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Mass Voters Sue for Time to Preserve the Rights of 77,344 Foreclosed Homeowners

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From Grace Ross and the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending:

Today, at the 10 a.m. Press Conference, Massachusetts voters who had attempted to put the law to minimize homeowners’ ability to reverse an illegal foreclosure on the ballot for this past November announced their filing of a suit in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit alleges that the first group of homeowners whose rights this law attempts to curtail – those illegal foreclosed between 1997 and 2013 – should have up to the constitutional deadline to preserve their rights to reverse an illegal foreclosure.

“I am a leader in the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending, a nearly all volunteer organization. Today, we are standing up to the powerful interests both in the Title industry and sadly, some of those in our elected government that don’t give a damn about the rights of the foreclosed – a full three quarters of whom were almost certainly victims of illegal foreclosures,” Zakiya Alake, Plaintiff and member of the MAAPL Steering Committee, “We will fight to stop this law, Chapter 141, from robbing them of their historic rights to fight back against illegal foreclosure. With the help of the National Lawyer’s Guild, we are standing up for the 77,344 home owners because we are the People’s Advocate.”

The Massachusetts Constitution requires that laws have an implementation deadline of 90 days after being signed. The law minimizing homeowners’ rights had a deadline that the Massachusetts Attorney General allowed to go forward of only 36 days. This is critically important because the one year time period for those who were the victims of roughly 77,344 foreclosures prior to 2014 need the time to record documentation at the Registry of Deeds or file in court to preserve their rights.

Press conference location was Shapiro, Weissberg, and Garin, 90 Canal St., 5th Fl. Afterward, Plaintiffs represented by Attorney Jeffrey Feuer of the National Lawyers Guild, will deliver the suit to the Supreme Judicial Court.

“The lawsuit today seeks the Constitutional deadline for previously foreclosed homeowners foreclosed before 2013 to have until February 23, 2017 to record their filings at the registry of deeds. We are deeply concerned about this “supposed” law for many reasons; however, today, we have focused down on the critical shortened deadline for homeowners whose rights are being taken away without any notification,” explained Grace Ross, voter-Plaintiff and Coordinator of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending.

“The law that this lawsuit challenges is historically unique in changing the traditional 20 year rights to reverse an illegal foreclosure. These rights have been around for literally hundreds of years,” explained Sarah Mckee, a Plaintiff and former white collar crime prosecutor for Interpol. “These rights are summarily attempted to be cut off by an initiative of the Title Insurance industry.

“The roughly 77,344 foreclosures under this severely foreshortened and unannounced deadline to record documentation at the Registries of Deeds or bring suit amounts to over 25 billion dollars (this is a low estimate) in household wealth that could be barred forever from reclamation.”

The suit was filed by the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending and 14 -Voter Petitioners who attempted to have this legislation put before the voters of Massachusetts last November, 2016. When the Secretary of the Commonwealth received this petition, he sent over an almost immediate query to the Attorney General seeking her opinion on whether it was constitutional for this petition to be put before the voters or not.
This law is explicitly named and focused on the rights of homeowners to the legal title of their property.

The Attorney General refused to put it on the ballot based upon a minor part of the bill, involving codifying some Supreme Judicial Court decisions that clarified these powers already existed in the jurisdiction of the Housing Court; this minor section had been added literally after both sides of the legislature had voted on the legislation, debated it at length and handled numerous amendment votes and when the bill was conferenced and sent back as a final vote without any discussion.

The AG argued that this changed powers the courts, even though that section was plainly peripheral to the main purpose of the bill, which was dealing with the hundreds years old rights of former homeowners to challenge illegal foreclosures.

“As far as I’m concerned we homeowners met with Maura Healey when she was running for office. She promised she would be on the side of the homeowners in our fight with the banks. She has blocked our moves and refused us funding from her settlements. Now is her chance to step aside from defending the industry’s law against the Constitutionally protected homeowners of the Commonwealth,” said Mildred Collins, Plaintiff and a homeowner whose rights may have been taken away by this law.

From Grace Ross and the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending …

ADVOCATES ANNOUNCE SIGNIFICANT STEP TOWARD REMOVING UNFAIR TAX AND FURTHER HARM OF FORECLOSED HOMEOWNERS

Advocates affiliated with MAAPL (Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending) and others are pleased to report that an important piece of legislation decreasing unfair burden on the 68,000 households foreclosed in this crisis has taken a step forward.

