Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Widow's Mite

Widows Pushed Into Foreclosure:

Just as the housing market is recovering, a growing group of homeowners — widows over the age of 50 whose husbands alone were holders of the mortgage — are losing their homes to foreclosure because of a paperwork flaw that keeps them from obtaining loan modifications

In the latest chapter of the foreclosure crisis, homeowners over 50 are falling into foreclosure at the fastest pace of any age group, according to nationwide data, in part because women are outliving their spouses and are unable to cope with cuts in their pensions, ballooning medical costs — and the fine print on their mortgages. 

While there are no exact measures of how many widows have entered foreclosure, figures compiled by AARP show the rate of foreclosures among people over 50 increased by 23 percent from 2007 to 2011, resulting in 1.5 million foreclosures. 
And as usual, the mortgage industry turns a deaf ear and a blind eye to the plight of these women.
Interviews with elder-care advocates, housing lawyers and borrowers suggest that the problem is spreading fast, propelled by an aging population. Legal aid offices in California, Florida, Ohio and New York say it is among the top complaints from clients. Billy Howard, a consumer lawyer in Tampa, Fla., said he had more than two dozen cases involving widows, up from virtually none before 2007. 

“These women are essentially invisible,” said Gladys Gerson, a lawyer for Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida. 

At first glance, the issue seems little more than a logistical headache. To stay in the home, the surviving spouse needs to take over the mortgage. But to do that, most banks require that the borrower assuming the mortgage be up-to-date on payments. Housing advocates say that their clients, especially if one spouse experienced a prolonged illness, often find they are already thousands of dollars behind. 

“Surviving spouses are trapped without a clear way to preserve their home,” said Arabelle Malinis, a lawyer at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates in California.

Maria Ginise, a 75-year-old widow, says she has developed dizzy spells from the stress of trying to save her mobile home in Deerfield Beach, Fla. When she and her husband, Joseph, left Connecticut, Ms. Ginise said, she dreamed of beach strolls and shuffleboard evenings. But, after her husband died in May 2009, those plans were derailed. 

Ms. Ginise, whose only income is Social Security, could not afford payments on her $140,000 mortgage. Since her name was not on the mortgage, though, Wells Fargo, refused to work out a payment plan with her. Now, she faces foreclosure. A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo declined to comment on Ms. Ginise, but said in a statement that the bank reviewed “all applicable, affordable options for customers facing financial difficulties.” 
Yeah, "all affordable options" that are namely restricted to engaging in foreclosure fraud and illegally putting these widows out of their homes and onto the streets. This is, of course, the standard, default practice for the mortgage industry since the onslaught of the great recession four years ago.
Housing advocates have won reprieves for some homeowners, including Aurora MacDula, 80, in Vallejo, Calif., whose husband died last November. She said when she first contacted Wells Fargo, the servicer, to pay the mortgage, a representative refused to talk to her because she was not on the loan. 

In August, with the help of her lawyer, Ms. MacDula got a temporary loan modification and is paying $1,733.21 a month. The problem, advocates say, is that most distressed widows do not have the benefit of legal aid.
Apparently the Scrooges and other clowns at Wells Fargo et al are unfamiliar with the story of the Widow's Mite, which suggests that the destitute widow who tries to pay something is more godly than the fat man who pays his mortgage comfortably.

And meanwhile, the slothful, criminal conduct of these large banks and mortgage industry goes merrily along, unabated and scot-free, while the justice department dithers.

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