Articles Posted in Loan Modification

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Police are currently investigating a loan modification and debt consolidation business in Florida. The owners supposedly presented themselves to clients as attorneys but were not licensed attorneys at all. The Boca Raton company claimed to be an industry leader in foreclosure and pre-foreclosure litigation in South Florida.

According to authorities, the two men convinced homeowners to stop paying their mortgages and to ignore notices from their mortgage holders to let them negotiate with the lenders. The scheme tricked homeowners into paying high upfront monthly legal fees for legal services that were not performed or supervised by a Florida attorney.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also filed a lawsuit against these networks of fraudulent attorneys for the unlicensed practice of law.   Bondi claims the network, which held itself out to be a group of 100 attorneys, posed as lawyers to take advantage of vulnerable clients.   The people behind the scheme also duped inexperienced young attorneys into working for them, and the defendants even used real names of actual Florida attorneys without their knowledge. Continue reading →

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Home Foreclosure Defense in BankruptcyWith about half of Jacksonville, Florida homes under water combined with the decrease in overall income for people across the country, it comes as no surprise that people are getting behind on their mortgage payments. Many of those people, especially those in homes that are seriously underwater, would probably benefit most from a mortgage modification or the surrender of the property altogether. However, there is a segment of the population whose home is still worth near if not more than their mortgage(s). Some of these people think that the only way to catch up on their home mortgage is to convince a bank to grant them a modification -often the kind where there are lots of penalties and fees and where the arrearages are tacked on the end of the loan as a balloon payment. These mortgages are not always available and can take so much time to achieve that the penalties become unmanageable.

In many cases, filing a traditional Chapter 13 bankruptcy will help these people catch up on the arrearage on their home. This is especially helpful if there has been a recent increase in income. In a Chapter 13 we submit a plan for repayment which includes the regular monthly mortgage payment, but also amortizes the arrearage to a sixty month period to make payment more manageable. This way, if the debtor can afford it, they can catch up on their mortgage without the arduous frustration of trying to negotiate with the lender.

Filing a bankruptcy stalls any collection attempts so a case filed the morning of a foreclosure sale will cancel the sale or, if the sale occurs, will require the Judge to vacate the sale upon motion by the debtor’s counsel. As long as the debtor intends to catch up on their home mortgage and indicates the ability to do so in their bankruptcy plan, the foreclosure will end there.

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Mortgage Modification through Bankruptcy MediationNearly half of Florida homes that have mortgages are worth less than the mortgage debt on the home. This, combined with the nation-wide decrease in incomes has lead to one of the greatest recessions our country has seen.

A home mortgage is essentially a contract. You promise to make payments according to the contract’s terms, and the lender promises to transfer the home’s title to you when you finish making your payments. The government regulates these contracts by creating laws that set out procedures for things like foreclosures. Of course, there is still an element of free contract which allows lenders and borrowers to negotiate the terms of their agreement at any time. The government is limited in how much they are allowed to interfere with contracts so instead of trying to force banks to offer mortgage modifications, they make programs like HAMP, which offers lenders tax deductions or other benefits to make deals with borrowers. Personally, I think that the government isn’t offering the lenders enough in benefits because banks aren’t particularly helpful in getting borrowers into the program. HAMP mods are done in-house by the banks and “can” lower a borrowers mortgage payments to 31% of their gross income if you qualify. But what if you don’t qualify, and what if your payments are already below 31% of your gross income?

This is where lenders will begin the foreclosure process. They may offer you a so called, “in house modification”, but offer or no, the foreclosure process will continue until either you are somehow successful in obtaining an in-house modification or your home is sold on the courthouse steps. This is because the judiciary can’t force a bank to modify your loan. Honestly negotiated terms that were created in accordance with the laws can’t usually be modified by the government due to our rights to free contract as citizens. That being said, a recent program out of Orlando creates an opportunity for people facing Jacksonville bankruptcies and foreclosures.

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Debt, Mortgage, Laid off, BankruptcyJacksonville bankruptcy attorneys, and attorneys everywhere have faced record numbers of new clients with debt problems. The last five years have been devastating, with home values plunging and politicians screaming across the country that they have new solutions to help us from drowning in debt. There is no doubt that the economy will be the largest issue of the upcoming Presidential Election.

Statistics are a staggering example of our economic squalor. There were 1.4 million bankruptcies across America in 2011, up about a million cases from 2007. A million extra cases per year in only four years is a motivating factor, but what can we do about it?

Most people aren’t sure what to do. Their jobs have lowered their pay or laid them off altogether, many of them are coasting by on savings and hoping for the economy to pick up. Many are depending on loan modifications that may never be granted. Even the government’s Home Affordability Modification Program (HAMP) has been called a Scam.

