Urban African American neighborhoods are hardest hit as nearly 100,000 loans have failed.
This is the headline from a USA Today article that ran on the front page of Yahoo.com on June 12th. It was written by Nick Penzenstadler and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein.
Printed out, it’s a nine-page article that also has a 8:50 video with homeowners crying and heirs talking about losing the family home. Unfortunately, these are true and tragic situations, but if you can read past the somewhat biased opinions and wording of the article, you’ll see that lenders would honestly prefer to work with the borrowers and heirs, but HUD guidelines are strict and unforgiving. They must follow these guidelines or risk losing protection the mortgage insurance provides against loss.
One borrowers’ situation who weaves his way in and out of the article is 86-year-old Leroy Roebuck. Ten years ago, he “forgot” to pay his homeowners insurance of $2,000. The requirements to keep the reverse mortgage in place are that the homeowner must keep current on homeowner’s insurance and property taxes as well as maintain the home. While the company servicing the loan can, and should, work with the homeowner to pay the taxes and or insurance, by all rights, Mr. Roebuck probably should have been foreclosed on nine years ago. However, he has been able to fight and delay the foreclosure through a special health exemption to foreclosure the city offers.
There is also a profile of a “grieving spouse” facing foreclosure. Patricia Blair was 60 years old and her husband was 62 when he took out a reverse mortgage on their Philadelphia home in 2010. Because she was below the threshold age of 62, the loan was made to her husband and she was taken off the title to the home. When her husband died, Patricia thought she took care of the paperwork so she could remain in the home, but she missed getting the home in her name within the HUD required time line of 90 days. Because of this issue, the servicer began foreclosure.
(Please note that in 2014 HUD changed the rule and non-borrowing spouses no longer must be removed from title and have protection if the borrowing spouse dies – but the article doesn’t mention this until about a half-dozen paragraphs further into the article).
Throughout the article, the overarching theme is that lenders took advantage of minority homeowners in predominantly black, lower income neighborhoods. The authors back up their assertions with facts and lawsuits filed against lenders by regulators like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).
However, the article completely relieves the homeowners of any responsibility for their actions. They should have taken some responsibility for making sure they understand what they are signing. In addition, it doesn’t matter what kind of mortgage you have, as a homeowner, you should be aware that it is a requirement to have homeowners insurance in place. With all the letters and notices sent, I have a hard time imagining that someone can simply “forget” to pay this bill.
Having said this, I do believe 100% that some unscrupulous lenders did target people and also used high pressure and unethical sales tactics, but I also believe that this practice is no longer part of the industry and hasn’t been for half-a-dozen years or more. In fact, some of the companies mentioned in this article are out of business now, as they should be.
Unfortunately, the fact that the people and businesses that took advantage of these homeowners have been fined or are no longer in business cannot ease the pain endured by the people highlighted in the article. But the authors should make more of a point that the people suffering in this article took their loans out six to ten years ago and these practices have been banned from the industry for years now.
I recommend reading the article, but understand that it appears the authors have an axe to grind and are writing from what I believe is a biased point of view.