Bank evicts, then offers Boca Raton couple a loan mod

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary

By Kimberly MillerPalm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 10:34 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010

In hours of congressional hearings last week, the nation’s banks were repeatedly condemned for dual-track loan modification systems that give hope to homeowners seeking lower monthly payments while at the same time foreclosing on their properties behind their backs.

“Unacceptable deficiencies,” is how the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency put it. Failed oversight, ineffective practices and insufficient staffing were criticisms added by other top regulators and legislators.

Boca Raton resident James Strass­burger could have told lawmakers all that. He just wishes they were listening this year when One West Bank sold his home at foreclosure auction during negotiations for a loan modification.

Strassburger, 56, and his wife, Deborah, 58, who lived in their home for 19 years, were ordered out in May, holding two yard sales so they could squeeze into a rented apartment.

But the real kick in the gut came in August, six months after the auction, when they got a letter congratulating them for earning a trial loan modification. It was followed by a note alerting them to a hearing­ that would essentially give them their home back. Their mortgage payment was due Sept. 1, the letter reminded.

“This all could have been avoided. We could have been living our lives,” said James Strass­burger, a former business owner whose flooring jobs dropped off when the economy fell. “It’s not a good feeling. I don’t like seeing my wife cry.”

One West Bank said it was looking into the Strass­burgers’ case, but did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Washington lawmakers began paying earnest attention to the nation’s foreclosure nightmare this fall as banks pulled back on their home repossessions after acknowledging assembly line-like processing systems had potentially illegal shortcomings.

Hastily prepared court documents, as well as the dual-track foreclosure and loan modification process, were discussed Wednesday in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee.

Federal agency heads said the loan modification concerns are not new.

The $50 billion Making Home Affordable program, announced in March 2009, was expected to help up to 4 million homeowners through 2012.

So far, the government has spent only about $600 million, with about 483,000 homeowners nationwide on permanent loan modifications. In South Florida – Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties – only 22,175 permanent modifications had been awarded through October. Palm Beach County alone had 30,227 foreclosures filed last year and more than 16,000 through September of this year.

“Why haven’t you done more to insist on servicer performance?” asked Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., during the hearing. “Why haven’t you done this? You’ve got the power to do this.”

Terry Edwards, an executive vice president with Fannie Mae, said the mortgage giant was trying to do it with “influence.”

Phyllis Caldwell, chief of the Treasury Department’s Homeownership Preservation Office, said an Oct. 6 letter went out to servicers “clearly reminding” them they are not to sell a foreclosed home until they have tried other options.

But banks and servicers are under only voluntary contracts with the federal loan modification program, and some representatives, such as Freddie Mac Executive Vice President Donald Bisenius, defended the dual-track system.

“Unnecessary delays in an already lengthy foreclosure process would be counterproductive,” he said in remarks prepared for Wednesday’s hearing.

It took One West Bank less than a year to get a final foreclosure judgment on the Strassburger’s $289,600 loan and repossess the home.

The couple, who refinanced to an adjustable rate mortgage in 2006, realized they were in trouble in early 2009 when their interest rate was about to climb and James Strassburger’s business tanked.

That’s when they started talking about a loan modification and were under the impression it was being negotiated when the bank was the high bidder on their house at a February 2010 auction.

When the Strassburgers protested the sale, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Meenu Sasser ordered mediation with the bank. When no resolution was reached, the Strassburgers were forced to move out in May.

Now that the bank has given the couple a trial modification, it also requested from the court, and was awarded, an order vacating the foreclosure sale and issuance of title.

Strassburger said he was never even notified of the final order. He didn’t learn that the sale and title transfer were officially canceled until a Palm Beach Post reporter located the order that was signed Aug. 31 and recorded on Oct. 14.

The Strassburgers still live in their apartment and feel as if they are in limbo. They’re not sure what to do next. The last correspondence they received from the bank was Nov. 25, a notice that they need to pay for fire insurance. The Palm Beach County Property Appraiser still lists the bank as the owner of the home.

“The transition we’ve been through, the fighting, we’re like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” James Strassburger said. “It’s like we’ve lost part of ourselves because someone wasn’t doing their due diligence.”

