Articles Posted in Foreclosure Defense

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nacba.jpgThe Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) that recently approved of HAMP principal reduction for Freddie and Fannie loans has rejected a proposal by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). The Principal Paydown Plan is designed to amend the bankruptcy code to allow for payments during a Chapter 13 to go towards principal to substantially reduce the balance owed on an underwater home.

According to an email update by NACBA, many members of Congress have endorsed the Principal Payback Plan. However, despite FHFA Director DeMarco’s initial positive comments about the Principal Paydown Plan, which he said struck him as “being responsible,” and a “credible way to address the crisis while recognizing various interests mortgaged properties,” he recently wrote to Congress informing them that the agency would not be implementing the Principal Paydown Plan. FHFA concluded that few GSE borrowers have filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy and are underwater and therefore the proposal would not be all that helpful. They did, however, commit to doing what they can to help eligible borrowers in bankruptcy get the HAMP modifications they qualify for.

Personally, I see a lot of homeowners that would qualify for the Principal Paydown Plan. Moreover, until something is done about the conflict of interest of servicers, we are not going to see any widespread adoption of principal reduction for Fannie and Freddie loans.

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The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is being extended and expanded to reach more borrowers- will it be enough to help or an example of “too little too late”?

On January 27, 2012, the Treasury department announced the revisions.

First, to encourage principal reduction, the Treasury is tripling incentives and paying 18 to 63 cents on the dollar depending upon the change in the loan-to-value ratio. In the past, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) prohibited Freddie and Fannie from using HAMP to reduce principal. Treasury now allows the incentives for Freddie and Fannie if they allow servicers to forgive principal in a HAMP modification. So if your servicer previously denied your HAMP modification, check to see if your loans are owned by Freddie or Fannie because the rules may be different now. Here’s how to do that.

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Nation Mortgage News reports today that Ocwen is on the verge of closing on two large MSR purchases: a $15 billion package of nonprime product from JPMorgan Chase, and a $26 billion deal from Saxon Mortgage.

Both could close this month. The $300 billion figure, the company says, excludes the JPM and Saxon transactions. Investment banking officials told National Mortgage News that Ocwen and JPM are discussing additional purchases. Once these two transactions are completed Ocwen will control roughly $140 billion of MSRs, most of it tied to nonprime loans.

The relevance is that we and other attorneys see Ocwen doing principal reductions. Sometimes outright and sometimes in an equity share participation arrangement. Some may only appear to be a principal reduction, but are actually a balloon. We also have been able to have a rapport with Ocwen unlike some other big players.

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price v value.jpgQuotation of the Day:

“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors. They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.” Jeffrey W. Carr, General Counsel.

At my Tampa, Florida law firm we pride ourselves in our abilities to counsel clients as to their options and help make decisions that may impact the rest of their lives. We don’t take that responsibility lightly. We don’t just file bankruptcy for everyone who contacts us. It is not one size fits all. We don’t mandate that our bankruptcy clients file according to our schedule when simple timing and planning achieves a much better result. We don’t suggest every client defend their foreclosure or maintain a scorched earth policy. We are able to advise our clients regarding both bankruptcy and foreclosure or civil defense. I have 20 years legal experience in areas of bankruptcy and civil litigation (including foreclosure defense).

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short-sale seesaw.jpgBloomberg today reports that banks are offering as much as $35,000 to delinquent homeowners to sell their home in a short sale. In doing so, the banks avoid the costly foreclosure process especially when their loan documents are questionable and perhaps fraudulently prepared. I imagine we will be seeing a few of these in Florida, a judicial foreclosure state with particularly well trained and knowledgeable foreclosure defense attorneys.

JP Morgan Chase reportedly is sending out letters to borrowers offering up to $35,000. They are also offering deficiency waivers for the balance.

So open the mail – and ask your lender what move out incentives they are offering for a short sale. Perhaps you have more negotiation strength than you think. But don’t let the mortgage company get a default against you – it will both weaken your position and will allow the foreclosure to proceed against you at a faster pace eliminating your short sale opportunities.

