On May 19, victims of predatory lending practices gathered across the street from a Bank of America on Ponce de Leon Ave. in Coral Gables to hold a press conference. Their hope was to raise attention to the foreclosure crisis and advocate for changes to the careless practices used by banks that may cost people their homes.
The event took place during an investigation by the organization Floridians for Honest Lending, which has found over 518 foreclosure cases filed in 2019 that had a forged mortgage document. Once the federal memorandum that prevents foreclosures from happening due to the pandemic, the organization expects that more homeowners may face this problem.
"In our investigation, we found several hundred cases of foreclosures still being filed in the Florida court system with the same robo-signed mortgage documents that the big banks promised to stop using after the $25 billion settlement in 2012," shared Laura Wagner, executive director of Floridians for Honest Lending. "Homeowners who face any kind of financial setback, make any mistake, or miss a payment are immediately exposed to losing the homes they’ve lived in for years. Meanwhile, financial institutions repeatedly break the law to take those homes away. If homeowners must follow the rules, so should the banks. Our elected officials, especially our state legislators, must stop the banks from using these fraudulent mortgage documents, and protect honest homeowners before the next crisis begins."
Foreclosures happen when people have not completed mortgage payments for at least 120 days. When this happens, the lender will take over the property in hopes to sell it and recover the loan amount. A foreclosure case may be wrongful if the owner can prove that there was unethical or fraudulent lending. Other factors that could deem a case fraudulent are forged signatures, not abiding state procedures, and not following the process given to service members. If you are in a situation where you think you have been wrongfully foreclosed, you can contact a lawyer to sue the lending organization.
“We need systemic changes to empower everyone in the process and stop predatory practices and fraudulent foreclosures."Attorney David Winker
Here are just some of the stories that victims shared about their experience:
"I have spent the last ten years of my life defending my home from a fraudulent foreclosure action, paying over $30,000 in legal fees fighting banks over a $51,000 mortgage that my now deceased husband and I took to refinance our home in 2004 with Countrywide," shared Maria Williams-James, a local victim of mortgage fraud. "In 2014, the judge dismissed the foreclosure case filed by Bank of America; we thought our nightmare was over, but it was just the beginning. Because of Bank of America's lousy accounting practices on my mortgage, I'm still fighting to preserve my home. I worked all my life to enjoy my retirement years, but instead, these corporations have taken away my money, my peace, and the stability I deserve––please, I ask you to investigate the fraudulent foreclosures that are still happening in our state."
"Almost a decade ago, my husband and I decided to invest in real estate for our retirement in the United States; we bought a condo through the Miami-Dade County auction website that was foreclosed on by the homeowners’ association, "added Dora Servan, another local victim of foreclosure fraud. "We did everything we were asked to do, had lawyers involved to make sure everything was legal and never missed a payment. Eight months after we began paying off the balance of the mortgage, Wells Fargo informed us that they couldn't accept more payments from us and that they would foreclose on the property, after receiving a total of $200,000 from us; they didn't allocate a penny towards what the payments were for, won’t give us our money back and now want to take our property. We have spent approximately $400,000 on the apartment, including HOA, attorney fees, and yet still face a foreclosure."
"When I got out of a Cuban prison and escaped to the United States, I was hoping to have a home for my Miriam and myself to spend our last days. I never imagined that 'The American Dream' of owning a home would turn into psychological torture caused by a bank that is supposed to take care of customers, not abuse them," shared former Cuban political prisoner Ana Lazara Rodriguez and current victim of foreclosure fraud. "Today, I’m a victim of a Countrywide predatory loan and Bank of America fraudulent foreclosure. I am about to be evicted from my home for 22 years because of these two dishonest companies. My foreclosure case is one of the millions in America that was subject to the scandalous “Robo-signing” criminal scheme, one of the top ten financial crimes in history. Bank of America settled with the federal government and said it would make homeowners whole for the damage caused by their crimes. Instead, Bank of America did not follow the rules, covered up the evidence and falsified documents in order to foreclose on me."
As you can see, this is something that can really happen to everyone. One must become educated to properly identify when a foreclosure is fraudulent. We hope that through raising awareness about this problem, fewer people will be subject to these horrible circumstances.