from January 2012,

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Missing Dania Beach Woman Found Dead on Foreclosure Property


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A woman who vanished from her Dania Beach home on Christmas Eve has been found dead at a vacant home a few blocks away in her neighborhood, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

The body of 56-year-old Mary Swinford on Friday was found at the home in the 2900 block of Southwest 46th Court, west of Swinford’s residence in the 2600 block of Southwest 45th Street, the agency said.

No obvious signs of foul play were found on the body, which was taken to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

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The agency received a call at 2:23 p.m. Friday from a caller who was trying to take a look at the foreclosure property by walking around the perimeter of the home, the Sheriff’s Office said. The person saw the body in the back yard, the agency said.

Swinford had last been seen at her home on Christmas Eve, when she walked away while wearing a white sweatshirt and black stretch pants, the agency said.

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At the time of her disappearance, the woman was “despondent,” or in low spirits, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The death remains under investigation.

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Animals often forgotten as victims of foreclosure – Sun

Like many other South Floridians, Madeleine J. Calder was crushed when she lost her 5-acre ranch in Palm Beach County to foreclosure. But she hadn’t counted on also losing her most prized possessions: six ostriches, named Rhett Butler, Miss Scarlett, Bob, Gallagher Bird, Ken Doll and Little Bit.

Calder last saw the small herd of ostriches featured in national and local stories on ostrich breeding when she moved out of her Blue Heaven Ostrich Ranch in Loxahatchee. She left the ostriches, some of which she had nurtured for 21 years, with plans to find a new place for them to stay.

But before she could claim them, Calder says, they disappeared — and no one will tell her where they are.

She’s been fighting to get them back ever since filing several lawsuits, the latest in September. “We’ve been together through everything, those birds and me,” Calder said.

The ongoing foreclosure crisis has forced some homeowners to leave pets and livestock behind. Dogs are the most common, but horses, cattle, pigs, goats, rabbits, turtles and even fish have been left as well. Broward and Palm Beach County deputies serving eviction notices also have reported encountering the more exotic Chinchillas, llamas, emus and snakes.

“You never know what you’re going to walk into,” said Capt. David Walesky, spokesman for Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control. He once found 56 animals — including a box turtle — during an eviction.

The animal control agency recently came upon two South American oscar fish — which can grow to as long as 18 inches — left in an aquarium without food. One died, the other is with a family.

In some cases, deputies try to help families out, said Dani Moschella, a spokeswoman for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. For example, deputies worked out an agreement to allow a Parkland family to keep their horses in the pasture of their foreclosed property while they searched for a new home.

“We do the responsible thing,” Moschella said.

Sometimes, homeowners such as Calder try to work out similar deals on their own. Most animals that end up in shelters, however, are never claimed by their owners, according to the American Humane Association. Few go as far as Calder to fight in court to get their pets or livestock back.

Blue Heaven’s website is dotted with pictures of Calder and the ostriches. A former Manhattan real estate agent, Calder turned to ostrich breeding as a new livelihood after the market collapsed in 1989. She began raising them in Connecticut and then moved to North Carolina, where she opened a combination ostrich-breeding farm and bed-and-breakfast that was featured in Southern Living magazine.

Earlier this month, Calder complained to a judge that Nicholas Arsali, president of Northwood Trust, which bought her foreclosed property, still had not given her the name and address where the ostriches had been moved, as the judge had instructed.

“I asked him outside the court, and Mr. Arsali’s response was, ‘I have 150 properties and can’t remember the address,’” Calder wrote to the judge.

Calder said she had worked out an agreement with an investor to buy her ranch in a short sale — submitting the paperwork to the lender, Chase, three times. But Chase did not get the completed paperwork in time to call off the foreclosure, Chase spokeswoman Maribel Ferrer said.

The property was foreclosed on in June 2011, and the ostriches were moved almost four months later to an undisclosed place. But Calder said they were not part of the mortgaged property that she was foreclosed on.

In a telephone interview, Arsali said he didn’t know where the ostriches were. They had stayed at the foreclosed ranch until September 2011. An out-of-state woman, whom Calder described as an investor — but who, Arsali said, he thought was the ostriches’ new owner — had paid for their food and a caretaker to watch over them. But Arsali said he and the woman couldn’t come to an agreement over the cost of housing them on the ranch’s land.

