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.

Tenants Stuck Outside for Months | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer | Attorney

English: Looking east across 33d St at former ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For any group of tenants in Long Island, eviction is always a fear, even if a distant one. Typically, however, the landlord initiates an eviction. When tenants are instead removed from their dwellings by the city, the results can be devastating.

81 Bowery

In Chinatown on Bowery Street, there is a single-room occupancy tenement. It is rent controlled and occupied mainly by Chinese immigrants. They live in tiny cubicles and share a bathroom with other tenants, paying $200 a month for the privilege. But despite these cramped conditions, they consider their dwellings home and have built close relationships with the other residents

Unfortunately for these individuals, the owners of their building have a history of poor property management and have been cited with numerous code violations. In November of 2008, the city ruled the tenement too hazardous for occupancy and expelled the residents from their homes. Nine months later, they were finally permitted to return. Despite this incident, management continued to neglect the upkeep of the building.

Recent Events

On March 7, the history of this Manhattan eviction was repeated. The previous week, news station CNN had run a piece about the living conditions in the tenement. An Arizona viewer saw the report and called the city. In response, the city issued a vacate order. New York Fire Department personnel arrived at the building in the middle of the day when most residents were at work. They broke down the doors to all the rooms, and, as tenants returned home, informed them that must immediately leave the premises. The Red Cross offered shelter for a few days, but residents soon found themselves on the streets.

The Present

Now, more than four months later, these individuals are still homeless. Despite promises that management would address code violations within two weeks of the eviction, the building remains unsafe for occupancy. Tenants have organized protests to no avail. These individuals seem to have been overlooked and forgotten by both the city and their landlord. Only time will tell if they will again be able to obtain housing that is both safe and affordable.

There are things tenants can do to prevent this Long Island eviction story from repeating itself. It is vital for residents of a building to stay aware of the conditions of their dwelling and take steps to force landlords to deal with violations. If a landlord does not respond to requests, legal action must be taken before the living conditions become hazardous. If you have concerns about your landlord’s response to problems in your dwelling, you should protect yourself by seeking legal counsel immediately. The Long Island Landlord Tenant attorneys at Witkon Law are happy to help you consider your options. Don’t allow your landlord’s neglect to cause an eviction in Long Island. Contact Witkon Law today for a free consultation.

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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.

Foreclosures in New York Increasing | Long Island Attorney

Half million dollar house in Salinas, Californ...

Half million dollar house in Salinas, California under foreclosure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much of the nation is seeing encouraging signs of an improving housing market. Foreclosures are decreasing in nearly every state. However, in a few states, the number of foreclosures continues to rise.

A Recent Report

Realty Trac, Inc., a foreclosure listing firm, released a report in mid-April that detailed the number of home repossessions and compared them with numbers from the previous year. Thirty-four states reported a decline in the number of foreclosures. Twelve states saw an increase. The state of New York had the most dramatic upsurge with a two hundred percent increase in foreclosure starts during March of 2013 as compared with March of 2012. According to Realty Trac’s statistics, the Long Island area of New York was particularly impacted by these high numbers. Suffolk County and Nassau County hold the first and third positions for foreclosure rates. The data shows that 1 in every 465 homes in Suffolk County is in the process of repossession.

The Demographics

Another report compiled by the Empire Justice Center takes a look at the demographics of these threatened homeowners. The report states that the communities in Long Island with the highest numbers of foreclosures are also the areas where a major concentration of African-American and Hispanic families resides. These neighborhoods also tend to have an unusually sharp decline in home values and poor access to loans and other assistance.  Empire’s statistics show that Long Island represents nearly 26 percent of the state’s foreclosure filings for the first half of 2012.

A Response

These statistics are unsettling, but not nearly as frightening as the predicaments of the homeowners they represent. These hard numbers represent hundreds of real families, struggling to make ends meet, yet facing the loss of the property they worked so hard to purchase. When the first summons arrives, they will likely be devastated, unsure of what to do or where to turn. It is important to communicate to these homeowners that help is available. An experienced foreclosure lawyer can help them to mount a vigorous defense. From negotiations to loan modifications, there are a number of options that may enable these families to keep their homes, but it is important to act quickly.

If you or someone you know is experiencing this devastating scenario, the law offices of Witkon Law can help. Don’t let foreclosure end your family’s dreams of home ownership. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Commercial Real Estate Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy 2012

Hurricane Sandy 2012 (Photo credit: charliekwalker)

After the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, commercial real estate transactions may be on the upswing in Long Island. The flooding and storm surges that preceded landfall and the wind and rain that accompanied the storm caused billions of dollars in property damage. Many business owners in Nassau and Suffolk counties returned to their businesses after the storm to find massive damage. Many properties were a total loss, and most had significant loss.

Business Closures

With the help of lending from the Small Business Administration and other disaster loans, many businesses have begun the rebuilding process. Unfortunately, due to the recession, some businesses were already so financially strapped that this new setback found them with an already depleted reserve. Many of these are already in too much debt to take advantage of the offered loans and will have to go out of business.

In addition to the businesses that close as a direct result of Hurricane Sandy, many other businesses are experiencing a secondary financial impact. Businesses in the midst of rebuilding are forced to cancel contracts with vendors and other companies so that they can direct their finances toward the restoration process. These vendors then experience economic losses that may lead to more business closings.

All of these business closings results in an increased number of available commercial real estate properties. These properties can often be acquired for a significantly lower price than they might have sold for a week before the storm hit the area.

Risk of Purchase

However, purchasing these properties comes with a significant risk. Buildings that appear sound may conceal hidden storm damage. Insurance companies that have been hurt by the recent massive payouts may be reluctant to ensure properties or charge expensive premiums.

Potential for Profit

On the other hand, a purchase of storm-damaged property may turn out to be a lucrative investment. A building can be purchased now at a reduced price, and repaired. Then, when the real estate market has recovered, that same building may be sold at a significant profit. This pattern has been demonstrated follow storms of this nature in many other parts of the coastal U.S.

If you are considering making a commercial property purchase in this time of financial recovery, make sure that your interests are protected. Along with a real estate broker to help you locate and choose your property, contact a real estate lawyer to help you navigate the sometimes-confusing paperwork. The Law Offices of David Witkon have considerable experience in commercial real estate transactions in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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