In South Bend, Indiana, The New York Times
- [C]ity officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo,(1) Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate.(2)
- The so-called bank walkaways rarely mean relief for the property owners, caught unaware months after the fact, and often mean additional financial burdens and bureaucratic headaches. Technically, they still owe on the mortgage, but as a practicality, rarely would a mortgage holder receive any more payments on the loan.(3) The way mortgages are bundled and resold, it can be enormously time-consuming just trying to determine what company holds the loan on a property thought to be in foreclosure.(4)
For more, see Banks Starting to Walk Away on Foreclosures.
Go here for other posts on code violation & other problems associated with homes in legal limbo.
Thanks to Bill Collins of Crossroads Abstract, Rochester, NY for the heads-up on this story.
(1) According to the story, in Buffalo, where officials said the problem had reached “epidemic” proportions in recent months, the city sued 37 banks last year (see City of Buffalo v. ABN Amro Mortgage Group Inc., et al.), claiming they were responsible for the deterioration of at least 57 abandoned homes; the city chose a sampling of houses to include in the lawsuit, even though the banks had walked away from many more foreclosures. So far, five banks have settled.
(2) Reportedly, Chuck Leone, the South Bend city attorney, made this observation on the foreclosing lender walk-aways: “We see it one of two ways. One is that the bank will simply dismiss the foreclosure complaint. The other is that the mortgage holder will follow through and take a judgment of foreclosure, but then not schedule the property for sheriff’s sale.”
(3) The article highlights the story of one local property owner who though she lost a two-family rental home to foreclosure, which fell victim to looters after her tenants moved out. The City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name. Reportedly, the home is now so worthless the city plans to demolish it — another bill for which she will be liable.
(4) One recent story (see National Public Radio: Banks Refusing To Take Back Foreclosed Properties) reported that Cleveland, Ohio Housing Court officials said they are now seeing homeowners take matters into their own hands when dealing with the abandonment of foreclosure lawsuits by lenders. One instance is cited involving a foreclosing lender that was reluctant to complete the foreclosure process and repossess a dilapidated property. In that case, the homeowner simply deeded back the property to the lender by preparing a deed, naming the lender as grantee, and recording it.
Such a conveyance may ultimately be found to be ineffective because the mortgage lender surely would assert that it never "accepted" the deed conveyed by the owner of the dilapidated wreck collateralizing its loan (ie. to be effective, a deed must be both "delivered" by the grantor-owner, and "accepted" by the grantee-lender; in other words, no acceptance = no conveyance). However, recording a deed in the name of the unwitting lender may, under state law, create a legal presumption that it has been "accepted" by the lender (see Janian v. Barnes, 284 A.D.2d 717, 718; 727 N.Y.S.2d 182 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dep't 2001)) until such time that it straightens out the mess by going into court, presenting evidence to a judge that there was no actual acceptance, and obtaining a judgment declaring the deed to be void. Unless and until it does so, it could arguably be treated as the legal owner of (and find itself legally responsible for the code violations on) its abandoned dilapidated loan collateral. Inasmuch as many mortgage holders, their loan servicers, and their assembly line foreclosure mill attorneys have proven themselves to be quite clumsy when handling the paperwork relating to their mortgages, it could be quite some time before they discover that title to the loan collateral has been put in their name - probably when they start getting tagged with the code violations - and possibly even longer before they figure out what to do. responsibility code violations foreclosure