“In our case, our family has a court ruling that the foreclosure of our home in Worcester was illegal, yet the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) came after us for a “forbearance” that the bank reported so that the bank could take a tax write off, even on an illegal foreclosure!” explains Mildred Collins, a Worcester, MA homeowner sharing her terrifying story: “This was money we certainly never profited from and DOR levied my bank accounts, overdrawing them, and even threatened to take away me and my husband’s drivers licenses. I have had to spend hours and hours traveling to and from the DOR office in Springfield and am still waiting for resolution on this issue. “ 

The United States Congress and the IRS recognized the injustice of taxing people on money they never made in an overpriced mortgage that led to a foreclosure (whether it is ever found illegal or not); federal legislation making this type of decrease in debt not taxable passed half a dozen years ago. Foreclosed homeowners have not received a profit.

“An Act Relative to the Tax Relief of Mortgage Debt” has been favorably reported out from the Massachusetts Legislative Joint Committee of Revenue. This bill will protect all homeowners from being taxed for a “profit” they never received from losing their home to foreclosure whether it is ever found illegal or not).

“Many people don’t know that even when a homeowner wins a court battle against the bank that illegally foreclosed on them, they may still be taxed for the supposed “profit” they made from having their mortgage wiped out by foreclosure,” continues Mildred Collins, who is also a member of the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team. This bill will protect homeowners who have proven a foreclosure is illegal but continue to be victimized in other ways.

“Illegal foreclosures are among the most insidious injustices affecting our families and communities.  Whether a family proves that a foreclosure was illegal, they are often still being taxed by the state.,” explained Dawn Duncan who has fought foreclosure herself and is a member of Lynn United.

Attorneys representing homeowners have seen this practice too. “We have seen many homeowners face incredible challenges to prove that they were exempt from phantom income due to forgiveness of debt.  Most couldn’t afford a tax attorney and ended up with oppressive tax bills and loss of tax refunds.  This bill would properly exempt this phantom income and remove this unfair burden,” says Todd Kaplan, Senior Attorney in the Consumer Rights Division of Greater Boston Legal Services. 

House 2607 and Senate 1464, the same bill filed on both sides of the legislature, now moves forward and advocates are hopeful that an expedited vote will help provide relief as soon as possible to this additional and unfair destructive financial burden on the families of Massachusetts.

“We applaud the work of the Revenue Committee and look forward to the widely supported bills passing quickly into law,” said Grace Ross, Coordinator of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending, “This past January, MAAPL filed nine (9) bills because Massachusetts residents and our entire economy deserve a full-fledged repair to the massive and pervasive damage caused by illegal subprime lending and the ongoing foreclosure crisis that has followed.”

Foreclosure Rates Up Again – MA Homeowners: “Enforce the Laws, Don’t Cut our Rights to Our Homes!”

Boston – On the State House steps, homeowners still fighting to protect their homes from illegal mortgages and foreclosures, held a press conference.

“Historic levels of foreclosures are returning – BUT the illegalities must stop! Our people need justice not the same illegal foreclosures!”, said Zakiya Alake of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, member group of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending.

The most recent statistics from the Warren Group show:

Foreclosure petitions, 1st step in process, up 68% March 2015 over March 2014 (highest since Oct. 2012);

The 1st quarter of 2015 saw a 77.3% increase in petitions over the 1st quarter of 2014;

Foreclosure deeds saw a 51% increase March 2015 over March 2014;

Number of auction notices up 47.6% March 2015 over March 2014.

“Five years ago, a Trust – one of these bundled mortgage trusts, foreclosed on me and my family’s home. I had money to get back on track – they would not take it!” explained Joe Boyer, “after 5 years of fighting in court, no judge has looked at all the evidence I have that this Trust never had my mortgage. In the last four weeks, I am now receiving legal correspondence that the mortgage is still alive AND two other financial institution say they have my mortgage! Now, today – not the Trust! AND they want to get paid!”

Boyer was joined by dozens of other homeowners fighting foreclosure and other supporters from the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending. Some homeowners who have won or bought their homes back also spoke out. Homeowners and supporters were headed in to the Statehouse for a 1pm hearing to support 5 bills to help fix the once again spiraling foreclosures in Massachusetts.

Heather Gordon whose first home was foreclosed in 2010, explained: “They took my family home. I loved it and they foreclosed after I had just put in new bay windows! I went to court to fight when they tried and eventually evicted me. NOW it turns out, they never had my mortgage BUT the Judge never looked through the documents from the Registry to realize it. We have come for justice and the time is now!”

