Wake Up Tennesee: You Only Think the Foreclosure Mess Won’t Hurt You

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE IN TENNESSEE
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Editor’s Alert To Tennessee Residents: LEGISLATURE CONSIDERING BILL TO PASS MAINTENANCE FEES AND ASSESSMENTS IN ARREARS ONTO HOMEOWNERS THAT WERE NOT FORECLOSED IN ASSOCIATION.

There are somethings you can do about this, one of which is obviously to ignore the issue and let the ill come to your door and find out you have to pay several thousand dollars to cover the lost association dues to the HOA. Right now the mood of Tennessee courts is to be very dismissive of the homeowner defenses and counterclaims. It is a bright red state. The judges are applying knowledge from years ago to a novel situation in which the parties are not who they appear to be and the money is not where it appears to be.

Because of that it would be wise for homeowners to unite and contact their legislators to NOT further burden them with already rising costs associated with foreclosures. But more than that, study, up, you end up with a first lien on the property and wipe out the mortgage that is being foreclosed, leaving with the homeowner with right of redemption that is far easier to satisfy than the one the bank is trying to impose based upon appraisal fraud at the commencement of the transaction.

I personally know several investors who are buying the liens from associations and foreclosing on the banks, getting considerable traction but not winning all the time.

So Tennessee wake up and smell the roses or the stuff that comes out of the back of a horse — it’s your choice.

TN bill would pass foreclosure fees to neighborhoods
http://www.wsmv.com/story/21634792/tn-bill-would-pass-foreclosure-fees-to-neighborhoods

Local Government and HOAs Settling Budget Crisis: Suing Banks for Priority of Liens

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What’s the Next Step? Consult with Neil Garfield

For assistance with presenting a case for wrongful foreclosure, please call 520-405-1688, customer service, who will put you in touch with an attorney in the states of Florida, California, Ohio, and Nevada. (NOTE: Chapter 11 may be easier than you think).

CHAMPERTY AND MAINTENANCE ARISE AS WE PREDICTED HERE YEARS AGO.

Editor’s Analysis: For those of you who have followed this blog for years, it will come as no surprise that local governments are suing the Banks for back taxes, failure to pay recording fees through the private recording system as MERS et al, and that Homeowner, Condominium and Cooperative Associations have figured out that their lien might have priority over the mortgages that are recorded, but not perfected. The good news is that this pits institution against institution, where the idea of a “free house” for borrowers doesn’t poison the waters and the Judges really must rule on evidence instead of proffers of evidence that are outright lies.

In Arizona alone the potential collection of  back and unpaid taxes, fees, costs, penalties etc. comes to more than $3 Billion — that is their figure not mine. I estimated it as closer to $10 billion. The legislature wanted to move forward in enabling the AG to collect thees fees which would have completely reversed their budget from deficit to surplus.

At one time I was representing several hundred condominium and cooperative associations. I enforced their liens with foreclosure so I’m no stranger to being on the other side of this. The liens were valid because there was a declaration recorded that was specifically referred to in the deed and title insurance. The issue was did the homeowner pay or not pay. Any contest based upon mismanagement of the association was bifurcated or dismissed to be heard another day in another courtroom.

I am told that there are numerous “businesses” that are popping up buying the HOA lien and the filing to foreclose — with considerable success, because THEY unlike the homeowners are attacking the instruments of record as imperfect liens, attacking the note and supposed assignments as no evidence of any real transaction and demanding discovery and proof of payment.

So we now have hundreds of lawsuits filed by State, County and City governments for fees and transactions that were neither real nor recorded. In Florida now where I am licensed we are taking on associations as clients — but only for the actions to quiet title, nullification of the mortgage instrument and other claims related to securitization. For those HOAs where the issue is non-payment, we are happy to take them on as clients but there is no reason to switch attorneys. But usually beyond the issue of non-payment is whether the deed on foreclosure for the now abandoned property (in whole or in part) is the priority of the lien. Once the forecloser’s claim loses priority, it will established that the mortgages were not real and the debt is not secured. Quiet title does not extinguish the debt but it sure does clear out invalid lienholders who cannot prove their claim with proof of payment for the origination or purchase of the loan.

Hence the action by the HOA invalidates the foreclosure and possibly the debt as well. That is as it should be since the underwriting banks showed one set of a documents to the investor/lenders and another set of documents to the homeowner/borrower. There was no meeting of the minds. In both cases the fake documents falsified the use of funds and title creating a shell game that is still corrupting our title systems across the country.

