PDT Staff Writer
Since the start of 2012, 190 homes in Scioto County have been foreclosed on. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown says Ohio homeowners are facing stonewalling and silence from banks, so he has sponsored the Foreclosure Fraud and Homeowner Abuse Prevention Act, which would require banks to consider modification before proceeding to foreclosure and ensure adequate procedures and staffing levels to modify loans.
“Too many homeowners can’t afford their mortgage costs; are behind on their payments; or they owe more than their house is worth,” Brown said. “We know in Ohio it wasn’t due largely to speculation by homeowners taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford, as it was in many other states. It was caused by years of manufacturing job loss and other job loss. We’ve had nearly 24 straight months of private sector job growth; too many Ohioans are still struggling to find work.”
Brown said Wednesday too many outside forces have come together to create a foreclosure crisis in Ohio and across the U.S.
“We can’t expect our economy to fully recover until we stabilize the housing market – that means restoring trust for both homeowners and investors,” Brown said. “Servicers often claim that homeowners didn’t meet their legal obligations, so they don’t deserve to stay in their homes. They claimed that homeowners lack ‘personal responsibility,’ but what about institutional responsibility? The Foreclosure Fraud and Homeowner Abuse Prevention Act will hold the banks to the same standards they impose on homeowners.”
Brown was joined on a news conference call by a central Ohio woman whose home was set to be auctioned by Sherriff’s sale because her mortgage servicer misplaced critical loan modification paperwork after denying her a loan modification on two occasions.
Regina Brooks said her husband lost his job in 2008 and work he found six months later earned them drastically less than before. They became two to three months behind on their mortgage and tried, unsuccessfully, for a loan modification.
The couple filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy and were still unsuccessful at getting relief from the mortgage company.
“I was disheartened, and I just said, ‘I give up,’” Brooks said. “We started packing things up, looking for a place to live, I have 15 years worth of stuff, two kids, dogs, and I’ve got to move to an apartment, put things in storage, or find a place where people don’t want to rent to me because I’ve got bankruptcies now.”
Brooks said someone suggested she write to her senators. She wrote to Brown, and two days later got a call from his office. Brown was going to write a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. She said the OCC sent a letter to the mortgage company. Two weeks before her sheriff’s sale was to take place, all the paperwork came in, and the company did a total refinancing for her.
Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), also joined the news conference call to outline how Brown’s bill would prevent these miscommunications with mortgage servicers and keep more Ohioans in their homes.
“It’s very important that there be some kind of controls on servicers,” Faith said. “And it’s really not just to protect the homeowners, which is our primary concern — but servicers only work in the best interest of servicers. They get paid to collect the payments. And when the payments aren’t coming, they get paid to foreclose on the homeowner. That is not always in the best interest of the investors and it is apparently not in the best interest of the homeowner. So I think Sen. Brown’s bill does try to strike a balance.”
“Instead of receiving help, many have been ignored,” Brown said. “These predatory practices are far too similar to the predatory practices that led to the sub-prime crises.”
Wednesday, Brown released a county-by-county breakdown of foreclosures, showing Scioto County had experienced 190 foreclosures since Jan. 1. Lawrence County had 139; Pike County 62; Jackson County 42 and Adams County 14.
Brown said the bill would require servicers to participate in sustainable loan modifications when it is in investors’ best interest.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.