Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home  A Home in Limbo
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A Home in Limbo

Attempt to modify a mortgage puts family on brink of eviction at Christmas

Patrick Sullivan - December 24th, 2012  

Rolling green hills, maple trees that turn red in the fall, and sparkling blue water lured the Reeds to Leelanau County.

It’s home for Kerri, who grew up here.

Now Jeffery, a Louisiana native, loves it, too.

It seemed like the perfect place for the couple and their two sons when they moved north in 2006. Jeffery had spent a decade in the Army. They were ready for a new life.

Their oldest son, however, who is now 19, is autistic, legally blind, and needs special care.

Considering those needs, the modest house and 10 acres they found outside of Cedar suits them perfectly.

It includes an in-law’s suite in the lower level where their son can have a semi-independent life. Probably best, though, is the land and its trails.

Their son will never be able to drive a car.

But he can drive a four-wheeler on those trails.

INTEREST RATE TOO HIGH

The Reed’s tranquil spot in Leelanau County could, however, be in jeopardy.

According to Realtytrac, the Reed’s property is just one of 137 bank-owned properties currently in Leelanau County, many of them remnants of the 2008 financial crisis.

And while in many cases homes go into foreclosure because they’ve been abandoned by the people who bought them, the Reeds say they’ve worked hard to stay in their home and thought they were negotiating a loan modification when their bank foreclosed. (The bank disputes this and says the Reeds ignored offers in 2010 for a loan modification after an initial contract fell through.)

The Reeds trace their troubles back to 2009 when they decided their interest rate was too high and wanted to refinance.

They both work hard and said they have always paid their bills -- she is a preschool teacher and he’s worked at Walmart and in manufacturing and is on his way to getting a teacher’s degree -- but they felt their monthly mortgage payment was about double what it should have been.

When they started making calls about a loan modification in November three years ago, they had no idea they had taken the first step toward seeing their home foreclosed.

THE WORST POINT

Their lives had nearly reached the lowest point when the Reeds called a lawyer.

Attorney Jason Jenkinson, who specializes in helping people facing foreclosure, said by the time the Reeds called, in October, it was almost too late.

They had not understood the complicated, labyrinthine foreclosure process as it unfolded before them, he said.

The Reeds were referred to Jenkinson after they sought help at Third Level crisis center when they received a notice of an eviction hearing.

By the time Jenkinson was involved, the Reeds home was already in foreclosure and they faced eviction through the district court in Leelanau County.

Days after they received notice of the hearing, Jeffery Reed’s mother died. Reed said he realized he needed to miss the hearing in order to attend the funeral in Louisiana.

SOLD FOR A DOLLAR

Jenkinson, who said JP Morgan Chase foreclosed on the Reed’s house and then sold the property to Fannie Mae for one dollar, said he recalls the frustration of trying to get that eviction hearing postponed.

“It was the choice of Fannie Mae,” Jenkinson said. “Fannie Mae could have said, ‘We’ll adjourn the hearing,’ and it would have been adjourned.”

They would not agree to an adjournment, however.

“I guess the whole point of this is, did Fannie Mae know that this guy had a loan modification agreement?” Jenkinson said.

A default judgement was entered against the Reeds but that judgement has since been set aside.

TENANTS IN THEIR HOME

To the court, the case just looks like a tenant who stopped paying rent, Jenkinson said.

“There’s nothing in their file concerning the voluminous modification efforts, document requests and phone calls over three years,” he said.

(JP Morgan Chase, however, said they have no records of phone calls from the Reeds since their problem with a loan modification began in 2010.)

The eviction hearing was in district court because the bank had already taken legal control of the home and now it was a mere formality to get the Reeds removed.

There is really very little a person can do once things reach that point, Jenkinson said. People facing foreclosure need to call a lawyer once they realize they are at odds with their bank.

“If we get past the redemption period, it takes a lawsuit for a modification because you’re no longer working with the bank, you’re working with Fannie Mae or whomever allegedly purchased the property at the sheriff’s sale,” he said.

Jenkinson said he would file a lawsuit in the Reed’s case unless something can be worked out, which now appears possible. A Chase representative has said the company is willing to work with the Reeds.

WHAT HAPPENED

Here is how the Reeds went from refinancing a loan to foreclosure:

The couple decided they needed to refinance in 2009 because their monthly payments of around $1,500 were too much, Jeffery Reed said.

They were paying an interest rate of 7.25, which more than double the rates offered today.

They had a lot invested in their home.

It had cost around $250,000 and they had put down around $100,000. They had also paid the bank around $1,500 each month for three years.