Thus the action by the HOA, properly done, allows the homeowner to stay and pay their maintenance fees and special assessments without worrying about a mortgage foreclosure from a party claiming to be the creditor. Worst case scenario is that the supposed forecloser steps into the shoes of a lienholder that is junior to the HOA and other liens as of the date of judgment on the quiet title action. Of course if the bank cougohs up the money then there is no action for the HOA to take. The Banks know that everything stated here is true, so in most cases, except for truly abandoned property, the Bank is going to pay the lien, the attorneys fees and court costs.

This is why so many people are starting businesses that buy up the liens and then foreclose on the banks. The deal they make with the HOA is usually at some sort of discount, whereas the Bank will get little or no discount from the business that took over the lien. There is a risk here of the issue of Champerty and Maintenance on both sides of litigation here. If the HOA sues directly and at their own expense, they are not susceptible to claims of Champerty and maintenance. But the agreement to transfer the lien to a stranger to the transaction gives rise to those claims especially if there is a sharing of the outcome.

This is why I wrote a long time ago several article on Champerty and maintenance. These nominees are commencing foreclosure proceedings on behalf of unidentified people who money is at risk and the banks and other entities that are doing this are funding the litigation and expenses of foreclosure, regardless of whether it is in a judicial or non-judicial state. If there is sharing of the proceeds in one form or another then it is most likely Champerty and maintenance. A simple cause of action alleging a short plain statement of ultimate facts upon which relief could be granted is enough to get passed a motion to dismiss and it is highly likely to get into discovery given the nature of the cause of action. Seeing the actual trail of money, who paid whom, how and when will essentially eviscerate the forecloser’s “mortgage”,  Note”, assignment and “substitution of “trustee.”

It is classic Champerty and Maintenance that if the principal to whom the money is owed by the borrower has decided NOT to pursue the claim that an interloper will be almost automatically be branded as a party whose interest results strictly from Champerty and maintenance. It is a very old doctrine but I have canvassed several states and it is still very much on the books and still used.

HOA SCramble to Make Ends Meet BUt Are They Missing an Opportunity?

First thing to add to the list of things you ought to know before you buy is (a) whether the home is part of an Homeowners Association or Condominium or Cooperative association and second whether there are major repairs that are needed or under way because that may mean really big assessments. Once you have purchased the property, YOU are the person responsible  for payment of monthly and special assessments not the former owner and not the title company that issued you a title policy.

Even if you have a contract with the previous owner, unless the association agrees in writing that won’t enforce the special or delinquent assessments against you, they can still foreclose on the property just like a mortgagee can foreclose.

But here is where it  gets interesting. Most of the “good” decisions for borrowers came about as a result of two institutions fighting it out rather than David vs Goliath. They are considered to be on more even footing legally and practically by the person sitting on the bench wearing those black robes.

As I have already stated in numerous TV and radio interviews, the associations stand in a unique position to help correct the housing crisis.

If the Associations foreclose against the homeowner AND they name the originating lender and any assignee as junior lienholders or unsecured lienholders, there is a much better chance that the Judge is going to take a much closer look at the paperwork. Where that has occurred the I am receiving reports the association was successful. That raises the interesting prospect of allowing the homeowner to redeem on the association foreclosure and then have the house free and clear of the pretender lenders.

This same logic applies to  homes foreclosed by pretenders and then  abandoned or at least ill-maintained. The association should foreclose against the “former” homeowner and name the pretender as junior or unsecured. This might just revive a blighted neighborhood.

The fact remains that the Association does have its paperwork in order and the pretender lender never did.

Do Your Homework Before Buying into HOA Communities

by Chad Elliott, www.sheltertampa.com/homeowners-associations-foreclosures

Homeowners Associations Under Siege By Foreclosures

Do your homework on the Homeowners Association before Buying.

About one in six Americans currently live in a community run by a condo or homeowners association.  With the recent increase in foreclosures, some homeowners associations are running out of cash.  HOA’s are like miniature governments that depend on revenue to finance upkeep of common areas, community pools, tennis courts and private roads.

Homeowners-Association-ResearchBefore a property goes into foreclosure, many owners stop paying their monthly HOA dues. In fact, HOA fees are generally among the first bills struggling homeowners quit paying.   If they can’t afford their mortgage, then they aren’t going to pay their HOA fees.  Adding to the problem, some banks aren’t paying HOA fees on properties they have foreclosed on and now own.   As a result, association fees rise and the property may be less desirable to buyers.

In the current climate of foreclosures, it’s even more important for potential buyers to read the bylaws; as the bylaws will explain what services are provided and if there is a cap on the annual fees.   Some of the bylaws even include information on how they’ll handle foreclosures and payments of fees.  It’s also important to know how the board is managed.   Boards are typically managed two different ways; by the homeowners themselves, or by an outside company that has been hired by the homeowners association.  In the uncharted waters of foreclosures, a professional management company may be the best bet for a home owners and potential buyers.

