Melanie Payne • Tellmel@news-press.com • July 22, 2010
1:10 A.M. — Nicole DePuy thought she was one of the lucky ones when she walked out of Harborside Event Center on Jan. 27 with a loan modification that would save her home from foreclosure.
After waiting hours to talk to her lender at the highly publicized event, the 40-year-old speech-language pathologist had been approved for a trial with the Home Affordable Modification Program.
Under the government-sponsored program called HAMP, DePuy’s mortgage payments were cut almost in half, dropping from $2,100 to $1,054.
And best of all, under the terms of the program, all foreclosure action would stop. The scheduled sale of DePuy’s Cape Coral home was prohibited under the terms of the agreement.
“I thought my problems were over,” DePuy said.
Nothing could be further from the truth. But DePuy didn’t know that until John Moffatt of Isla Blue Development LLC put a note on her door March 31 telling her to call about her property. Moffatt told DePuy the company he represented had purchased her home in a foreclosure sale at the courthouse.
DePuy called Bank of America to find out what happened and was told the bank had failed to notify the lawyer handling the foreclosure sale that DePuy was in the trial loan modification program.
Fort Myers attorney Robert D. Royston Jr. agreed to represent DePuy. He asked the court to set aside the sale “on the basis of the mistake by the plaintiff.”
Royston filed the contract showing the modification and the HAMP guidelines that read: “Foreclosure sales may not be conducted while the loan is being considered for a modification or during the trial period.”
The judge didn’t have an opportunity to read the pleadings.
“The judiciary is having difficulty given the volume to give the attention each case may require,” Royston said.
Because Isla Blue purchased the house fair and square, it belonged to it, the judge ruled.
Isla Blue could have kicked DePuy and her 11-year-old daughter out within days of the ruling, but she has been given until the end of the month to move.
Bank of America told me it would deal with this issue directly with DePuy. A customer advocate contacted her Tuesday, DePuy said, telling her she was looking into it.
DePuy’s story illustrates the pitfalls of homeowners going it alone when dealing with foreclosures. If DePuy had an attorney, the attorney would have seen the house was still on the foreclosure listings and taken action before the sale.
Martha Green, the executive assistant at the Home Ownership Resource Center, said that DePuy could have contacted the bank’s attorney herself and told the attorney she had worked out a modification. But going it alone, DePuy would not have known to do that.
The scary thing is that there are more than 1.2 million homeowners who have started a trial modification under the government’s “Making Home Affordable” plan. I hope it works better for them than it did for DePuy.
- For more columns and reader forums go to news-press.com/tellmel. Write to Tell Mel at 2442 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fort Myers, 33901. Call her at 344-4772. E-mail her at tellmel@ news-press.com.
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