Paperwork problems put foreclosures in limbo
ST. PETERSBURG - Gale Green says she never missed a mortgage payment on her St. Petersburg home, but that didn't stop GMAC from filing for foreclosure last year. The lender returned one of her checks in some sort of mix-up and then stopped taking her payments while it tried to figure out what had happened, she said. Without any warning, she says, the lender moved to take the home back a few months later. "The next thing I knew, there was a knock at the door, and it was foreclosure," Green said.That's when Green's foreclosure case became one of tens of thousands now in limbo, while lenders review problematic paperwork. An affidavit detailing the facts in Green's foreclosure case was signed by the same processor whom GMAC says it now knows did not read foreclosure documents he signed. Two weeks ago, GMAC's parent company, Ally Financial, said it discovered the processor signed off on key documents without making sure they were accurate. Federal lawmakers and state officials have said such practices could be fraudulent. Last week, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America said the same thing was happening at their companies. It's not clear how many loans are affected, but the three lenders are some the largest in the nation. All three also service loans owned by other lenders. Those loans are included in the foreclosure moratorium. Bank of America, the biggest U.S. bank in terms of assets and deposits, estimated it will be reviewing tens of thousands of documents. The law requires the lender's processor to personally verify that the lender has the right to foreclose on a home. The processors, though, signed more than 10,000 documents a month, and some have given sworn testimony that they relied on other staff members to verify the documents. Foreclosures involving all three lenders are now on hold in 23 states, including Florida. The lenders have all said the problems were "technical" and that they don't think any of the foreclosure documents contained errors. They say they plan to resubmit documents properly and then proceed with foreclosures. Homeowners such as Green are wondering what will happen to them now. Green hired an attorney to fight the foreclosure, but the bank didn't respond until the scope of the paperwork problems came to light. Still, the only response she's gotten so far is a temporary halt to the foreclosure. Her lawyer, Matt Weidner, said he wants to get Green's case dismissed and expects other foreclosure defense attorneys to try the same for their clients. "Because of this document they've filed, they are not going to be able to proceed with this case," Weidner said. "I'm not going to allow them to get a judgment in this case."
Reporter Shannon Behnken can be reached at (813) 259-7804. Follow her on Twitter @TBORealtyCheck.com.