The Importance of Hiring an Accurate Lawyer | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer

A recent Manhattan housing case has given all Queens landlord tenant lawyers some cause for concern. Their unease stems from the fact that the court found in favor of the tenant, but the lawyer–not the landlord–was the one held liable.

The Story

Rafael Lee, an 82-year-old immigrant, has lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan since his arrival in the United States in 1965. His rent is set at $790.30 a month, but he also has a $400.00 rent subsidy from the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption program. A notice was given to Mr. Lee that eviction proceedings had been initiated against him for nonpayment of rent, but the figures did not take into account his $400 rent subsidy. Mr. Lee quickly obtained a lawyer, who informed the landlord’s law firm of the error. Once the law firm verified that a mistake had been made, they initiated a motion to discontinue the case against Mr. Lee.

His home was safe, but Mr. Lee felt that the anxiety and distress he had suffered deserved some compensation. Therefore, he filed a lawsuit for damages. A judge determined that the landlord’s law firm had initiated the eviction proceedings based on incorrect business records provided by the landlord’s management company. The judge ruled that the attorneys should have verified those records more carefully before filing their case and held the law firm liable for damages. Rather than go to court to determine the amount, the firm reached a settlement with Mr. Lee for $22,000 plus $108,000 in legal fees

The Ramifications

This case sets an unusual precedent for Queens landlord tenant lawyers and indeed for all lawyers in this practice area. The court’s decision was based on a federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is designed to hold debt collection agencies accountable for any errors that they make. Law firms have reacted to this decision by instituting procedures to verify information provided to them by their clients in an effort to protect against future lawsuits of a similar nature.

If you own rental property and employ a Queens landlord tenant lawyer, it is important to be sure that your attorney is careful and accurate in his data collection. Although this case found the attorney to be liable, there is no guarantee that a future case may not hold a landlord culpable as well. The Witkon Law Firm is ready to help you with all aspects of New York’s complex and ever-changing landlord tenant law. Contact the office today for a free consultation on how to protect yourself from lawsuits like this one.

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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.

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.

HSBC in Trouble for Irregular New York Foreclosures | Long Island Landlord Tenant Lawyer

English: Sign of the times - Foreclosure

English: Sign of the times – Foreclosure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Borrowers and banks usually enjoy a friendly relationship. It’s an exciting day when an individual or couple signs the papers for a mortgage, sealing the deal on their new home. Handshakes, smiles, and free pens make the whole process festive—a milestone in the life of a growing family. But when things have not gone according to plan and foreclosure is on the horizon, that relationship often changes for the worse.

Shady Activities

In New York, foreclosures are notoriously common; so common, in fact, that officials conducted an investigation concluding that a number of different banks were at fault for failing to follow the correct protocols when pushing for foreclosure. HSBC, a prominent mortgage lending bank, was not included in the investigation, but New York’s attorney general has filed a separate lawsuit against the bank, accusing it of the same kinds of shady activities.

Not Willing to Help

At issue is a legal requirement that a bank offer help, in the form of negotiations to modify loan terms, when a borrower is in trouble. This requirement is intended to give homeowners a last alternative to foreclosure, with both the borrower and the lender making compromises. Unfortunately, the attorney general’s lawsuit alleges that many New York foreclosures conducted by HSBC did not include those negotiations.

Stalling Tactics

Many New York homeowners are shocked to discover the kind of stalling tactics that their banks engage in when their home is on the line. The attorney general will seek to prove that HSBC put off the required negotiations for months, and even years in some cases, while continuing to allow the borrowers to get farther behind on their loans. The farther behind a borrower is, the less likely it is that negotiations to avoid foreclosure will be successful.

The Lawsuit’s Goal

In filing the case against HSBC, the attorney general will attempt to recover damages for those who have already been the victims of irregular New York foreclosures. In addition, of course, he will try to ensure that HSBC complies with state law in the future, giving troubled homeowners the chance to stay in their homes and follow a modified payment plan to meet their loan obligations.

If you are in danger of foreclosure and want to know what your options are, contact us for a free consultation. We will work to prevent foreclosure and negotiate a plan that will keep you in your home.

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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.