Friday, November 25, 2011

Alleged Robo-Signers Indicted for Forging Mortgage Foreclosure Documents

Our Oak Park foreclosure defense attorneys understand the problem of robo-signed mortgages.  We have monitored the robo-signing scandal from the beginning because we know that thousands of Chicagoland residents were taken advantage of when lenders engaged in fraudulent lending practices.  Robo-signing likely has been the cause of thousands of wrongful foreclosures across the nation in recent years.  Finally, some of the people who jeopardized the homes and futures of thousands of Americans are being brought to justice. 
The Boston Globe and CNN Money report that two title officers in Nevada were indicted on more than 600 charges.  The prosecution alleges that the two officers directed a massive “robo-signing” scheme, which led to the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent foreclosure documents. 

According to the indictment, between 2005 and 2008, the two officers allegedly directed employees to forge their names on foreclosure documents and then notarize the signatures they had just forged.  The officers then had their employees file the fraudulent notices of default with the county recorder’s office, which started foreclosure proceedings.  The officers, who worked for a mortgage servicing firm called Lending Processing Services, face both felony and misdemeanor charges.  Attorneys in California and Illinois have also subpoenaed Lending Processing Services in connection with their alleged robo-signing practices.  According to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Lender Processing Services processes loans for more than 50% of all U.S. mortgages. 

Unfortunately, such blatant fraudulent mortgage foreclosure practices have occurred nationwide, not only in Nevada.  Courts in a number of states have dismissed many cases in which it appeared that foreclosure documents had been falsified.  Some of the country’s largest banks as well as other lenders temporarily halted foreclosure proceedings across the nation.

According to Nevada’s Attorney General, this indictment may be the first time that criminal charges have been filed in connection with robo-signing.  The Illinois mortgage foreclosure lawyers at the Emerson Firm are encouraged that states are beginning to take action against those who are responsible for harming so many homeowners.  Indictments could be filed in Illinois if the state determines there is enough evidence to charge Lending Processing Services or other lending companies allegedly involved in falsifying mortgage foreclosure documents.

Shortly after the indictment was handed down, Lending Processing Services issued a statement, which acknowledged that the signing procedures on some of its foreclosure documents were “flawed.”  However, the mortgage servicing company also stated that its mortgage documents were “properly authorized” and did not result in any wrongful foreclosures.

If you are afraid you may lose your home or believe you have been a victim of fraudulent behavior, please contact a qualified legal professional as soon as possible.  For example, Illinois foreclosure law may afford you important protections, but some of those protections may become time-barred if you wait too long to contact an attorney.  The foreclosure attorneys at the Emerson Firm know that your home is an investment worth protecting.  At the Emerson Law Firm, you can feel confident that our foreclosure defense lawyers are on your side.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Scammers Use Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue Schemes to Defraud Chicagoland Homeowners

According to a recent report in MarketWatch, scammers are employing new tactics to target vulnerable homeowners looking for a way to save their homes from Chicago mortgage foreclosure.  As the article explains, fraudsters have always been around, but in recent years, they have employed strategies specifically designed to take advantage of the housing market’s downturn.

Many of the schemes are crimes of opportunity, and years into the foreclosure crisis, there are many such opportunities because there are still scores of distressed homeowners hoping to find a way to keep their heads above water. 

The most troubling tactic is any one of a number of mortgage foreclosure rescue schemes, which target struggling homeowners headed toward foreclosure.  Yolanda McGill, senior counsel for the Fair Housing and Fair Lending Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, reports that scammers use various pitches to lure homeowners.  Some scammers say they can help prepare documents for homeowners trying to obtain a loan modification.  Others claim to be an attorney or say they are working with an attorney.  The offers can appear legitimate because the scammers use tactics to gain the trust of homeowners.  For example, they often mimic some of the same language used by government programs and lenders.  These scammers offer fake services, take the money of unsuspecting homeowners, and then simply disappear.

McGill warns that homeowners should never pay up-front fees for non legal services—that is, money before the services are rendered—because the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule, which became effective last January, prohibits them.  There is an exception for attorney fees.  Unfortunately, some scammers are aware of this exception and pose as representatives of an attorney’s office in order to dupe homeowners.  Another tactic scammers frequently use is convincing homeowners to sign a quit-claim deed.  The quit-claim deed transfers ownership of the home to the scammer, who promises the homeowner a situation where he or she will be able to remain in the house.  Still other scammers have approached individuals who have already lost their homes.  The scammers solicit money from these individuals, claiming that the homeowners can pay money to get their homes back.