Homeowners-Association-Balance-SheetWhen looking at the balance sheet of a homeowners association, a buyer should look at their reserves. Buyers want to make sure there is enough cash on hand to take care of maintenance and other services.  If there is no reserve fund, the association may have to impose special assessments when major projects become necessary.   If HOA’s don’t have reserves, they may be forced to close community amenities like parks, pools and community centers, because they can no longer afford to build and maintain them.

It’s also important for buyers to remember that Associations aren’t corporations.   They operate year to year. They collect in dues what they believe they need to pay for amenities and services that residents expect.  Even though many homeowner associations have the power to foreclosure if dues are in arrears, few have the money or means to do it.

Buyers need to do their due diligence; as it will help them avoid surprises after they move in.   Realtors who specialize in being a Buyer’s agent or who have the Accredited Buyers Representative designation can help guide a buyer to get the documentation they need; as well as they can find out how many foreclosures are in the area.

HOAs Retaliate Against Banks Skipping Out on Paying Maintenance Expenses

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Editor’s Comment: 

Having had the experience of representing Condominium Associations, Cooperatives and Homeowners Associations in Florida on a large scale, I am acutely aware of the pain they feel when “neighbors” don’t pay their monthly fees. The rest of the homeowners must pick up the slack and in many cases there were special assessments against the owners to pay for the shortfall.

The Banks, always playing the game, would get their Judgement of Foreclosure and then postpone the actual sale indefinitely because they could and because they didn’t want the liability of association dues, association compliance etc. So Florida actually had to pass a law that required the bank to start paying maintenance after they received a Final Judgment of foreclosure. Apparently, judging from the article below, that law has been rescinded or eviscerated by the intensive bank lobbying going on in all 50 state legislatures and in Congress.

With the foreclosure crisis desiccating entire neighborhoods, it sometimes comes down to a handful of homeowners who are paying the tab for the maintenance of the entire complex. So those homeowners, who were now on the Board of directors of the association jumped in and are now getting the benefits of self-help through renting abandoned homes and condos as though they owned it. In some cases they are turning a profit, attracting new buyers in and getting a pretty good bang for their buck — if they do it right.

You might remember the uproar that occurred when I reported that a number of people were making this situation  into a business model: by renting out at lower rates homes that were abandoned by both the homeowner and the “bank” or other pretender lender that put the home into default and foreclosure, these “entrepreneurs” are making money on assets that don’t belong to them.

That is a bad thing, right? Only if you are not a bank or pretender lender who are doing exactly the same thing. If a non-creditor took title to property by submitting a credit bid, then they don’t have real title. Whether they sell it or rent it out, they are making money off of an asset that was never owned by them and in which they never had any financial interest, risk or loss.

That of course is the problem with the corruption of our title system, and the failure of due process, especially in the non-judicial states where foreclosures are routinely processed on behalf of non-creditors who submit “credit bids” at auction. My answer as previously posted, is that the HOA and the homeowner should collude with each other the same way that the substituted trustees collude with the pretender lender. The  homeowner falls behind in payments causing the association to sue for those payments and to foreclose on the lien. The lawsuit names the homeowner and all other lenders on record reciting in the pleading that the existing mortgage on record has been satisfied or abandoned.

We all know that in many cases the lender of record is a sham corporation that was created to front as straw-man for the real lenders (investors). So the court enters a default against the lender of record, and then awards judgment to the association along with a sale date during which period the homeowner redeems the property with a settlement agreement in which the court quiets title to the homeowner.

At that point, if any party wishes to foreclose, whether they are in a judicial state or otherwise, they must proceed judicially by pleading and proving that they were a real party in interest and that they should have received notice of the foreclosure by the Association. In many cases, where it is institution versus association or another institution the same arguments advanced by homeowners are advanced by the association or institution.

The difference is that the argument coming from a creditor is taken far more seriously by the courts —- all the way up to the Supreme Court of the state (like the Landmark case in Kansas). In all such cases I have reviewed, the court found and was affirmed in its finding that the foreclosure by the first creditor to get to the mat won the case. This is one of several reasons why I have given my permission to start a national law firm rolling out into all 50 states. In a word, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”

Canceled foreclosure sales saddle neighbors, HOAs with expenses

By Mark Puente

Kathy Lane envisioned a picturesque neighborhood with tree-lined streets when she moved to FishHawk Ranch in 2004.

These days, she stares at an eyesore.

Two doors away, the back yard of an abandoned home overflows with trash; rain pours in open windows; weeds have overgrown the lawn. The pool, filled with black muck, draws swarms of bugs.

“I was expecting well-kept yards,” Lane said. “I live two doors from a dump. If it goes up in flames and catches our house on fire, who is responsible?”

