Home & Garden Columns

Restoration Comedy:Weather or Not?

By Jane Powell
Monday July 05, 2010 - 10:48:00 AM

Greetings from Indiana, where in some towns you can pick up a pretty nice house for $30,000- not because there have been lots of foreclosures, but because that’s how much they go for.  

Admittedly, in the Indianapolis neighborhood where I spent part of my childhood, they go for more like $350-$400K- in fact the Foursquare across the street is currently on the market for $389,000. It’s a lovely city, but I’m not tempted to move. Why? Because they have weather. And bugs. When I got here it was 92 degrees and humid. A couple days later there was a humongous thunderstorm- we’re not talking rain, we’re talking deluge. Although there is air conditioning, it essentially means you are trapped inside your house, because even when it cools off (slightly) in the evening, you can’t sit outside because you will be eaten alive by mosquitoes. I’m not talking a few mosquitoes like we have in California, I’m talking swarms. And there are gnats- they don’t bite, they just get in your face. Fireflies, which are lovely, and one of the few things I miss about the Midwest, do not make up for the other bugs. 

Meanwhile, back at the mortgage modification, I finally got to talk face to face with an actual human at NACA. His advice was that I attend one of their Save the Dream events (there was one at the Cow Palace last fall, and another coming up in September in Sacramento.. These are events at which they gather a whole bunch of mortgage modification people from the various banks and other servicers, and you can meet with them and get the modification done right on the spot, at least in theory. It certainly removes one of the most common excuses used by the servicers, which is that they can’t find your paperwork and you have to send it again. According to reports I see, some people’s paperwork has gotten lost more times than even incompetence could account for, but I would not want to suggest that perhaps it is being “lost” on purpose. Oh hell, yes I would. 

Speaking of which, some homeowners who are being foreclosed on in states where the process requires going to court (CA doesn’t require this) have had their lawyers demand that the servicer produce the original note, as well as the documents that are supposed to be filed each time the note is sold. As some mortgages have been sliced and diced numerous times, this turns out to be quite a pile of paper. And how nice to turn the tables and be demanding ridiculous documentation from the servicer instead of vice versa! I do hope they have to include all the pages that say “This page intentionally left blank!” And as it turns out, many lenders cannot actually produce this documentation. Of course, in response to this need, document mills have sprung up to basically forge these documents after the fact. Apparently some judges have caught on to the forgeries, and some cases have been dismissed “with prejudice”- meaning the judge has basically thrown out the mortgage, the homeowners get the house free and clear, and the lender is banned from bringing another foreclosure action against them. 

Recently an audit report from the Government Accountability Office was released which found that potentially thousands of homeowners were denied the opportunity to modify their mortgages due to servicer errors and inadequate oversight by the Treasury Department. Really? Really? The GAO noted that Treasury “has yet to establish any specific consequences or penalties for non-compliance.” Duh. 

In any case, the next Save the Dream event is in Washington DC starting July 16th- they’re going to be running it 24 hours a day for five days, in order to help as many people as possible. The person at NACA said it would behoove me to go if I could afford it, instead of waiting till September. This, my friends, is what frequent flier miles were made for. I’ll be flying on the 15th, so I can get there to line up early in the morning on the 16th. I’ll keep you posted. 

Jane Powell writes for the Planet whenever she feels like it. On a plane trying to distract herself from a child across the aisle who has been screaming for three solid hours is one of the times she feels like it, not that she wouldn’t be writing on the plane anyway. If this article doesn’t make sense, that would be why. She can be reached at hsedressng@aol.com, and of course her many fine books can be purchased at www.janepowell.org, which she naturally encourages you to do.