7 Foreclosure Horror Stories (And One Possible Win)
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This week, Christine Frazer and her family were thrown out of the Atlanta home they'd lived in for 18 years, at gunpoint in the dead of night.
They were not set upon by robbers, but by the Dekalb County Sheriff's department, which evicted the family at the request of Investors One Corporation. As Steven Rosenfeld reported for AlterNet, it was the fourth company to buy the family's mortgage in eight months.
The Frazers' eviction is horrifying, but sadly their story is all too common. Senator Sherrod Brown, who's introduced legislation aiming to curtail the worst practices, called it “a longstanding ugly pattern of homeowner abuse.”
"You can basically throw a dart off a building and hit someone with a foreclosure horror story,” said Matt Browner Hamlin of Occupy Our Homes. “This is the whole point -- that the crisis is being driven by fraud and criminality by the banks. Three million people didn't wake up one morning and decide to just stop paying their mortgages."
Around the country, families are being tossed out of their homes with astonishing regularity, with local law enforcement enlisted to do the bidding of big banks that own and resell the mortgages, utterly detached from the people whose lives are turned upside-down in the process. It's easy to just look at statistics and forget the human stories behind the numbers, so here are six stories of families who've had to fight all sorts of shady tactics to try and stay in their homes—and one family that might just beat the bank and get to keep their home, with the help of local activists.
1. Harried into Health Crisis in Hempstead, New York
Charles Pollydore worked on Wall Street, not as a trader, but in IT. He was laid off when the markets collapsed, but kept paying his $4,200 monthly mortgage to Bank of America. “I used my 401k, I used everything I had, emergency funds, everything to keep the mortgage going under the pretext that I was going to get a job soon,” he told AlterNet. “I had to get on welfare, get on food stamps, to get my light and my gas to stay on. I needed Medicaid because I need medical coverage badly.”
But he didn't find a job, and his diabetes worsened—he's legally blind and is facing the amputation of a second toe after losing one--and he wound up on disability. “My doctors said 'We're not going to allow yourself to jeopardize the health you have right now to keep looking for a job,'” he said. His health has dramatically deteriorated since his fight with the bank began.
Pollydore, a member of the group New York Communities for Change, has been repeatedly applying for a mortgage modification to no avail, sending documentation, bank statements, hardship letters, and more, but over and over the bank claims it hasn't received the information. BofA refused to offer him a principal reduction despite being presented with proof of his disability income. “Their strategy is to break the backs of homeowners so that you give up and you walk away,” he said.
He's reached out to his congresswoman, Carolyn McCarthy, and to the attorney general's office, but was told he had to work with Bank of America. “What protection is there for people like myself?” he asked.
“I told one of the [bank] executives, 'You guys are going to have to board the house up with me inside and let me rot and die.'”
2. Fabricated Documents in Rochester, New York
Leonard Spears is 5-feet, 6 inches tall, balding and African American, but Wells Fargo, when serving a summons to foreclose on the Rochester home he'd been fixing up, apparently served a 6-foot man with blond hair. Spears, of course, says he was never served, and Wells Fargo has a history not only of predatory lending (it paid an $85 million fine for pushing borrowers who were qualified for better loans into more risky subprime loans) but of foreclosure fraud as well.