The foreclosure crisis has littered the region with thousands of abandoned homes. The houses sit idle as banks have been slow to seize them in the final stage of the foreclosure process, the public auction.

Although recent headlines proclaim the worst of the housing crisis is over, the decrepit homes are a constant reminder that cleaning up the foreclosure mess remains a work in progress.

The house on Lane’s street in Lithia went into foreclosure in 2008 and has been vacant for more than a year. Aurora Loan Services had set an auction for February but canceled it.

It’s an oft-repeated pattern.

In the last 12 months, lenders have canceled auctions on 4,204 properties in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Sales have been canceled two, three, even nine times on some homes.

In many cases, banks delay seizures to avoid having to pay maintenance bills or homeowner association fees. Meanwhile, neighbors fend off vandals and thieves and worry about property values falling because of the deteriorating houses.

The repeated cancellations burden the court system.

“These never seem to go away,” said Thomas McGrady, chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco County Circuit. “It’s a nuisance.”

Taxpayers also pay for the delays.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Herbert Baumann Jr. said the Clerk of Courts’ workers spend hours filing paperwork when banks repeatedly cancel auctions.

“It does create more work,” he said. “Clerks do expend a lot of resources on this.”

• • •

No neighborhood is immune.

Even the tony streets in Tampa’s Avila and St. Petersburg’s Snell Isle have “lost houses.”

While the homes sit in limbo, homeowners associations lose money when lenders delay taking titles. The associations may mow lawns and make minor repairs, but that forces other residents to shoulder higher assessments.

Associations have few options to force lenders to sell the homes.

HOAs can seize properties through foreclosure when owners stop paying monthly assessments. Some go a step further by renting out the seized properties to recoup lost dues. Still, those actions cost the associations thousands in legal fees.

Lane, the FishHawk Ranch resident, is baffled by the banks’ inaction.

“Every day you expect a poltergeist,” she said. “We have to live here.”

She isn’t alone.

Tampa-based Rizzetta & Co. manages more than 100 community associations with 32,000 homes in Florida, including most associations in FishHawk Ranch. The firm has been deluged in recent years with calls about the abandoned homes and delinquent assessments.

Pete Williams, a Rizzetta manager, attributes the canceled auctions to money.

“The banks never want to take ownership,” he said. “They have to pay the fees going forward. The costs are considerable.”

Even McGrady, the Pinellas-Pasco judge, believes money is behind the canceled sales.

“After a while, you begin to question their motives,” the judge said.

• • •

On the flip side, some experts contend that the banks’ slowness helps stabilize the real estate market. Putting thousands of homes for sale at once could depress prices. Letting them trickle to the market brings higher prices.

And some cancellations occur because lenders and homeowners agree to loan modifications or because homeowners and defense attorneys find errors in bank documents.

The cancellations are currently down in Hillsborough and Pinellas. But that’s because lenders halted foreclosures in late 2010 amid allegations they used robo-signers and false documentation to speed up the foreclosure process.

Still, the delays have allowed some owners to live free for years and dodge assessments.

In June 2009, a Pasco judge granted U.S. Bank a final judgment to seize a home in the Valencia Gardens subdivision in Land O’Lakes. U.S. Bank scheduled the auction for September 2009 but has canceled it eight times. The most recent cancellation occurred last month.

The homeowners have lived in the home but have not paid dues to the Valencia Gardens Homeowners Association. The association is objecting to the cancellations and has asked a judge to order the bank to sell the home. Thirty-eight delinquent homeowners owe the association $56,000.

The shortfall has forced the HOA to convert water fountains into flower beds and to scale back on other projects, said Gail Spector, the president.

The group began cracking down on delinquent residents last year by threatening foreclosure lawsuits against them. Spector knows residents have lost jobs but said other homeowners shouldn’t be burdened with the unpaid dues.

“You have to treat everybody the same,” Spector said. “We are fixing and paying for everything. That’s not fair.”

Leonard J. Mankin, a Clearwater-based law firm, represents hundreds of associations across Florida. Attorney Brandon Mullis has asked a judge to sanction U.S. Bank and to force the sale of the home in Valencia Gardens.

It is now common, he said, for banks to cancel auctions seven or eight times in many foreclosure cases.

Mullis questions why lenders file court documents saying they are “negotiating or reviewing for possible loss mitigation options” when the houses have been vacant a year or longer.

He is fighting another case in Palm Harbor. The Bank of New York Mellon has canceled seven auctions — even though the homeowner defaulted on the mortgage in 2008. The bank canceled the seventh auction in February because it wanted to exhaust options to prevent the foreclosure.

Mullis scoffed.

