An Altadena, California family will be able to keep its home after a local news report exposed major errors made by the financial company that tried to sell it out from under the borrowers even though they were current on their payments.
Nationstar Mortgage bought Louise and Ceith Sinclair’s mortgage from Ocwen Financial Corporation and failed to honor a loan modification that the Sinclairs had finalized prior to the transfer of their loan. “Every time we call them back, they give us the run-around, saying call back in two days, call back in two days,” Louise Sinclair told Los Angeles’ KABC. Then in June, someone knocked on the door and told the Sinclairs their house had been sold and they’d need to leave and even pay rent until they did. Nationstar had foreclosed on the house and sold it to another financial company without ever notifying the rightful owners. “They said that we didn’t notarized one paper of the modification, and in fact, we did,” Ceith Sinclair told KABC.
Once the local news started making calls and reviewing the Sinclairs’ documents proving they had always been current on their payments, the nightmare ended. A statement from Nationstar credited KABC’s investigation with bringing the situation to a positive resolution: the improper foreclosure sale has been rescinded and the company says it will now honor the pre-existing loan modification.
Many homeowners caught in the trap of mortgage servicer abuses and aggressive foreclosure tactics don’t share the Sinclairs’ good fortune. Etienne Syldor of Orlando, Florida faced foreclosure despite repaying his loan early. Jo-An Seipp, another Floridian, was current on her payments when Wells Fargo sold her house. Jacqueline Barber of Atlanta, Georgia was “dual-tracked,” meaning the bank foreclosed at the same time they told her she was on track for a loan modification that would keep her in her home.
These individual stories are the tiniest fraction of the whole problem of mortgage servicing. Documented abuses and ducked phonecalls are two of the most common abusive practices in a review by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that found sloppy and illegal foreclosure practices are rampant nationwide. Nationstar, which buys mortgages from banks by the millions, has been sued for allegedly seeking to liquidate the mortgages it buys up rather than to actually service them. The government’s limp approach to resolving the foreclosure crisis, through easily manipulated settlements with big banks and modification programs that are both underutilized and ineffective, has left room for companies like Nationstar to attempt to convert trillions of dollars’ worth of poorly documented loan transfers into hard cash through the sorts of aggressive foreclosure sales that nearly left the Sinclairs homeless.