So, Arsali said a good home was found for the ostriches in September by the caretaker. “I don’t know where,” he said.

The caretaker, Patricia Quinn, said she couldn’t comment on where the ostriches were.

Calder said she has worked out an arrangement for her ostriches to live on 25 acres owned by someone else. The owners even have a big truck to transport the ostriches to their new home, Calder said.

She worries that her ostriches, who can live to be 70 or so, aren’t getting the special food — “alfalfa, grains, and protein supplements,” according to the Blue Heaven website — that they need.

“I have to protect them,” she said.

Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report. or Twitter @donnagehrke

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Strangers quietly save the Wheelers from foreclosure

In September, Wes and Cathy Wheeler were six months behind on their mortgage and running deeper into debt. They were desperate to save their house in Croydon from foreclosure. They resolved to throw themselves on the mercy of the Bank of America, their mortgage lender, in a plea to save their house.

“The kids could see the stress,” Cathy said. “We weren’t sure what to do. Do we start to look around for another place to stay? Do we pack and move?”

The day before their 26th wedding anniversary, the Wheelers and their twin daughters, who are 16, stepped into a pawn shop on Route 413 in Bristol Township. They would meet with Bank of America that night, but they needed cash to get to the meeting, to have their phone service restored, and to make a trip to central New Jersey where a relative was undergoing major surgery.

When they came into the pawn shop, it was chance that brought me there, too. I wanted to speak to the owner about a development era of expansive government gimmickry — middle-class people forced to pawn family heirlooms to buy gas to get to work.

The Wheelers faced an inevitable sheriff’s sale that would put them, the twins, a foster daughter and their 4-year-old grandson on the street.

I wrote about them, published in this space on Sept. 27, to showcase how their plight is the new normal for millions of Americans. Then, the unexpected happened.

Readers, from Bensalem to Bedminster and from Feasterville to Falls, quietly and with no desire for fanfare, sent money. Envelopes arrived in the newsroom, some bearing checks, others cash. All had instructions to forward the money to the Wheelers’ Stephen Avenue address.

A man sent them a check for $5,000, which covered most of the back mortgage. Wes and Cathy were stunned.

“The very next day, a man and a woman knocked on our door and handed us a hundred dollars and said, here you are, see you later. I said we didn’t even get your name,” Cathy said.

Parishioners at Our Lady of Grace Church in Penndel helped with Christmas gifts for their children, and with Thanksgiving dinner.

Cathy said she had enough money to finish her grandson’s bedroom, which was left a mess by a contractor who, several years ago, took their money for improvements, and ran.

“It’s been incredible. It really restores your faith in humanity,” Cathy said.

It has been tough for the Wheelers. They were fine until Wes was left disabled after suffering severe injuries in a car crash. (One of the items they pawned the day I met them was a gold religious medal, which was given to Wes as he lay unconscious in the hospital after the crash.)

The Wheelers avocation for taking foster children from the city (27 kids since 2000), has strained their budget. Cathy works as a part-time crossing guard. Still, they cobble together enough money to live.

“We’ve always struggled, but we’ve always been generous with our home and time,” she said. “These kids, for some of them, this house is the only stability they have ever known in their lives.”

Cathy figured somehow, some day, their good will would be repaid. It has been.

“Everyone has been wonderful,” she said.

Well, almost. The Bank of America hassled them. The check they received for $5,000 was enough to cover four payments.

“They told me to send it and we will work with you on the other two payments,” Cathy said. “Great! I immediately got a check off to them. It was Oct. 15, around there, (when) I sent them the check. They said, great, gonna work with ya. Calls me a few days later, says we’re sending it back. They wanted all six payments, or nothing.”

After more negotiation, the Wheelers and the bank have agreed to a modified mortgage, which will have them current by spring, with monthly payments lowered by $150.

Her wedding ring, which she pawned for gas, is on her finger again, and they also got Wes’s religious medal back.

“2013 will be a better year for us,” she said. “I can feel it. I believe in lucky 13. My father was born on a Friday the 13th. You know, just to feel light is a great gift. Just to be able to leave home and come back and not fear that the sheriff was going to be at the front door. So, I’m happy again. We’re happy again.”

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Judge finds US Bank in contempt in foreclosure case – Sarasota Herald

Attorneys for Dimitri Jansen, a local schoolteacher whose former home in North Port is in foreclosure, said such the contempt order against Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, is “unprecedented.”