“This action leaves the burden to fall on those neighboring residents who are forced to pay higher assessments while the property next door further deteriorates,” he said.

The Florida Bankers Association disagrees.

Anthony DiMarco, executive vice president, said lenders are overwhelmed with thousands of foreclosures and aren’t cancelling sales to skirt maintenance and assessments.

“They are trying to move cases forward,” he said. “We’d rather keep people in homes.”

BLOOMBERG: HOA V BOA: Homeowner Associations Step Up the Pressure on Banks

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Homeowner Associations Wake Up to Collections and Profit!!

FORECLOSING ON THE BANK!!

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Becker and Poliakoff in South Florida is probably the largest law firm representing homeowner associations in the U.S. Once upon a time I was a competitor in Florida when I represented several hundred associations. It was Becker, Poliakoff and Streitfeld until Jeffrey Streitfeld went on the Bench to become a Circuit Judge — and I might add, one of the best.

Some time ago I predicted that homeowner associations would wake up to the realities:

  1. The banks have a strategy where they don’t officially take responsibility for the property until they are forced to do so. They do this because they don’t want to pay HOA dues, maintenance and special assessments. They also avoid taxes sometimes, but that is a different  ball of wax. 
  2. Associations are realizing that they have rights to collect on homes where the homeowners dues, maintenance payments and special assessments have not been paid while the bank is the de facto owner of the property. 
  3. In many cases, when confronted with an aggressive and knowledgeable law firm, long steeped in HOA matters, the bank simply folds, pays up and everyone goes on their way. But in other cases, the bank still drags their feet leading to both a solution and an opportunity for the association: FORECLOSURE ON THE BANK. And Becker and Poliakoff and other attorneys representing associations have caught onto the fact that there is money in those mountains of paper. 
  4. As shown below, foreclosing on the banks not only recovers money where the bank finally pays up, but actually results in the sheriffs sale of the property at a legitimate auction in which the association need only bid the amount of its lien. Some people don’t realize that the lien of the association for unpaid dues, maintenance or special assessments is a perfected lien, if filed properly, and subject tot he exact same foreclosure process as any mortgage.
  5. When the bank pays, they pay interest, costs of filing, and attorney fees, which is a big ouch.
  6. When they don’t pay, the association gets a declaration from the Judge that the property is owned de facto by the bank, and then enters a final judgment of foreclosure, which results in the sale.
  7. If the Association is the winning bidder, they get the house. So if the unpaid dues are $10,000, the association gets it. And if the house even in a down market is worth $80,000, the Association turns around, sells the property at an attractive distressed price, nets $70,000 which can do a lot to correct their budget and to wash out the unpaid assessments on that particular condo, town-home, coop or HOA dwelling unit. There are some wrinkles here, but I don’t want to give the banks any help.
  8. This is why I have suggested that distressed homeowners actually partner with the associations in the foreclosure of their own home. Under the right configuration of facts and documents and pleadings and judgment, the homeowner can strip the mortgages (which are probably invalid anyway) as an encumbrance on their residential dwelling unit. The homeowner can exercise a right of redemption after the foreclosure sale eliminated the non-creditor pretender lenders from the title chain, pay off the HOA balance, and start paying dues, maintenance and special assessments. I suspect that Becker and Poliakoff is headed exactly in that direction and I applaud them for it.

Homeowner Associations in Need of Cash Sue to Force Foreclosures

By John Gittelsohn – Aug 23, 2011 9:01 PM MT

Ben Solomon, an attorney with Association Law Group, left, and Jane Losson, a board member of the Vintage East Condominium Association, stand for a photograph in Miami Beach, Florida. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg

Ben Solomon, an attorney with Association Law Group stands for a photograph while Jane Losson, a board member of the Vintage East Condominium Association, talks on the phone in the kitchen of repossessed unit in Miami Beach, Florida. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg

Members of the Vintage East Condominium Association in Miami Beach got tired of waiting for JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) to foreclose on unit 9, so they sued the bank in February to take control of the property.

In June, more than four years after the owner stopped making payments, a judge ruled that JPMorgan lost its claim to the $144,000 mortgage. The apartment is now on the market for $87,500, and the association may stave off insolvency with proceeds from the sale and a new owner who pays monthly dues, said Jane Losson, a board member at the complex. Four of the 11 other owners at the property are also behind on dues.

“I find it an outrage that the bank had decided to do nothing and the other owners got stuck,” Losson, who’s had her Vintage East condo since 2004, said in a telephone interview. “If we get this unit sold, we’ll have a little money.”

Financially troubled condo associations are taking banks to court as foreclosure delays enable delinquent homeowners to stay in their buildings for years, often without paying dues that keep boards running. The groups start by pressuring lenders to speed up home seizures and take over payment of the monthly fees. In extreme situations, like the Vintage East case, associations may force banks to give up rights to the property.

