Going Too Far with Foreclosure Action, find a Long Island Foreclosure Attorney

English: Foreclosure Sign, Mortgage Crisis

English: Foreclosure Sign, Mortgage Crisis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For families in Long Island, foreclosures are a scary prospect, but some homeowners have been faced with an even more frightening scenario. A recent lawsuit in Illinois alleges that many individuals have been illegally harassed during evictions by subcontractors representing their lenders.

The Bank’s Side

As the economy has declined over the last several years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of foreclosures. Some families would fall behind on their mortgage payments and move out of their home, leaving it vacant and subject to deterioration and vandals. In an effort to maintain the value of the properties, banks hire property management firms to deal with the problems common to vacant homes. These firms then subcontract the actual work to smaller companies. The subcontractors first determine if the house is still occupied. If it is vacant, they then change the locks, winterize the property, and take care of other necessary maintenance.

This system tempts contractors to act dishonestly, however: because a vacant home will result in additional work for the contractor, he has a financial motivation to ignore evidence of occupancy. However, both the banks and the property management firms claim to exercise strict oversight to prevent this built-in bias from affecting their work.

The Homeowner’s Side

Unfortunately, families facing Long Island foreclosures or foreclosures in other parts of the country have a different story to tell. Homeowners recount incidents where obvious signs of occupancy were ignored and a property was incorrectly declared to be vacant. They report having their homes broken into and personal property destroyed or discarded. Others claim that they were told that they must leave their homes immediately, even though they were still in the midst of the foreclosure process.

The Law

A recent $26 billion settlement between 49 states and five major banks, called the National Mortgage Settlement, has direct bearing on this situation. Although the case that precipitated the settlement dealt with banks’ oversight of their foreclosure lawyers, the terms of the settlement require lenders to carefully monitor the activities of all of their third-party vendors. These vendors, of course, would include property management firms and their subcontractors.

If you are being harassed in this way by a property management firm or their representative, you do have legal recourse. Even though you have fallen behind in your mortgage payments and become involved in the Long Island foreclosures process, you should not be prematurely forced out of your home. Contact the law office of David Witkon today for a free consultation about your situation and your available options.

Foreclosure Over a $6.00 Debt? | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer

Foreclosures in Brooklyn and throughout the New York area are something that every homeowner works hard to avoid. Most individuals know that missed mortgage payments can lead to this unfortunate outcome, but they may not realize that missed tax payments can have the same result. One Pennsylvania widow has learned this fact the hard way.

The Story

Eileen Battisti, a widow living in western Pennsylvania, resides in a home worth approximately $280,000. When her husband passed away in 2004, she had to assume responsibility for the finances. As she struggled to sort things out, she fell behind on some of the property taxes due on the home. Battisti tried to take care of the debt by paying off all the taxes of which she was aware. Unfortunately, she missed a $6.30 charge that had been listed on her 2009 tax bill. By late 2011, late fees and penalties were added to that amount for a total of $235 owed to the county. Battisti states that she received no further notice of her debt until she was informed that her house was scheduled to be sold at auction. Upon receiving the notification, she attempted to obtain a court hearing but was denied. Her house was sold for $116,000 – a fraction of its worth.

The Next Step

Just like smart homeowners facing foreclosures in Brooklyn, Eileen refused to give up without a fight. She went back to court and filed an appeal of sale. Under the law, the new owner cannot take possession of the property while the sale is being appealed, so Eileen has been living in her “sold” home for nearly two years. Recently, a judge ruled that the court should not have denied her original request for a hearing. The relatively small amount owed compared to the value of the home should have at least merited a consideration of her case.

The Back Story

The final outcome for Eileen Battisti remains to be seen, but at least she will have an opportunity to present her case in court. Her situation is not an isolated one, however. Many local governments are using delinquent tax payments as a way to bolster tight budgets and are aggressively pursuing homeowners with late or missed payments. Although this particular case may have been mishandled, many others have been conducted completely within the law. One report states that a year’s tax lien sales equal more than $15 billion.

If you are facing foreclosure due to delinquent property tax payments, it is important to obtain good legal representation as quickly as possible. The professionals of Witkon Law are ready to help with foreclosures in Brooklyn and throughout the Long Island area. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

Judicial vs. Non-Judicial Foreclosure: What’s the Difference? | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer

Foreclosure

Foreclosure (Photo credit: zane.hollingsworth)

According to New York state law, Nassau County foreclosures can be either judicial or non-judicial. These terms are unfamiliar to many, and often homeowners are unaware that their house may be eligible for a non-judicial foreclosure.

Judicial Foreclosures 

A judicial foreclosure is the more common type of foreclosure proceeding in the state of New York. In this process, the lender files suit against the borrower for nonpayment. There is typically a lengthy court proceeding to determine if the lender has the rights to the property and if the borrower is truly in default on the loan. During this time, the borrower can offer a defense and may be able to negotiate a settlement with the lender. If the court decides in favor of the lender, the borrower typically has a period of time in which to pay the amount owed. If payment is not made, then the court will authorize the sale of the house, often by public auction.  Most Nassau County foreclosures are of this type.

