Paltry settlement checks insulting to foreclosed homeowners
After a six-month campaign with Occupy Homes MN, Frank Clark and Kristina Darrington won a hard fought loan modification from Bank of America. The couple thought they were going to stay in their foreclosed Coon Rapids home, but after consulting with an attorney on the modification paperwork they discovered they would have experienced a balloon payment following the first month, which would have resulted in higher monthly fees than their original loan. Frank and Kristina chose to walk away from their home, and in September moved into an apartment in Roseville with their two dogs.
Frank and Kristina's Occupy Homes BBQ, April 2012.
Like so many homeowners across the country who have been fraudulently foreclosed on and forced to leave their homes, Frank and Kristina are attempting to put back the pieces of their lives that had been irrevocably changed by Bank of America. In January 10 of the country's largest banks, including Bank of America, reached a settlement in charges of mortgage fraud and mismanagement of home loans. Despite invaluable damage caused to homeowners across the country, the banks were ordered to pay a mere $8.5 billion dollars to borrowers across the country.
This month banks began mailing out settlement checks to 4 million victims of mortgage abuses. Frank and Kristina were hoping for some reparation after losing their dream home, going bankrupt, and damaging their credit, but were met with disappointment when they received a check for $300. “The check we received from the settlement does not even come close to repairing the financial devastation that we experienced from the foreclosure, let alone the emotional distress or physical damage that we have endured,” said Kristina. The pittance from the bank failed to provide support in assisting the couple in getting back into a home. “Trying to buy a new home has been very difficult because investors are purchasing homes and reselling them before they are even offered on the market,” added Frank.
Colleen McKee Espinosa went into foreclosure after Citibank refused to accept her payment on the due date after falling two months behind on her payments. She received a settlement check for $300. Citibank's error cost her over $18,000 in fees as the bank charged her for the cost of their attorney carrying out the foreclosure proceedings. After a successful campaign against Citibank that engaged thousands around the country, she won a modification on her home, but instead of finishing finishing payments in the remaining six years of her mortgage, she had to restart another 40-year mortgage.
Rose McGee, a twenty-year resident of Golden Valley, has been in a collaborative campaign with NCRC, JCA and Occupy Homes MN to prevent her foreclosure. The long-time community leader helped create the Homeowner Bill of Rights, and has become a powerful voice of the housing justice movement. As her fight for her home continues, this month she received a check for $500 from CitiMortgage, which she refused to cash.
The check was especially insulting because I have been 'dual tracked' twice," said Rose. "Last year, thinking modification review was underway, my home was sold without my knowledge. I fought. Eight months later, facing eviction, Citi and Fannie told me that I was being reviewed for modification while at the same time they continued moving forward with eviction...dual tracked again! To add further insult, they are now offering a ridiculous modification way above the value of my home because Fannie refuses to do principal reduction. I made a counter-offer but am still getting no response from the mortgage company. A check for $500 cannot put a dent in this emotional and physical roller coaster. I want my home not further insults."
Mark Freeman was foreclosed on by Bank of America in 2009, and received a modification in 2010 that added an additional 30 years on the loan for the north Minneapolis home he had been in for 20 years. He received a check for $400 last week and responded, “It feels like a slap in the face, and I’m underwhelmed. What I am upset about is that these payments don’t even help folks who’ve been kicked out of their homes put money towards a new home. This gives big banks reprieve from their crimes while getting off cheap and continuing to make record profits.” A letter informed Mark that Bank of America would be sending him a 1099 form for him to be taxed on the check later in the year.
Five years after the mortgage crisis began, millions of families have been foreclosed on, with no end or slowdown in sight. Yet no individual or bank responsible has been prosecuted, and the settlement has neglected to provide anything close to the assistance that the American people need and deserve. With big banks continuing to make record profits while our neighbors are kicked out on the street, the fight for housing justice is just getting started.
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