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If you want to reaffirm a debt after filing for bankruptcy, your must executed a new agreement with your creditor. This reaffirmation agreement must be written and must be signed by both you and the creditor. Should you sign this reaffirmation agreement? Here are some pros and cons.

Pros

First, if you want to keep the property, you must sign the reaffirmation agreement. Also, if you do sign, you will be certain what your payments will be, what your interest rate is, etc. Signing a reaffirmation agreement may also help rebuild your credit, since you are taking responsibility for a pre-filing debt and are making regular payments on a debt.

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Zero Interest Rate Bankruptcy HomeThe Federal Housing Finance Agency is reviewing a proposal that would permit Judges of Chapter 13 cases to give 0.00% interest rates on FHFA loans during the duration of the five year cases. Since about 90% of all U.S. Mortgages are FHFA backed, this would allow nearly all mortgages to have zero interest rates for five years. This comes on the heels of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s plan to allow Chapter 13 bankrupt to enter modifications and attempt to reduce their principle balances.

The proposal comes with two caveats: 1. The home must be worth less than it’s mortgage (46% of Florida homes are underwater) and 2. whether or not to grant the modified interest rate would be up to the bankruptcy judge.

White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage told the Financial Times that the administration is not considering this particular idea. Fortunately, this bill can become law without approval from the White House. Even if a President were to use their veto power, the bill could still be passed by a 2/3rds majority vote by both houses of Congress.

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Beyonce Home Underwater, BankruptcySinger Beyonce Knowles, recently sold her Miami, Florida condo for nearly 25% of what she paid for it. According to TMZ, Beyonce bought the 190 square foot condo in 2002 for $465,000 only to sell it this November for $110,000. This is a $355,000 loss on what TMZ suggests was essentially a private restroom. This is a far greater loss than most mortgage holders face, but this also wasn’t Beyonce’s homestead, it was a luxury property. With so many homes underwater in Florida, it’s no wonder the star lost out on this investment. One things is for certain, with an income like hers, a small property like this won’t be irreplaceable.

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Unfortunately, bankruptcy and foreclosure are often very related issues. Financial troubles leave many homeowners thinking they should simply walk away from their homes, especially if they owe more on the home than it is actually worth.

There may be good news on the horizon. Florida state courts currently have a mediation program that is intended to help homeowners negotiate with their mortgage lender and reach a mutually beneficial agreement. But the program has met a fair amount of criticism as not encouraging honest participation. Parties sometimes fail to show up and don’t always follow the terms of the agreement.

The program was a step in the right direction, however, and Florida’s federal courts have taken notice. And unlike Florida’s state program, the federal program has been very successful so far. It is still a relatively young program, but 90% of those who have used it have been approved for mortgage modifications.

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To say that the state court run Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation program has been a failure is an understatement. This program was created by the Florida Supreme Court in an attempt to help Florida citizens modify their home loans so that they’d not be foreclosed upon for being unable to pay. With only a 3.6 success rate, the Supreme Court of Florida is now considering termination of the program.

On the heels of this debate comes an attractive Federal Court alternative: forcing modification in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and using the threat of giving the home to the bank as a means of lowering principle and interest payments. This method started last year in Orlando, it appears to be working, and it makes total sense.

For a long time banks have been foreclosing on the homes of good people who can’t make their payments only to be unable to sell the property for anywhere near the debt owed. The banks can write-off this difference as a tax loss, but they can only claim so much tax loss each year. Jacksonville judges are now allowing debtors to file motions to force the lenders into mediation where we can show them what they’ll get if the debtor gives the house up in the bankruptcy vs. what they’ll get if they willingly drop principle and interest on the loan.

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Bankruptcy Mediation ModificationJacksonville Bankruptcy judges are following Orlando judge’s lead in granting bankruptcy debtors motions for court ordered mediation. These motions not only require banks to attend mediation in good faith, but they also require the debtor and banks to come prepared -with all the information and documentation that is required to do a modification. Taking things further, the court will require the bank to send an agent who has actual authority to perform the modification.

Many people fail to get loan modifications because the bank either, “lost the paperwork” or the documents became outdated when the bank had time to reviewed them. A lot of these people are eventually foreclosed on and are forced to bankrupt themselves to remove the liability.

Yes, for this to work the debtor will need to file bankruptcy, but it may be just what some debtors need to force banks to modify loans and keep their homes. If you’ve been trying to modify a loan and found the banks unresponsive and/or impossible to deal with, contact a Jacksonville Bankruptcy Lawyer or call us at (904) 685-1200 for a free consultation and we’ll explore your options.

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