Our Chicago mortgage foreclosure defense lawyers know that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Over the years, we have witnessed the ups and downs of the housing market, as well as learned about a number of fraudulent mortgage foreclosure practicesIf you are a struggling homeowner, things likely are not as hopeless as they seem.  There are many ways to legitimately refinance your home, obtain a loan modification, or avoid foreclosure.   If you are afraid you may lose your home or believe you have been a victim of fraudulent behavior, please contact a qualified professional as soon as possible.  For example, Illinois foreclosure law may afford you important protections, but some of those protections may become time-barred if you wait too long to contact an attorney.  Our Oak Park mortgage foreclosure attorneys have successfully represented many Chicago homeowners and know how to best defend your rights.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

A HARP Overhaul – An End to the Chicagoland Housing Crisis?

Unfortunately, the number of foreclosure filings during the month of October increased 9 percent from September  in the Chicago area, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.  Although, the number of national foreclosure filings are less when compared to this time a year ago, our Oak Park foreclosure defense lawyer knows that this increase is suggesting that bank foreclosure action is on the rise again. It was during this time in 2010 when  U.S. banks delayed or ceased foreclosure proceedings against homeowners after  practices of  illegal or questionable paperwork  were revealed, also known as the robo- signing scandals.  Arguably, the current nationwide and Chicagoland housing crisis is a continuation of the housing buble and subprime mortgage calamities which began in 2006 and 2007 and a collapsing  domestic economy which has contributed to the current 9.4 percent Chicagoarea unemployment rate. But, for some local homeowners who are at risk of facing a Chicago home foreclosure , federal assistance is on its way to help them remain in their homes. 

On October 24th,  the Obama Administration announced a major overhaul to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). As many of you may recall,  in 2009, HARP was created under the current admnistration as an effort to help American homeonwners that have loans owned or guranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and are current on their existing mortgages, but are “underwater”.  Underwater is the term used to define when a homeowner’s mortgage is more than the current market value on their property.

Initially, the administration expected to help 4 -5 million struggling American homeowners who faced  residential home foreclosures. However, according to a recent’s article, approximately 1 million American homeowners have taken advantage of the program.  With the new revisions, another 1 million will be able to cash in on the elimination of specific HARP requirements, such as the 125 percent loan-to-value (LTV) condition.

The revamping of HARP maybe a step in the right directon to help stabilize our nation’s and local housing markets, and  help some Chicago area residents with saving their most valuable investment.  Regrettably, not all of the our community’s cash strapped homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes will be able to take advantage of the HARP’s refinancing elements. And as a result, in the alternative, some meet with a Chicago bankruptcy attorney and choose to file for Chapter 13  bankruptcy protection  in order to save their homes.

Filling for bankruptcy protection should be used as a last resort. If you are current on your existing mortgage which is owned or guranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that was sold to one of the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) on or before May 31, 2009, and you owe between 80 – 125% of the home value  and never refinanced under the provisions of HARP; and you have the financial means to pay your mortgage, then perhaps you should consider taking advantage of the program’s  low-interest refinancing benefits to modify your home loan.

Our Oak Park foreclosure defense attorneys at our Emerson Law Firm have many years of experience assisting Chicago area residents during their economic and financial crises. We understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people and the majority of the American people want to pay off their creditors. But, during this turbulent time of  national and global economic uncertainties  with increasing layoffs, high rates of unemployment and recent elevations in gas and food prices, many hard working individuals are unable to pay their bills. If you feeling stressed, overwhelmed, received a foreclosure notice or think that you cannot afford or are eligible to file for bankruptcy protection, contact our Emerson Law Firm today to speak with one our skilled Oak Park bankruptcy attorneys who can advise you of your legal options.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Experts Report that the Key to Illinois Housing Recovery is Jobs

Last Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported that Illinois will be one of the last states to recover from the housing crisis.  This estimate is based on the National Association of Home Builders’ recent predictions.  Our Oak Park mortgage foreclosure attorneys know that many homeowners, as well as prospective homeowners, still have concerns about the housing market.  Many Illinois residents are concerned because their mortgages are underwater (i.e. the amount owed on the mortgage exceeds the value of the home) or because they simply cannot keep up with housing payments, which could put them in danger of facing Chicago mortgage foreclosure

According to the Chicago Tribune, the problem with the Chicago housing market is jobs.  Unlike other struggling states where overbuilding and “skyrocketing home values” led to the housing crisis, Illinois is still experiencing high levels of unemployment.  That means current homeowners likely are struggling to pay their mortgages.  It also means that prospective buyers are reluctant to purchase homes because they probably are concerned about job security and long-term financial stability.  Therefore, foreclosed homes are sitting vacant, which drives down property values.  Unfortunately, it is a situation that does not appear to be getting much better.