Another homeowner who has not yet been foreclosed showed the bank’s letter saying they would not even let her give them the deed to the house because they had so clouded the title that they don’t want it.

Others talked of deaths, children struggling in school and all the other damage from foreclosures – to Cities and Neighborhoods as well.

“What these homeowners are experiencing should be legally impossible. One party denies them a loan modification – the best financial options for everyone – then a foreclosure with one party claiming the mortgage and the right to enforce it BUT we have all the evidence that another bank had it. We need a new Court which will really review the evidence, we need the documents filed in the registry to accurately reflect who really has the mortgage, we need cities and towns to be able to pass laws to protect their people AND homeowners need to be allowed to pay rent so they can stay in their home while this illegal mess gets sorted out.”

A mortgage mediation program for Worcester

By Michael Gaffney, candidate for Worcester City Councilor at Large

Mortgage mediation is a process whereby during the foreclosure process, a representative from the bank meets with the homeowner relative to a mortgage workout. Getting two parties to sit down in a neutral environment to discuss the issues often yields positive results. A property lost to foreclosure lowers surrounding property values and seriously disrupts neighborhoods.

On August 19, 2013, per the Telegram and Gazette, the administration of the City of Worcester reported that it would not back an ordinance to establish a mediation program on property entering into foreclosure.
The reasons given for not implementing such a program were costs, logistics and legality:

As to costs, there are far too many volunteer organization as well as services operating under a block grant that provide free services to our courts and other programs. There are also numerous low cost providers. Cost is simply not a viable argument.
Logistically, the City of Worcester already requires a $5,000.00 bond for potential costs upon the filing of a foreclosure; therefore, someone is already assigned to review the bond and a tracking mechanism is already in place. The time involved in a referral to a mediation program is nominal.

As to the alleged legal issue, in the August 19, 2013 edition of the Telegram and Gazette, the City Solicitor claims that the Springfield ordinance is pending appeal which is mostly accurate. On July 2, 2012, U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor dismissed the lawsuit filed by the banks against Springfield’s mediation ordinance stating “the modest effort made by the city to soften the crisis through the promulgation of the two ordinances violates no Constitutional provision or state statute.” An appeal was filed by the banks. On or about March 14, 2013, the banks offered to drop the appeal if the City of Springfield would drop the bond requirement. The cause of the appeal was not with the mediation ordinance; rather, the cause of the appeal is the posting of the bond.

Here, the City of Worcester has implemented the bond requirement but not the mediation ordinance. Take note, the City of Springfield’s bond requirement is $10,000.00 which appears more penal than remedial. The banks were willing to allow the mediation ordinance. It seems obvious that the Springfield City Council is more concerned about the bond money than solving the problem for the homeowners, unlike the City of Worcester.

Our City Council rose to the occasion last night to advise the administration that they will push forward and should. In response, the administration offered to come to the table and look at all options. Unfortunately, this means further delay in the enactment of any ordinance, but the parties appear willing to further the process. Hopefully action will be taken sooner rather than later.

Bank of America: guilty as charged!

From: Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending

Bank of America: Guilty as charged!

Demanding: An end to all post foreclosure evictions

Inclusion of principle reduction in modifications

The event:

Protest & Testimony, Action & Street Theatre:

TO DELIVER A SENTENCE FOR THEIR CRIMES**

The Date & Time:

Saturday, May 14

10 am @ Copley Square (across from the Bank of America on Boylston St)

** Causing millions of Americans to lose homes and jobs

Creating and reaping the benefits of a foreclosure crisis

Illegally foreclosing on families with robo signing, perjury and illegal documents

Taking a $1.9 billion tax refund… despite making $4.4 billion in profit in 2010

Taking over $200 billion in bail out money and refusing to help struggling homeowners

Organizers: City Life/Vida Urbana, The Chelsea Collaborative, Springfield No One Leaves, Worcester Anti-foreclosure Team, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE-Providence, RI), Lynn United for Change, The Merrimack Valley Project

Co-sponsors: Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending, Jobs with Justice, SEIU 615, 1199 SEIU United Health Workers, The Greater Boston Labor Council, Community Labor United, Massachusetts Community Action Network, Kavod House, Right to the City Coalition, US Uncut

Please call:

Steve Meacham, City Life/Vida Urbana, 617-524-3541, smeacham@clvu.org

Grace Ross, MAAPL, 617-291-5591, maaplinfo@yahoo.com