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Activists fight for single mom, autistic triplets at foreclosure auction

Worcester, Massachusetts
Stefani Tubert holds a photo of her sons at her home’s foreclosure auction. A police officer stands between the auctioneer and Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team members/Steven King photo

If her family is evicted, Stefani Tubert is worried that one of her three autistic triplets will regress due to stress and an interrupted routine. Her personal story may have driven away bidders at the foreclosure auction for her home on Barnard Road, but members of the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team know from experience that the fight is far from over. The bank bought the house back, and Tubert said she will fight for the well-being of her children with the help of WAFT, a group of volunteers who frequently protest at auctions and evictions and who cut through the statistics to find the often poignant stories of the people behind them.

Tubert, a single mother who held a framed photo of her nearly 11-year-old sons during the protest, said problems with the signing of the initial mortgage were compounded by her divorce, and she was not in the loop while her case moved forward.

“I knew it was going into foreclosure, but I didn’t have any information on it because everything came in my ex-husband’s name, and legally you’re not allowed to open that,” Tubert said. “If [WAFT member] Chris [Horton] hadn’t come to my house, I wouldn’t have known my house was being auctioned.”

Educating homeowners on their rights is one of the cornerstones of WAFT’s mission. In Tubert’s case, she said after reviewing the mortgage and meeting with WAFT, she could identify seven “illegal things” on the first page of the mortgage alone.

“I didn’t know anything, so I said, oh, ok, I’m screwed,” Tubert said. “And everyone said that’s not true. There were things that could have been done.”

Tubert bought the home with her husband in 2004, and said she signed a modified mortgage in 2006 as well. Many of the people WAFT works with have mortgages signed before the 2008 mortgage crisis, and the point of view of activists working to keep people in their homes is that banks knowingly signed people up for “predatory” agreements that were impossible to pay back, with conditions and clauses designed to trip up buyers. Tubert said the bank wants a $30,000 down payment to enter into negotiations to re-modify the mortgage, money she does not have. The houses has an assessed value of $132,000, according to Worcester property records, although Tubert said the balance of the mortgage is above $200,000.

Worcester, Massachusetts

The bank ended up buying the property back for $180,000 at the auction, a victory for Tubert since dealing with individual buyers is more difficult. Although two potential bidders showed up in the rain, they did not bid, although they did talk with the auctioneer afterwards. WAFT members said they have been seeing a recent tactic emerge where bidders will exchange contact information with the bank with the intention of buying it from them down the line.

The bidders may have been scared off by Tubert’s personal story. The auction ended before her three sons got back from school, but Tubert said any shock to their routine – for example, getting evicted – would be especially bad for a child with autism. Autism can involve “regression,” where a child appears to develop like others but then loses social functioning. Tubert said one of her sons has already had two regressions, and was close to tears explaining the effect an eviction would have on him.

“It’s almost like an alien abduction when your child is taken from you,” Tubert said. “… little upsets, for any other child, they can bounce back. For my kids, it’s different. Kids with autism don’t understand. They know something’s askew, and because something’s askew it’s like something is constantly in the back of their head, scratching at it. I’m scared that my son will have a third regression.”

The next step in most mortgage battles, and presumably Tubert’s, is when the bank takes the homeowner to court. Tubert is all set for WAFT’s next step in the battle plan – staying put even if they send a 72-hour notice to vacate the premises – and said she would not have made it this far without the fateful knock on her door from a WAFT volunteer.

“The only way I knew my rights is by these awesome people,” Tubert said. “You guys asked for nothing in return, but to help me.”

Article source: http://worcestermag.com/2016/10/28/activists-fight-single-mom-autistic-triplets-foreclosure-auction/47141

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