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At least three major lenders have suspended foreclosures in nearly two dozen states, including Wisconsin. Allegations of misconduct and flawed practices in foreclosure lawsuits prompted GMAC, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase to put the brakes on foreclosures and halt post-foreclosure REO sales of properties in at least 23 states. Indeed, many title insurers have also suspended issuing title insurance policies for REO sales from these companies. Now, according to the New York Times, lawmakers in Washington and many states are calling for a freeze on all foreclosures. Foreclosure Furor Rises; Many Call for a Freeze, Oct 5, 2010.

At issue are flawed or false affidavits – sworn statements by the lenders’ employees who were to have reviewed the files for accuracy and correct documentation. Rather than actually review the files, these companies allegedly used “robo-signers” — employees who signed thousands of affidavits per month with no knowledge of the content and, in many cases, without even bothering to read the Affidavits.

Some Affidavits dealt with lost or missing assignment of mortgages. The bank that made the original loan often assigned or sold their loan to another bank. That bank, the new owner of the mortgage, must prove to the court that they have standing to file the foreclosure action; in other words, they are the proper party with an appropriate interest to foreclose.  They need to produce the original Assignment of Mortgage document as proof. During the hay-day of loose lending practices, many banks lost or even never had the original Assignment of Mortgage documents.

The solution: sign an affidavit that swears that the bank keeps original documents like this and the signer can’t find the original after a thorough search and investigation for the lost affidavit.

The problem: the person signing that affidavit allegedly never made a thorough investigation and has no knowledge of the file. How could he when he signed thousands every month.

In most foreclosures, the home owner never contests the foreclosure action because the homeowner had stopped paying many months earlier. These flawed affidavits usually present only procedural flaws, not real defenses on the merits. Thus, they likely only serve to slow the process and delay the inevitable.  In some cases, however, the injustice may rise beyond a lack of due process. 

No one knows the affect that this temporary moratorium will have on the real estate market or the foreclosure crisis. Yet, it certainly has created more risk and costs for lenders during the foreclosure process.  One affect may be to encourage lenders to seek foreclosure alternatives, such as short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosure. Only time will tell.

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