Chase was unwilling to modify their mortgage at first, the Reeds said, so they turned to a mortgage refinance intermediary who told them if they wanted to re-negotiate a new mortgage, they had to prove hardship.

They were instructed to stop paying their mortgage.

Up until that point, the Reeds say they had not missed a payment.

It was a long, complicated, anxiety-inducing process, but in the end, it appeared they had prevailed. In September of 2010, they received a new contract.

They had a modification. Their new payments were around $650 per month.

“Everything felt final,” Kerri Reed said.

“OK. Now we finally have a comfortable payment. And then we’re making the payments.”

UNDONE BY A TYPO

They started to make payments and expected to receive a payment book in the mail at any time, but that’s not what happened.

They made one payment, and then another, and then another. After that third payment, they received a check from Chase for the same amount, the couple said.

The bank would no longer accept payments, they said. As far as Chase was concerned, the contract was void and they no longer had an agreement.

“I call and I say, ‘Why? Why are you sending this back? We had an agreement,” Jeffery Reed said.

Reed said he eventually learned the bank decided something was wrong with the contract.

On one of the pages there is a table that describes payments through the life of the contract.

If you look closely, you can see there is an error -- in one of the cells in the table the year 2016 appears where 2017 should have been printed.

Because of that typo, Jeffery Reed says, he was told he no longer had a modification agreement.

The bank says their records indicate the Reeds were sent a new contract and followup letters warning them they needed to sign the new contract. They said the Reeds were sent two certified packages via FedEx regarding the new contract in late 2010. They said their records show the Reeds never attempted to contact the bank about the problem.

Jenkinson said people in the Reed’s circumstance wind up buried in letters and messages from the bank and from lawyers representing the bank. Significant letters can get lost in confusion. He said it is not uncommon for people to be defeated by how baffling the process is.

“What level of sophistication do the Reeds have to have in order to participate with the mortgage lender?” Jenkinson said.

HOUSES LOST IN CONFUSION

Jenkinson said he’s seen a lot of foreclosure cases, but this one surprised him because there was an actual remodification contract.

In many cases, banks will use documents that look like contracts but are not legally binding, he said.

“This is the first time I’ve seen one -- an actual modification agreement from Chase,” Jenkinson said. “I’ve never seen one of these for real.”

Jenkinson said he believes he is seeing a tactic from banks over and over again where bank employees and their lawyers will make homeowners believe they are negotiating for a modification while a foreclosure process quietly begins.

As legal notices are posted in newspapers and letters filled with legalese are sent to the homeowners, the banks’ representatives tell the homeowners not to worry, he said, referring to cases in general.

In many cases, people should worry, Jenkinson said.

“They have no intention of following through,” he said.

The process takes a year or more and the homeowners don’t understand what’s going on. A foreclosure is followed by a six-month redemption period, followed by an eviction. By the time the homeowner realizes something is wrong, it might be too late.

“I don’t think people realize the rights they lose after the sheriff’s sale, then the redemption period, and finally the eviction hearing,” he said. “Homeowners lose substantial rights at the conclusion of each step.”

MISSED CONNECTIONS

It appears there is a stalemate between the Reeds and Chase, but there are hopeful signs.

Chase recently sent a specialist from New York to the Reeds’ door in Leelanau County. They have tried to reach them in other ways but the Reeds have not responded.

The Reeds said they tried and failed too many times to deal directly with Chase, so they have decided they should only deal with the bank through their attorney. Jenkinson said he also has been contacted by Chase in the past couple of weeks and has attempted to return calls, but so far the parties have not made a connection.

A spokeswoman for Chase, Amy Bonitatibus, made this statement about the case: “We reached out to the customer and his attorney a number of times but have not been able to connect with the customer to discuss ways he can stay in his home.”

The Reeds say they have just wanted to have this worked out all along and they don’t understand how something like a typo in a contract could cause so much trouble.

“I feel a little more hopeful,” Kerri Reed said.

But even if it works out and they get a valid mortgage modification, it’s been two years of worrying the family believes they didn’t deserve.

Those months when the process was in motion and their house was being foreclosed seem surreal now. They were losing their home and they didn’t understand what was going on.

“We didn’t know anything about it. We never got anything in the mail. We never got things posted on our door,” Kerri said. “We’re good people. We pay our bills.”

POSTSCRIPT

After this story was reported, written and edited, Jenkinson contacted the Express to say that he had received a modification offer from Chase. It looks like the Reeds do not have to worry about losing their home in the new year.

“It looks like we are going to get started on a modification after the holidays,” Jenkinson said.

 
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