Sunday, April 17, 2011

HUD Backs Off On Position Allowing Lenders To Foreclose On Surviving Spouses Of Deceased Reverse Mortgage Borrowers

The New York Times reports:
  • In the face of a lawsuit from the AARP Foundation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has backed off an apparent policy change that was putting some widows and widowers on the brink of foreclosure.
  • The dust-up involves reverse mortgages, financial products that allow older Americans with a decent amount of home equity to tap some of that equity if they are at least 62 years old. Unlike a home equity loan, where you have to pay the money back, with a reverse mortgage the bank pays you, say in a lump sum or in monthly payments. Once you no longer live in the home, you or your executor (if you’re dead) sells it and pays the bank back.
  • The foundation and Mehri & Skalet, a law firm, sued HUD in the wake of a policy letter in 2008 that seemed to state that widows or widowers who were not listed on a spouse’s reverse mortgage would have to repay the full amount of the deceased spouse’s mortgage. They’d have to do so even if the home was worth less than the outstanding loan.
  • Not long after, some surviving spouses found themselves unable to pay off the loans or get a new mortgage for the outstanding balance on the old reverse mortgage. As a result, they ended up in foreclosure proceedings. The foundation had sued on behalf of three of them.
  • In a letter it released [last] week, HUD rescinded the 2008 letter. And while this week’s letter didn’t say so specifically, Jean Constantine-Davis, a senior attorney for AARP Foundation Litigation, reports that the lenders will now halt foreclosure proceedings against its three plaintiffs for the time being. A HUD spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
  • The lawsuit is not over, though. The foundation hopes that a judge will confirm that HUD cannot ever force a widow, widower or heir to pay a reverse mortgage lender more than a home is actually worth, whatever the balance may be on the mortgage.

For more, see Good News for Spouses of Reverse Mortgage Holders.

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