“The lenders are stalling foreclosures,” Ben Solomon, the Miami Beach attorney for the Vintage East association, said in a telephone interview. “Our complaints say the banks abandoned their interest and either need to accept responsibility for the title or walk away.”

‘Mortgage Terminator’

Solomon, whose Association Law Group represented homeowner boards in 16 Florida counties with 15,000 delinquent owners, also won what he calls “mortgage terminator” lawsuits in claims against Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Citigroup Inc. (C), Deutsche Bank AG (DB) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), according to court records.

About 60 million people, or one in five Americans, live in residences with condo or homeowner associations, according to the Community Associations Institute, a trade group in Falls Church, Virginia. States with some of the highest foreclosure rates — Florida, Nevada, California and Arizona — are also among those with the biggest share of populations in homeowner associations, said Frank Rathbun, spokesman for the 30,000- member trade group. The associations maintain residents’ common interests such as parking lots, roofs, landscaping and trash removal.

“About 50 percent of our members said the housing crisis and economic downturn have had a severe or serious impact on their association,” Rathbun said in a telephone interview.

Pushing Banks

About one in three Californians live in that state’s 45,000 condo and homeowner associations, said Kelly Richardson, an attorney who specializes in homeowner association law.

“Banks have been slow catching up to reality,” Richardson, with the firm of Richardson Harman Ober PC in Pasadena, said in a telephone interview. “When pushed, they’ll step up to the plate, but you have to push them.”

In Nevada — the state with the highest rate of foreclosure filings, according to RealtyTrac Inc. — delinquent homeowners owe associations about $150 million in back dues, said Steven Parker, president of Red Rock Financial Services, which collects debts for associations in Nevada and five other states.

“It’s probably at least $1 billion for the whole country,” Parker, whose company is a unit of FirstService Corp. (FSV), said in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. “Prior to foreclosure, we get almost nothing from banks. After the foreclosure, probably 30 percent of what we’re collecting is from banks.”

Drop in Foreclosures

U.S. foreclosure filings — notices of default, auction or seizure — fell to their lowest level in almost four years in July, as lenders and government agencies increased efforts to keep delinquent borrowers in their homes and paperwork delays slowed repossessions, RealtyTrac reported Aug. 11.

Filings have plunged for 10 straight months after state attorneys general began probing a practice known as “robo- signing,” in which lenders and servicers pushed through default documents without verifying their accuracy. The decline has been steepest in Florida and other so-called judicial states that require courts to approve foreclosures.

The bank delays have left homes in the delinquency process longer. U.S. homeowners facing foreclosure averaged 587 days without making a mortgage payment in June, up from 251 days in January 2008, according to Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS), a real estate information company in Jacksonville, Florida.

Florida Delinquencies

In Florida, where 14 percent of homes with a mortgage have a foreclosure notice, the average delinquent borrower hadn’t made a payment for 719 days, or almost two years, LPS data show.

As of June 30, 18.68 percent of home loans in Florida were more than three months delinquent or in foreclosure, the most of any state and more than double the U.S. average of 7.85 percent, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported this week.

“Florida’s numbers continue to drive national numbers,” Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the Washington-based trade group, said at an Aug. 22 news conference.

Banks often hold off on a foreclosure as long as they can to avoid paying dues, property taxes and occupancy costs, said John Rickel, chief executive officer of Association Dues Assurance Corp., a St. Clair Shores, Michigan, company that collects fees for community associations in 20 states.

“We probably have 100 to 300 banks that we’re trying to collect from right at the moment,” Rickel said in a telephone interview. “We’re always 100 percent successful in collecting against banks because they do have the funds available.”

Limiting Collections

Associations’ rights vary based on state law. In Nevada, the groups have “super priority,” which means they can collect up to nine months of back dues plus costs when a residence sells, even after a foreclosure. In other states, such as Arizona, homeowner associations can sue to garnish wages of delinquent residents, even if they have lost the property.

Florida law limits homeowner associations from collecting more than 12 months of back dues or 1 percent of the outstanding mortgage, whichever is less, after a foreclosure. That cap often doesn’t apply to banks, said Frank Silcox, president of LM Funding LLC, a Tampa, Florida-based company that advances cash to condo associations in exchange for the lien rights on past- due accounts.

“Our attorneys look for a reason the foreclosing bank isn’t entitled to the minimum,” Silcox said in a telephone interview. “Nine out of 10 times, we get the bank to pay.”

In one Miami Beach condo case, LM Funding collected $52,000 — counting late fees, 18 percent interest and collection costs — instead of about $3,000 the bank would have paid under the state limit, he said.

