I held off posting this blog because there was a trial in my eviction case on Tuesday, and I wanted to be able to share the outcome with you.
Have you heard about Bank of America’s latest and greatest plan to help struggling homeowners? If you are at least 2 months behind and live in Arizona, Nevada, or New York, you may be one of 1,000 homeowners selected to participate in the pilot program. The program allows homeowners at risk of defaulting on their loans to turn over their deed and rent back the home for up to three years below market rate. Although the program is called “Mortgage to Lease”, it is actually a revival of a program implemented after the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But honestly? When your home is underwater, and you’re in financial difficulty, they’re inviting you to give up your financial interest in it, then cordially extending you an opportunity to become their tenants. I don’t know about you, but if I had been extended that offer two and half years ago, I would have said that I had too much invested in my home (I put over 50% down) to just turn it over to them.
It’s important to celebrate any glimpse of hope when you’re involved in a struggle against the mighty mortgage companies. I celebrated when I heard that the County Appellate Court had ordered my mortgage company to rent to me until the civil cases were decided. However, I have also felt wary since hearing that, because I was sure my lender would push for some ridiculous amount.
That wariness was heightened when I discovered that the rent-setting case would be heard by the same jerk who had dismissed my eviction case in October, simply because a piece of paper could not be found in the electronic court files. He had refused us a recess to visit the Clerk’s office, and refused to contact the Clerk’s office. Of course, we discovered the paperwork had been sitting in the Clerk’s office for 3 days and was awaiting scan. The commissioner later reversed his ruling – which he had to do to avoid an inquiry by his peers.
My attorney was served by the lender’s attorneys on Monday, and they were arguing that, despite the amount listed in the original UD filing, they are requesting that I pay a higher amount to cover damages. The amount wasn’t specified, but the amount in the UD filing was an acceptable $1,500 – only $100 more than my original mortgage payment.
Tuesday was the trial, and Commissioner Jackhole did not disappoint. He was just as delightfully rude and biased as the last two times we’ve gone before him. He first would not allow my attorney to file his paperwork, as it had not been filed timely. Then, because the lender’s paperwork didn’t show up in the electronic records, decided to allow time for the paperwork to show up before making a decision. Another fine example of our judicial subverting the rules set in place to level the playing field for both sides.
And, of course, my concerns turned out to be merited. The lender’s attorney argued that I should be paying $2,600! That’s $1,200 more than my original mortgage payment…. AND THE HOUSE IS WORTH LESS NOW than when I took out the loan. Oh, and did I mention, they are saying the money doesn’t need to go into an escrow account? That I should just pay it directly to them. I don’t want to give them another red cent! Especially knowing that even if I win my other cases, I’ll never see that money again.
Fortunately, my attorney is on his game, and pointed out to the judge that it clearly states within the statutes that rents paid by a foreclosed homeowner are to go into an escrow account. The commissioner argued back that it wasn’t the law. In reading the statute, it looks pretty clear to me.
Because he hasn’t issued his decision yet, I don’t know if he is researching the statute to ensure an accurate ruling. Of course, should he issue a ruling contrary to statute, we will be appealing, and since it would be the second major mistake he’s made, he may be called to the carpet to explain himself. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
One of the other issues the lender may have to overcome is that they stated in a court document last year that they were seeking $1,500. Also, in their first UD filing, they were only looking for $900. When they submitted these filings to the courts, they made a statement under oath that accompanied the documents. In this case, the courts should be seriously questioning why the lender has put forth three varying amounts. Breaking that oath could cause their ethics and thought processes to be questioned (if they weren’t already questionable, in my opinion).
We will have to wait to see what the outcome is. At this point, after going through this process for almost 3 years, I feel exhausted. I feel depleted. I feel like everything has been squeezed out of me. I feel ready to surrender the point of remaining in occupancy of this house. If you were to ask me today to turn over the deed to avoid having a foreclosure on my credit history and to sidestep the legal do-si-do, I would not be quite so quick to say “Absolutely not!”
If you are in the beginning of this process, you really do have to take the time to consider how long you’d be willing to fight, as well as how long you’d be financially able to fight. What alternative resolutions could there be? These days, there are many more options out there.
Going back to my business school roots, when you purchase a car, you might be able to resell it, but any money you have spent on repairs, insurance, and so forth are not recoverable. It is considered a sunk cost. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll have to look at that down payment as a sunk cost and walk away. For now, though, I’m holding onto a scrap of hope.
Handy tip: There are lots of companies out there offering help to modify your loan or avoid foreclosure. While some are legit, the majority of them probably are not. They will send you mailings that prey on your fear when you’re already in despair. Check with the Better Business Bureau before hiring anyone or giving out your personal information. Have you ever wondered how you got on their mailing list? Your trustee’s sale is listed in the papers, so they have employees who scan the papers to find all the addresses.