Non-Judicial Foreclosure

A non-judicial foreclosure is a much faster process than a judicial one. As is evident from the name, this type of foreclosure does not involve the court system. In a state that permits non-judicial foreclosures, buyers sign an additional piece of paperwork when they receive their mortgage. This paper contains some special wording known as a power of sale clause. This clause gives the lender the authority to sell the property if the buyer defaults on their mortgage payments. Since the legal authority has already been granted, this process can occur very quickly. The only warning that an individual may receive of an impending foreclosure is the notice that the house is up for sale. At this point, the borrower has very little time to produce a payment or mount any sort of defense. In fact, since the court system is not involved, the borrower must be the one to file a case to obtain a temporary injunction to prevent the sale. This process can be very fast and scary for an unprepared homeowner.

This sort of legal situation is a perfect example of one of the reasons homeowners should seek legal counsel to protect themselves against Nassau County foreclosures. Potential homeowners may sign paperwork permitting non-judicial foreclosures without even being aware of its inclusion. Those who receive a notice that their home is being sold are nearly completely defenseless without legal guidance. Don’t wait for this kind of scenario to happen to you. Contact Witkon Law today for a free consultation on your potential property purchase and ensure that your home is protected from such summary action.

Pressure to End the “Shadow Docket” | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer

Homeowners facing foreclosures in Suffolk County and throughout New York will soon get a little relief, since the governor has agreed to sign a newly passed bill into law. The bill is designed to eliminate loopholes that allow foreclosure cases to stall in the court system.

The Way It Was

The foreclosure process is initiated when a lender files a complaint against a homeowner for not paying his mortgage. After filing the complaint, the lender then files a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI), which officially starts the judicial process. Once this request is received, the courts schedule foreclosure settlement conferences between the homeowner and the lender, provide housing counseling, and offer free legal advice.

The Way It Developed

In the past, there have been difficulties with lenders starting foreclosure proceedings even though they are not legally the owners of the loan. To deal with this problem, in 2010, a law was passed that required lenders to file an affirmation that certified the legitimacy of their lawsuit. They were to file the affirmation at the same time as the RJI. Unfortunately, instead of simply filing both sets of paperwork at the beginning of the foreclosure proceeding, many lenders began to delay the filing of the RJI to allow more time to prepare the affirmation. As a result, homeowners were caught in what is termed the “shadow docket.” Foreclosure proceedings have been initiated against them, but they do not yet have access to the mediation and services offered by the court system. As they wait, interest and fees continue to climb, increasing the amount they owe to their mortgage company. Unfortunately, homeowners that fall into this “shadow docket” typically lose their homes completely.

The Way It Will Become

As more foreclosures in Suffolk County and other parts of the state got stuck in the “shadow docket,” lawmakers began to look for a way to address the problem. Their solution was a bill that requires mortgage lenders to submit the affirmation when they initiate their foreclosure lawsuit. This plan will eliminate the reason for the delay in filing the RJI and will give homeowners immediate access to the resources available to them through the court system. The bill was approved by the state legislature in June and then signed into law by the governor on July 31st. The law will go into effect 30 days from that date.

If you are one of the homeowners battling foreclosures in Suffolk County or in Nassau County, Witkon Law can help to protect you against unscrupulous lenders. An foreclosure lawyer can ensure that the law is followed to the letter and that you receive the protection you deserve. Contact the Witkon Law office today for a free consultation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Bank Employees Rewarded for Bringing About Foreclosures

As many homeowners worry about the high number of foreclosures in Long Island and struggle to make their mortgage payments, reports of one company’s questionable business tactics are likely to precipitate both fear and anger in their hearers. Former employees of Bank of America are testifying on behalf of homeowners who were denied modifications to their loans. If their stories are true, every individual with a mortgage will have cause for concern.

The Allegations

Some former employees of Bank of America state that the company awarded cash bonuses of $500 to employees who sent at least 10 cases into foreclosure. Smaller numbers of foreclosures reportedly earned gift cards for retail stores.  Another employee reported receiving $25 bonuses and restaurant gift cards for denying applications for loans. Because of this reward system, the employees were motivated to meet quotas of foreclosures and loan disqualifications by any means necessary. Some individuals report incidents of managers removing paperwork from a file in order to disallow an application or simply rejecting applications without a sound basis. In fact, some allege that Bank of America actually instructed employees to delay and mislead customers. This information has been furnished in support of a lawsuit currently pending in the court system. The case was filed by a group of homeowners who were denied permanent loan modifications even after properly completing the application and trial program.

The State of New York

Unfortunately, this recent report is not the first instance of mishandled foreclosures in Long Island and throughout the state of the New York. In fact, Bank of America, along with four other mortgage companies, agreed to a $25 billion settlement in 2012 in response to accusations of improper foreclosures. The settlement prescribed guidelines to protect homeowners from abusive foreclosure proceedings. Included in the guidelines were specific timelines and procedures for dealing with loan modification applications. Based on the reports of Bank of America employees, a New York attorney has announced that he plans to bring a lawsuit against the company for violating the settlement agreement.

The Response of the Company

Bank of America is denying all allegations and claiming that these former employees are grossly misrepresenting both the actions and intents of its staff. They state that they are committed to helping customers who find themselves under the threat of foreclosure. They also argue that the state of New York has no basis for their threats to take legal action against the company.

This report simply underscores the importance of retaining qualified legal representation when threatened with foreclosure. Homeowners facing foreclosures in Long Island can find assistance at the Witkon Law firm. Contact us today for a free consultation.