Homeowners Are Still Victims of Foreclosure Abuse - The Jewish Voice
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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Homeowners Are Still Victims of Foreclosure Abuse

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Homeowners continue to be victims of improper foreclosure practices by various banks
Homeowners continue to be victims of improper foreclosure practices by various banks
When five big banks settled with state and federal officials last year over widespread foreclosure abuses, brazen violations – including the seizure of homes without due process – were supposed to end. But that is not the case. Despite optimistic talk of a housing rebound, approximately three million homeowners are in or near foreclosure, and many continue to be the victims of improper and even illegal practices.

Earlier this year, Bank of America agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle a dispute with Fannie Mae over toxic mortgages that Countrywide Financial, now a unit of BofA, sold to the government-backed mortgage giant before the crisis. The busy BofA was also a party to the second big settlement of the day, along with 9 other banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo. They agreed to cough up $8.5 billion to the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to settle charges that they handle mortgage foreclosures with all the care of Mr. Magoo behind the wheel of a Buick.

A lawsuit filed last week by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan highlights one such abuse.

It starts out simply enough. The banks hire property management companies to determine whether homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments have abandoned their homes and, if so, to secure the vacant property.

It doesn’t always go that way. The Illinois suit accuses the largest company in the industry, Safeguard, of breaking into homes despite evidence of occupancy, damaging and removing personal property, changing locks, cutting off utilities, and bullying occupants into leaving their homes when they have the legal right to stay. In several other states, private lawsuits and complaints to legal aid lawyers have alleged similar abuses.

Under the foreclosure settlement, banks are responsible for vetting, supervising, and auditing contractors, a category that clearly includes property management companies. Profit and expediency, however, seem to have trumped due process yet again. Property companies and their subcontractors make more money on vacant homes than on occupied ones, because abandoned property requires more work, including changing locks, boarding up doorways, and removing garbage. And banks get some or all of the proceeds from the sale of vacant homes.

The lack of appropriate mortgage relief to borrowers from the federal government is not only bad for the economy, it’s downright immoral. Whether or not the housing market is indeed rebounding, we cannot be content until foreclosures are dealt with properly, legally, and humanely.

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