$148,000 in Dues

About 40 percent of LM Funding’s collections come from banks, with the balance from individual homeowners and through short sales, when the lender agrees to sell a property for less than the mortgage balance, Silcox said.

Bonnie Jordan, manager of the Bermuda Dunes Condo Residence Association in Orlando, said LM Funding advanced her $150,000 and recovered an additional $148,000 in back dues, helping the 336-unit development pay its bills after owners of 115 units went into foreclosure.

“We had $375,000 in bad debt,” said Jordan, whose complex charges monthly fees of $250 to $357. “LM Funding is recouping every dime for us.”

While banks present a potentially lucrative source of delinquent dues, they’re also a challenging target because they use legal tactics to prolong the foreclosure process, said Ellen Hirsch de Haan, an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff PA in Clearwater, Florida, who represents homeowner associations.

Canceling Hearings

“The banks are setting and then canceling hearings before the final judgment is eventually entered,” she said in an e- mail, “then setting and canceling the sale date, then failing to record the certificate of title, thereby postponing the actual transfer of title to the bank for months, or even years.”

Bank of America, with 1.1 million mortgages at least 90 days delinquent, addresses non-performing loans as fast as possible while complying with the law, Jumana Bauwens, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank, wrote in an e-mail. Bank of America loans in which borrowers were at least three months late were valued at $32.5 billion as of March 31, up from $26.97 billion a year earlier, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data compiled by Bloomberg.

“After exhausting all home-retention efforts, it is in the best interest of servicers and investors to move the foreclosure process along while abiding by Florida laws,” Bauwens said in the e-mail. “On average, homeowners are delinquent 18 months prior to a foreclosure sale. In judicial states like Florida, the process is longer.”

Bank Trustees

To compel banks to act, Solomon’s lawsuits start by suing the homeowner for unpaid dues as a way of seeking title to the property. Then he files a claim against the bank, contending the non-performing loan restricts the association’s right to sell the property because the mortgage is worth more than the home.

The bank defendant is usually a trustee for the loan that was sold into a mortgage-backed security, a legal structure that can leave the party responsible for a mortgage unclear.

Citigroup and Deutsche Bank declined to challenge lawsuits brought by Solomon because both banks were trustees, not the servicers of the delinquent loans, bank representatives said.

In March 2010, Citigroup lost a lawsuit over a Miami Beach condo with a $136,000 mortgage, according to court filings. Danielle Romero-Apsilos, a spokeswoman for the New York-based bank, declined to comment, saying Citigroup wasn’t the servicer.

Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank in September forfeited its right to a unit with a $149,300 mortgage to the Palm Aire Gardens Condominium Association Inc. in Pompano Beach, Florida.

“Litton Loan Servicing, the loan servicer for the loan, and not Deutsche Bank as trustee, was responsible for all foreclosure activity relating to the loan,” John Gallagher, a Deutsche Bank spokesman in New York, said in an e-mail.

Donna Marie Jendritza, a spokeswoman for Litton in Houston, declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing privacy restrictions. Litton, which Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is selling to Ocwen Financial Corp., wasn’t named in the complaint or other court documents.

“We sue whoever holds the mortgage,” Solomon said. “The bottom line is the bank had a loan and the mortgage got terminated.”

No Defense

Palm Aire Gardens also won title to a unit with a $184,410 mortgage after Wells Fargo failed to mount a defense because it no longer owned the loan, a transfer that wasn’t reflected in property records, said Tom Goyda, a spokesman. The bank would have defended the mortgage if it hadn’t sold the loan, he said.

The San Francisco-based bank had $9.6 billion in mortgages more than 90 days delinquent and $11.4 billion in non-performing mortgages on one- to four-family homes as of June 30, Goyda said.

JPMorgan, the lender in the Vintage East case, had $2.5 billion in second-quarter costs tied to faulty mortgages and foreclosures, it reported July 14.

“There have been so many flaws in mortgages that it’s been an unmitigated disaster,” Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in a conference call that day. “We just really need to clean it up for the sake of everybody. And everybody is going to sue everybody else, and it’s going to go on for a long time.”

Vintage East

Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan in Chicago, declined to comment on the Vintage East lawsuit or other cases in which the bank lost properties to homeowner associations.

The bank’s mortgage at Vintage East was on a studio apartment with $24,000 in unpaid back dues, said Losson, the board member. Other residents of the Art Deco complex, built in 1937 two blocks from the beach, loaned the association money to pay for roof and building repairs and wrote personal checks to cover insurance payments, she said.

“We’re still in precarious condition, but we can see our way out now,” said Losson, who estimated the condo association was owed $60,000 in delinquent dues. “We went up against JPMorgan Chase and we won. It’s a good story. There’s a way out of the morass.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Gittelsohn in Los Angeles at johngitt@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at kwetzel@bloomberg.net.