10 Responses

  1. I Lived in Hampstead Maryland and the very same thing happened to me, I was in a loan modification when saxon sold my loan to ocwen both servicers of Delucth bank . THe foreclosure happened 18 days after ocwen took over my loan, that happened 18th of dec. I stuck it out till I was forced by the court to move out in july. I had a TILA audit done they found 16 violations . I even paid the mod pay,ments. But Ocwen sent my last payment back. Then turned around and offered me a modification after they had taken posession of my home. To this day the house deed is still in my name but the banks says they own it. I thought I even had a lawyer to help me fight it pro bono but she backed out saying she did not have the resorces to fight this. So after spending 3500 dollars I still don’t have my home and the banks say they did nothing wrong. HA I CAN PROVE IT WAS A PREDITORY LOAN.

  2. Hey Jan van Eck, you won’t even get close to a jury unless you can state a claim. The judge will dismiss.

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  4. My fearless forecast is that lots of foreclosures are going to slow WAY DOWN. It is finally getting out there that these foreclosures are illegal. Forged and fraudulent documents don’t just go away, because the pretender/lender comes up with another fraudulent document. It is amazing to me that there are entire companies based on forging documents. That is pathetic here in the USA. I called the AG in my state, and they won’t even talk to me. They are not taking any cases at all. What is that? Of course, we have a federal AG who is not doing anything about the foreclosure nighmare either. The President has not addressed it in anyway except against the homeowner. Is he part of the scam? They are trying to cover up the scandal, because it will cause the world to realize that our banking system is full of crooks. It has to come out, and has to be dealt with fairly. http://www.challengingforeclosure.com Sirak@challengingforeclosure.com

  5. In my case Astoria Federal auctioned off my two condos without ever owning them. I still am the true legal owner.
    With the Court System such a mess Congress should give the Marshall’s a division with the power to attach these properties and restore the rightful owners to their properties.

  6. I had my two condos auctioned off to two straw buyers with the authority from two void judments ab initio.. The straw buyers flipped their forged deeds that became insured by Fidelity National Title and Coronet Title..

    When Astoria Federal S & L Successor in Interest to Fidelity NY FSB had gotten rid of their corrupt debt collector attorneys Mullooly Jeffrey Rooney and Flynn and Astoria ‘s new Attorney Arthur Walsh stated in NY Supreme Court, its indemnify indemnify indemnify – we are stepping aside and the title companys are stepping in, the title companies Fidelity National Title and Coronet Title who insured the forged deeds without did not want to indemnify but wanted to be intervenors instead and be heard. What they told the court is that forged deeds get good with time. And Justice Alice Schlesinger agrees with them – Forged deeds turn good.
    So hold on to your forged Picassos and conterfieits and forged deeds. .
    forged deeds turn good-

  7. No one seems to get it!! These people cannot hire attorneys to defend them in such cases. How are we going to bury them in lawsuits if no one represents the homeowner who cannot pay. Non profit legal aids have been a waste and most attorneys want to be paid and few people are able to handle it pro se. I do hope something can be done by the Congress to stop such goings on. The Congress could get it done an done properly, but I have no faith in them either. One can already see what they have been capable of.

  8. These practices will stop soon enough when the aggrieved bury the offenders in a mound of lawsuits. I remind counsel that in a jury case for damages, you do not need to “prove” anything; all you need to do is convince the jury that your client was aggrieved and has to be compensated. These days, finding six people on the jury who loathe banks and servicers is not a particularly hard task. I would shudder to be the servicer’s counsel in the case described above.

  9. I believe we responded several months ago about the danger of servicers filing deficiences ON WHT MAY HAVE NOT BEEN A VALID FORECLOSURE. Just what does it take for the the Powers that be to very quickly put out a directive preventing the filing of the deficiences on invalid foreclosures. The trick is for the servicer to fess up to what they have done as a result of their “negligent loan servicing technique” and not file the deficiency. Congress had best get a handle on this type of practice along with the AG’s now making their investigations.

  10. This is no surprise. I had a client recently that was referred to us because his home had been foreclosed and they didn’t know what to do about moving out or when they needed to move out. I was able to run down the agent for FHLMC, ONLY TO FIND THAT THEY WERE IN THE PROCESS OF sending him an offer to REINSTATE HIS LOAN AFTER THE FORCLOSURE AND PROVIDING HIM WITH A PAYMENT HE COULD AFFORD BASED ON HIS CURRENT PAY CHECK STUBS. I ordered the items needed which was nothing more than 2 paycheck stubs, copy of his bank statement and a current hardship letter. Guess what, the trustee deeded the property back to the homeowner. This was the second such case, one in California and one in Texas. It took us about three days to get the houses deeded back to the homeowners. Ridiculous to have put those folks through all of that.

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