Jansen says his mother’s name was mistakenly added to the mortgage he obtained in 2006, that the bank has ignored requests to remove her name from the foreclosure documents and thus wrecked her credit history, and that the bank held up a pending short sale.

Another Sarasota judge, apparently frustrated with U.S. Bank, had ordered the bank’s president to be present in court on Friday. The bank instead sent a senior representative, who declined to comment.

Sarasota Circuit Court Judge Charles Williams found the bank in indirect civil contempt. It is unclear what, if any, sanctions the bank will face at the next court hearing in February 2013.

“Fundamentally, they refused to respect the court,” Jansen’s attorney, Matt Weidner, said of U.S. Bank. “What this shows is willful negligence.”

Like many other foreclosure cases throughout the country, Jansen’s is a tale of paperwork mistakes.

In addition to his regular mortgage, Jansen applied for an additional $10,000 loan that is designed to be forgiven if the homeowner stays in the house for 30 years, through a special state program for teachers. BBT, the original lender, told him he had to have a co-signer on that loan.

The bank reversed course a couple of months later, saying they were mistaken about the need for a co-signer and that Jansen’s mother was not eligible to sign anyway because she was not going to be living in the home. Jansen signed new mortgage paperwork and the loan was later sold to U.S. Bank.

The home went into foreclosure in 2007 after Jansen was laid off. Jansen believes that when the mortgage was sold, the old paperwork with his mother’s name on it went into the file, resulting in confusion.

After two years of fighting, U.S. Bank agreed in 2009 to a court order to remove Jansen’s mother’s name from the documents.

Jansen negotiated a short sale for the home in August, but when he contacted the bank, he was told his mother was still on the mortgage documents and she would have to sign off on the sale. The requirement from the bank has held up the short sale, Jansen said, and the family that is waiting to move in.

He will also have to pay taxes on the property if the sale does not go through before the end of the year.

Jansen said the case has been hard on his elderly mother, and they have had difficulty getting credit agencies to remove the blemish from her record. He was not surprised the president of U.S. Bank did not appear in court on Friday.

“That’s really the attitude that they’ve conveyed throughout the last five years, that they’re not responsible for anything,” Jansen said of the bank.

In court documents, the bank argued that it would be “logistically impossible” for the president to appear in court.

Jansen’s attorneys called the judge’s decision a victory for homeowners in foreclosure who have been victimized by banks.

“It’s unusual for a court to hold an institution in civil contempt,” said Elizabeth Boyle, an attorney with Gulfcoast Legal Services. “But it’s appropriate in this case because of the lawless actions of the bank.”

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Good Samaritans help Perris soldier in a foreclosure bind

A military man and his family who lost their home to foreclosure had a very difficult deadline. They were locked out the day after Christmas and given almost no time to get all of their possessions out of the house by Friday.

It was a mad dash the moment the gate opened. The Gunn family had just 60 minutes to gather everything they own.

“My family is devastated and we don’t know what tomorrow brings,” said Tina Gunn.

The day after Christmas, Tina and Justin Gunn, an Army National Guard solider, and their children were locked out of their Perris home after losing it to foreclosure. They had lived there for the last 17 years.

“I learned how to ride a bike here. I learned how to make that fort. Everything that’s there now, I’ve been a part of making it,” said Thomas Holmes, the Gunns’ son.

Friday, they were given one hour to remove everything they own from the property. This would have been a nearly impossible task if it were not for the help of close to 100 volunteers – many of them are fellow military or Marines from Camp Pendleton.

“When I found out that they had one hour today, which is what we have, one hour to get all of their personal effects out of this home, then I wanted to recruit as many volunteers as I could to have today be a random act of kindness for this family,” said volunteer Laura Herzog.

With no time to pack, they filled pickups with bags of the family’s belongs, carried away tables and chairs, rushing to remove everything from the property as the countdown continued.

Much of the items were stored in a neighbor’s shed, while other things were piled up along the road in order to beat the deadline. For the Gunns, the overwhelming generosity was a true gift in their greatest time of need.

“I don’t know half of these people. They’re friends of friends and Marines and Patriot Riders, and I’m overwhelmed and very grateful right now,” said Tina Gunn.

The Gunns were able to get all of their belongings off the property in time. They are now staying with family as they look for a new place to call home.

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