This September, Illinois’ unemployment rate rose to 10%, the highest level since August 2010.
The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area experienced the biggest year-over-year increase in September with a jobless rate of 9.8%, up from 9.3% a year ago.  Chicago’s unemployment rate affects the housing market because, as experts explain, home construction growth in a particular state, as well as across the entire country, relies on the estimated 2 million households waiting to purchase homes when they believe the time is right.  Believing the time is right not only has a lot to do with feeling secure as an individual, but also with feeling confident in one’s larger economic environment.

There is some good news.  The National Association of Home Builders’ forecast revealed that the consumers who are buying are purchasing homes that are much more in line with their ability to afford them.  According to the news article, consumers typically qualify for and purchase homes that are three times their income.  That amount swelled to an unsustainable five times a consumer’s income during the bubble years.  Due to lower home values and tight credit underwriting, those numbers are back down to more realistic levels.

Of course, lower home prices do not necessarily help those who are currently struggling and might be facing foreclosure.  Unfortunately, many Chicago homeowners do not reach out for help, often because they feel overwhelmed or fear that their situation is hopeless.  Yet seeking assistance from a legal professional can help ease your worries and get you back on the track toward financial stability.  Homeowners should not give up because there are many foreclosure defense options available.  Illinois foreclosure law is changing all the time, so it is essential for Chicagoland residents to be aware of all of the resources available to them.  Please consider contacting the Chicago mortgage foreclosure lawyers at the Emerson Firm for a free consultation today. 

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Flaws Revealed in New Mortgage Foreclosure Complaint Procedure Indicate that Wronged Chicagoland Homeowners May Not Benefit Under the Plan

The Oak Park mortgage foreclosure defense attorneys at the Emerson Firm recently explained that federal regulators plan to unveil a new complaint procedure for homeowners victimized by our country’s flawed foreclosure process.  According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the complaint procedure is the “first tangible action” toward addressing the many errors revealed last year made by banks during the foreclosure process.  Such mistakes were numerous and widespread, leading regulators, the legal profession, and Chicago-area homeowners to question the efficacy of some of the country’s largest mortgage lending companies.  Yet as more information has come to light about the new complaint procedure, several important flaws with the plan have been exposed.

The purpose of the new complaint procedure is to address a wide range of fraudulent mortgage foreclosure practices while also providing some monetary relief to aggrieved homeowners.  This week, mortgage servicers began mailing out letters to invite potentially aggrieved borrowers to submit their cases for a free review by independent consultants.  The lenders will fund the reviews.  If independent consultants find that a homeowner was financially harmed by fraudulent lending practices, that borrower may be eligible for compensation. 

But the new procedure already has some serious flaws.  Consumer advocates and others have criticized the federal regulators involved in the new plan, according to the Chicago Tribune
Our Chicago mortgage foreclosure lawyers also believe that the new complaint procedure has important flaws because the plan is limited in its scope and could result in some homeowners giving up their rights without knowing the consequences of doing so.  Some of the plan’s most concerning flaws include:

  • Limited scope:  Only people who were in foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 will receive letters from mortgage servicers.  Our attorneys at the Emerson Firm know that homeowners with valid claims may not be covered under the new procedure and could still benefit from speaking with a legal professional about the viability of their claims.
  • Too Much Influence from Banks and Lenders:  One law professor has expressed concern that federal regulators are more worried about the “‘banks’ bottom lines than whether banks follow all the rules.’”  If true, this could be a serious blow to consumers who have already suffered due to the actions of greedy banks and lending companies.
  • Lack of Definition and Transparency:  Most importantly, the new complaint procedure is still underdeveloped, even though mortgage servicers are already sending out letters asking borrowers to send in their claims.  Consumer advocates have criticized regulators for their lack of transparency, raising concerns that many eligible borrowers may not be reached.  Also, regulators have not released a system for determining how much to compensate homeowners whose homes were improperly foreclosed upon.  Therefore, it could be difficult for a homeowner to dispute whether he or she has been compensated fairly.  Finally, it is not clear whether borrowers will have to give up their rights to further claims under Illinois foreclosure law if they receive compensation under the complaint system.  This means that some borrowers could actually be undercompensated.

The new complaint procedure is an initial step toward getting wronged Chicagoland homeowners the compensation they deserve, but it may not be the best solution for all homeowners.  If you believe you were a victim of fraudulent mortgage foreclosure practices, please contact a qualified legal professional.  For a confidential consultation with a legal professional at the Emerson Law Firm, please call our office at 708-660-9190 or visit us online. 

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