A homeowner in Florida says her house was sold in foreclosure even though she was current on her Wells Fargo mortgage, ThinkProgress has learned. Her case is just one of many since the foreclosure crisis exposed improper or even potentially illegal behavior by banks.
Jo-An Seipp, who provided documents to ThinkProgress that verify her story, says that she fell behind in her mortgage payments in 2011 as she experienced financial difficulties with the business she owns. In 2012, her house went into foreclosure. But she went to the final judgment and told the judge that she intended to reinstate the mortgage by paying everything she owed, who gave her 60 days to do so. She sent the full instatement funds that the bank quoted – $141,441.81 – and the bank then reinstated her loan and told her it had vacated the final motion to foreclose. At that point she should have once again been the rightful owner of her house with no danger of a foreclosure sale.
Yet in reality the bank failed to stop the sale. Crimson Ibis, LLC, a real estate investment firm, bought the title to her house. Meanwhile, Seipp claims she got no notice about the sale.
Florida law gives homeowners ten days to object to a sale, but in her communication with Wells Fargo Seipp says she was reassured that the paperwork had been filed in time to stop it. She didn’t find out until someone from Crimson Ibis told her that it owned the title to her house, she says.
After the sale, legal counsel for both Wells Fargo and Seipp filed emergency motions to vacate it. But Crimson Ibis served a motion for a stay, which was granted by a judge, leading to an evidentiary hearing. At the most recent hearing, Seipp says the judge confirmed that the title belongs to Crimson Ibis and her only recourse is to sue the bank for damages.
A spokesperson for Wells Fargo told ThinkProgress that the bank is “doing all that it can to make it right for the customer,” but that it will take more time to resolve because the case is pending before a judge.
A decision by the Miami circuit court states, “Crimson Ibis is fighting to keep the property notwithstanding that the foreclosure sale was held solely as a result of errors” made by the bank’s counsel. Patricia Silver, an attorney representing Crimson Ibis, told ThinkProgress that it has no obligation to reverse the sale and that it is “the most innocent injured party here.” Given that homeowners have ten days after the certificate of title sale is issued to object, she said, “The homeowner and the bank had ample time to prevent the sale or object to the sale” and that “the homeowner should have made sure that a motion to stay the sale was filed.” The firm will not relinquish the title unless the court orders it to do so. “Under the law, Crimson Ibis did everything right one hundred percent. The borrower did not and the banks certainly did not,” she noted.
Seipp says her husband and her 19-year-old son have lived in the house since 2004, investing significant funds in it at one point to deal with a serious mold problem. While they lived elsewhere and had the house renovated, she says “all of our energy, effort, and money went back into the house to save it.” Now her family is still living in the house, and Seipp is paying the mortgage, insurance, and taxes for it, while a third party owns the title. “To us it’s not just a loss of property, it’s a loss of our dreams,” she said.
The next step will to be to go through appeal, which she worries will take years and end up in her families’ eviction. “It’s one thing if you don’t pay,” she says. “But we paid.”
Banks have been accused of widespread fraud and misconduct in foreclosures. They have been ordered to end the practice of dual tracking, in which they pursued foreclosure even as they worked with homeowners to modify their loans, but the practice still continued. They have been found guilty of “robo-signing” mortgages, having employees sign off on thousands of foreclosures without verifying the information. They may also have illegally foreclosed on thousands of members of the military.
Last year, the Department of Justice and 40 state attorneys general announced a $25 billion settlement with five big banks over foreclosure fraud that was meant to provide homeowners who had been improperly or illegally foreclosed on with relief. Yet as of October less than half of the funds had been dispersed. Meanwhile, much of the money hasn’t even gone to helping homeowners.