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conflict of interest.jpgWhy aren’t we seeing any legislation or rules addressing servicers’ inability and unwillingness to modify loans even when the modification is clearly in the best interest of the investor-owner of the mortgage? Florida foreclosure defense and bankruptcy attorneys see the conflict of interest daily between mortgage servicers and their own clients, why doesn’t the government?

Servicers say they are doing their utmost to help homeowners in need. I say Pinocchio. Uncle Sam has proposed HAMP, HARP and a few other programs. However, the servicers just shrug and pretend to comply, while pocketing trial payments and huge servicing fees. It is a well known fact that servicers get paid much more when a loan is in default and eventually forecloses. Until we address the conflict of interest and incentivize servicers to modify loans, nothing will change. Pinocchio is running this show.

In an interview on January 28, 2012, by CNN Your Bottom Line host Christine Romans, Chip Parker, a foreclosure defense attorney in Jacksonville, Florida states it’s definitely systematic. He describes how it’s a daily occurrence that a mortgage servicer such as Citi Mortgage or Wells Fargo will absolutely refuse to work with someone, even though a VA guideline requires it when the VA guarantees those loans.

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I speak with many clients in the Tampa Bay, Florida area who have heard of cancelled debt and 1099-C forms but they do not really understand the impact of the taxable events that occur in a short sale. An understanding of how a 1099C works in a short sale is especially important at this time of the year.

Whenever a creditor cancels or forgives debt following a debt settlment, short sale or even a foreclosure, the creditor must report the amount of the cancelled debt to the IRS on a Form 1099-C. Under Section 108 of the IRS Code, the IRS imputes the cancelled debt as additional income to you. So if you make $50,000 in annual salary, but your house was sold at a short sale where the loss to the lender was $100,000 (not an uncommon fact pattern in Florida), you will be deemed to have earned $150,000 that year or the next – depending upon whatever year the lender files the 1099-C.

There are three exceptions to this rule. First, you file bankruptcy prior to the issuance of the 1099-C. If debt is discharged in bankruptcy, it is not attributable to you as income. Even if you receive a 1099-C, you can respond by filing your own Form 982 to remove its taxability because of the bankruptcy.

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caution.jpgOur Florida clients have recently been asking me if there is a new law allowing them to reduce their mortgage balance to the value of their home. This is not accurate and I am not sure where this is coming from. My guess it may be from somewhat misleading and overly optimistic advertisement flyers that are sent to people who have a foreclosure filed against them.

In bankruptcy, specifically a Chapter 13, we can strip a second mortgage. But the court cannot require a first mortgage company on a primary home to reduce the principal balance on their home. Implying otherwise, is simply misleading and inaccurate.

There is also no federal or state law that requires a first mortgage to be reduced to the value of the home.

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modif.bmpMortgage modifications are often determined by whether the owner (not servicer) is either a participant in HAMP or a recipient of TARP bailout funds.

Here’s how to check on your lenders:

First, use our Resource page on our website to look up who likely owns your loan by doing a Fannie, Freddie or MERS lookup search.

Second, see if the owner of your loan is a HAMP or other governmental program participant.

Third, see if the owner of your loan was a recipient of TARP funds in the 2008 bailout.

If your loan passes the above tests, your lender is required to run you through a HAMP analysis (even if they would prefer a short sale). You can qualify for a HAMP modification whether or not you file bankruptcy, although you might find the success rates are higher in a bankruptcy. The Tampa Division bankruptcy courts just established a formal mediation program in October 2011 for homeowners who have experienced difficulty in obtaining mortgage modifications.
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Follow this link for a one page concise description of the Principal Paydown Plan we’ve written about in the past (to allow mortgage payments made during a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to go directly to principal thereby reducing the underwater portion of your mortgage). The idea is to encourage homeowners to keep their home because it will make good business sense to do so and help to reduce the volume of foreclosures. Please take a moment to show your support by signing a petition presently before the White House (remember the bankers have their PACS and lobbyists, while we have our clients’ support and grass roots campaigns to effect change!).

Follow these steps to sign the petition:

1) Click here to get to the petition.

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