Source: Centre Daily Times —
Rose Prophete thought the second mortgage loan on her Brooklyn home was resolved about a decade ago — until she received paperwork claiming she owed more than $130,000.
“I was shocked,” said Prophete, who refinanced her two-family home in 2006, six years after arriving from Haiti. “I don’t even know these people because they never contacted me. They never called me.”
Prophete is part of a wave of homeowners who say they were blindsided by the start of foreclosure actions on their homes over second loans that were taken out more than a decade ago. The trusts and mortgage loan servicers behind the actions say the loans were defaulted on years ago.
Some of these homeowners say they weren’t even aware they had a second mortgage because of confusing loan structures. Others believed their second loans were rolled in with their first mortgage payments or forgiven. Typically, they say they had not received statements on their second loans for years as they paid down their first mortgages.
Now they’re being told the loans weren’t dead after all. Instead, they’re what critics call “zombie debt” — old loans with new collection actions.
While no federal government agency tracks the number of foreclosure actions on second mortgages, attorneys aiding homeowners say they have surged in recent years. The attorneys say many of the loans are owned by purchasers of troubled mortgages and are being pursued now because home values have increased and there’s more equity in them.
“They’ve been holding them, having no communication with the borrowers,” said Andrea Bopp Stark, an attorney with the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center. “And then all of a sudden they’re coming out of the woodwork and are threatening to foreclose because now there is value in the property. They can foreclose on the property and actually get something after the first mortgages are paid off.”
Attorneys for owners of the loans and the companies that service them argue that they are pursuing legitimately owed debt, no matter what the borrower believed. And they say they are acting legally to claim it.
How did this happen?