Insider Confirms Builder Complicity in Appraisal Fraud

Editor’s Comment: Appraisal fraud, ratings fraud, misrepresentation, steering investors and borrowers in the wrong direction — all of these amount to the same thing: DECEIT. And as everyone knows, when someone is bilked out of money or value through deceit, they are entitled to made whole — as close as possible, and probably entitled to punitive, exemplary or treble damages. This is no theory. This is hundreds of years of common law a statutes.

So why is the media narrative and the courtroom argument centered on whether the homeowner made payments on a loan that was sold to him under false pretenses? Why is the focus on the homeowner when the real creditor is not in the room? Why are they demanding so much money when part or all of the obligation has been paid (satisfied) through credit enhancements, credit default swaps, insurance and federal bailouts?

The reason why the narrative is on the wrong subject is because you let them take over the narrative. In our course coming up on Discovery and Motion Practice we’ll be talking about how to take control of the narrative. But for now, the message is this is an obligation in search of a creditor and the people who are collecting and enforcing the payments of principal and interest are ignoring the fact that payments were made by third parties, sending out statements that are incorrect or just plain lies, and sending out notices of default and notices of sale on mortgages that are paid off in whole or in part by third parties. STAY ON YOUR MESSAGE.

From Comment on Blog: May 8. 2010

Neidermeyer finds it hard to believe that Builders participated in the mortgage fraud because he has not seen it first hand like I have.

I have been in the real estate business since 1993 during that time I was a loan officer for various independent loan brokers. ( no I did not fund ANY preditory loans, option arms, 3 year pre-pay penalties..etc. and my clients were forced to read their paperwork because I was at the closing table with them)

The first fraud I was witness to was borrower steering. The builder would offer incentives to buyers for financing if only the borrower would use the builders in-house lender directly. The incentives on average would be around $3000.00 toward closing costs. At the beginning of the application buyers would be quoted a rate about 1/8 below market so it appeared that the Builders lender would give them a good deal. When the home was finished 6 months later, 9 times out of 10 the rate had risen and the rate at closing was actually 1/8 to 1/4 percent higher than the buyer could have gotten with their original broker.. So the incentive for closing costs was a sham to steer clients to in house banks.. aka Countrywide on many occasions..So new home buyers check the comparative rates the day you closed and you will see the builders lender saved you no money.

2. Appraisal fraud was rampant. New homes always cost more than comparable resale because the prices for upgrades are added into the loan at retail..

What has to be investigated are the first 3-4 sales in the development or nearby developments..who are those parties and what is their relation to the builder? And how was the comparable property purchased? Cash? Deed Transfer of some sort etc.. often employees or relatives of the builder would” buy”” a home and close on it to create a comp.. perhaps 2 and then the appraiser could go outside the development for 3rd comparable sale at another builders development.

Voila they now have comps and they just turned $200k houses into $300k houses!

Condo Developments/ condo conversions: the HOA and property management company will often still be owned by the developer under another LLC.. look for the same officers..the hoa will be asked to certify certain information about the development on the appraisal..such as owner occupancy ratios, number sold etc. And the HOA cert will lie about the ratios to get the appraisal approved in underwriting.

I just had a client win a settlement due to my research..The appraisal was one of the worst I had seen and ordered the Landsafe and Countrywide in house..The comps used were 5 miles away and 2 times the sq ft and bedrooms.. completely uncomparible properties to start with and the adjustments down for sq ft and bedrooms was laughably small..the HOA cert( by the developers other llc) stated 175 owner occupied when there were only 3 mailing addresses in the development in public records for owners that were not in another state! I also found that one of the signatories for the builder had her own LLC’s and one of her business addresses was the one comparable sale within the development included on my clients appraisal and “owned by an entirely different individual!

And the worst thing I found on this appraisal was the appraiser’s comments section where he admitted the unit had not yet been renovated and that the builder intended to do so after the next tenant changeover..NOT RENOVATED YET! and yet still he appraised the unit as/if it was renovated..the targeted client lived out of state and never saw the property he purchased..

I also looked at the early transfers..of course there were 2 that were sold at 160K when nothing prior had sold over 64k..interestingly after the initial inflated transfers there were several deeds recorded by the officers of the builder llc and friends for the same units at 48-68K done quietly so as not to hurt their comparable sales.

Check the upgrade sheets and what you were charged for certain upgrades… a client of mine was charged over $30,000 for paint upgrades! I am not talking murals here.. a sponged hallway and 2 tones for moldings and walls..

So yes the builders are more than responsible for the inflated values..the partnered with the banks to create this market..It is all in the research!

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