Bank of America's foreclosure stoppage could benefit underwater homeowners in Aspen and beyond

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenOctober 8, 2010
The torrid pace of foreclosures in the Aspen area could see a slowdown now that Bank of America has announced it is putting the brakes on foreclosures and sales of foreclosures in all 50 U.S. states.

The nation's largest U.S. mortgage servicer on Friday reported that it is enacting the moratorium so it can review its internal processes. It is the first American bank to suspend foreclosures in every U.S. state.
An all-too-familiar sign in yards across the land.

"We will stop foreclosure sales until our assessment has been satisfactorily completed," Bank of America spokesman Dan Frahm said in a prepared statement released to the media this morning. "Our ongoing assessment shows the basis for our past foreclosure decisions is accurate."

The move comes amid a growing scandal that has some bank employees reportedly admitting they did not actually review documents they were signing and they improperly rubber-stamped foreclosure cases to move them along.

The bank admissions are particularly problematic in the 23 states that have laws requiring lenders to file an affidavit with the court before they push people out of their homes and seize the properties. Bank of America's foreclosure moratorium initially was limited to those 23 states.

Lawmakers began calling for a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures after reports came out that banks may have potentially perpetrated fraud by kicking residents out of their homes with bad paperwork. In addition to Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage recently put tens of thousands of pending foreclosures on hold in select states. Following Bank of America's announcement this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is now requesting that all major lenders put a halt to foreclosures across the country until the snafu is solved.

“The reports of robo-signing and fraudulent documentation used by banks in tens of thousands of foreclosure proceedings that have come to light over the last two weeks are extremely troubling," Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, said Friday afternoon. "Homeowners on the brink of foreclosure deserve the assurance that their cases are being reviewed thoroughly, and that they aren’t losing their homes based on forged documents and faked signatures. Bank of America was right to halt all foreclosures while it evaluates its filings, and I urge other banks to take responsible steps to ensure their foreclosure proceedings are based on properly prepared documents. We need to get to the bottom of this issue before any more consumers suffer from unfair and possibly illegal practices."

In Ohio, Attorney General Richard Cordray is suing GMAC Mortgage, along with its parent company, Ally Financial. In a statement to the press, he declared: “What we have here is lying under oath. The facts may or may not be correct. And this seems to have been an industry-wide practice, where the companies encouraged this and required it of their employees — to commit deliberate fraud on the court in case after case after case." He is seeking $25,000 in damages for each case of flawed foreclosure paperwork in the state. Other banks are under investigation too.

Here in Colorado, the moratorium will allow many homeowners who have mortgages that are underwater, in foreclosure, or both, to stave off the process, at least for the time being.

“It's fantastic news,” said Louis Wilcox, a bankruptcy attorney in Grand Junction whose clients will benefit from the moratorium. “It's going to have a tremendous impact. Anyone facing a foreclosure with Bank of America at the very least will get some additional time and it may allow a lot of people to keep their homes in the long run.”

As of Thursday, there have been 112 foreclosure filings this year at the Pitkin County Treasurer's Office. Last year, the county recorded 105 foreclosure cases. The all-time county record came in 1982 when 143 were filed.

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