Sunday, July 17, 2011

Foreclosure Case Dismissed When Bank’s Lawyer Misses Court.

Sometimes lawyers defending homeowners win cases at trial as a result of evidence obtained in depositions. Banks also lose cases when they are unable to come forward with admissible evidence to prove each element of their case. There is a third way that banks lose cases that very few lawyers on either side ever discuss, and that is lawyer incompetence. That’s right, banks and loan servicers lose foreclosure cases every week because their cases are assigned to massive foreclosure mills where very inexperienced lawyers are assigned hundreds of cases.

On July 14, 2011, our firm obtained a dismissal of a foreclosure action because Chase Home Finance’s lawyer failed to show up for Court. The foreclosure action was filed against our client in 2009. In June of 2011 the presiding judge entered an order requiring the lawyers for the Plaintiff ( Chase Home Finance), the homeowner, and the co-Defendant, City of Palm Bay, to appear at a status conference at 1:30 p.m. on July 14, 2011. At the status conference, firm attorney Richard Shuster was present for our client, the homeowner. An attorney for the City of Palm Bay, per the Court order, was also present, but the attorney for Chase Home Finance was nowhere to be found. After Judge Jeffrey Mahl asked if there were any attorneys from the firm representing Chase, foreclosure defense attorney Richard Shuster moved for the case to be dismissed for Chase’s violation of the Court’s order. Judge Mahl then granted the motion and dismissed the case without prejudice.

Our firm will now file a motion for attorney’s fees on behalf of the homeowner. Chase as the losing party will have to pay the homeowner's attorney’s fees. Our firm’s goal will be to recover money from Chase to reimburse the money previously paid to our firm by the homeowner. Since the dismissal was without prejudice it is possible that Chase will file a new lawsuit against our client. Of course for that to happen the Chase’s law firm will have to tell Chase that the case was dismissed because they forgot to show up in Court. Perhaps this case will slip through the cracks. Our firm defended this case for approximately thirteen months. If the case is re-filed the bank will have to start over from scratch.

Many homeowners think banks are all powerful. While banks have big friends in Congress and the Federal Reserve a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The bank's weak link is often the lawyer or law firm hired by the bank to prosecute a foreclosure case. Sadly most homeowners never hire a lawyer and give up their home without a fight. Other posts on the blog discuss firm victories at trial and summary judgment. In those cases there was an adjudication on the merits and the bank cannot refile. Those cases were won with hard work, meticulous discovery, and persuasive argument. This case was won because we showed up and the bank did not. This has happened in many cases before. This is just another secret that banks and their lawyers don’t want anyone to know about.

To review a redacted copy of order dismissing the case please clink the link below:

Redacted Foreclosure Dismissal

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pre Foreclosure Mediation Settlement Saves Client over $100,000.00

A Shuster & Saben client’s investment of $1,600.00 in legal fees, will result in over $100,000.00 of savings from a pre-foreclosure mediation agreement negotiated by firm attorney Richard Shuster. The client came to the firm’s Melbourne, Florida office after their prior loan servicer, Chase, denied permanent loan modification of their mortgage. Chase had placed the client in a trial modification that reduced their monthly payment from over $3,000.00 to approximately $1,648.00. After the client made their monthly trial payments Chase refused to convert the loan from a HAMP trial modification to a permanent modification.

After meeting with the couple, attorney Shuster recommended submission of a qualified written request to the loan servicer to investigate whether Chase had a valid reason for denying permanent loan modification. The firm then submitted a Qualified Written Request (QWR) to Chase for a flat, one-time fee of $250.00. Chase’s response to Qualified Written Request revealed that the loan was owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA or Fannie Mae) and that Chase alleged that the permanent modification was denied because their file was incomplete. The clients asserted that they submitted all of the requested documents. Some consumer advocates refer to incomplete file denials as the “dog ate my homework” excuse for not making permanent modifications.

After Chase denied permanent modification the client creased making further mortgage payments. The client, a couple nearing retirement age, realized that they could not wipe out their retirement savings to save a home in which they were significantly upside down and had no equity whatsoever.

A few months later, the loan owner, FNMA, transferred servicing of the loan from Chase to Lender Business Process Services (LBPS). When the client advised Shuster & Saben of the change of servicers the firm submitted an updated HAMP application and updated financial disclosures to LBPS. Thereafter LBPS requested pre-foreclosure mediation.

Firm attorney Richard Shuster welcomed the chance to mediate the case before any foreclosure action was filed against the client. Shuster explained that LBPS was proactive and responsible by saving FNMA (the loan owner) the expense of paying a filing fees and attorneys’ fees to file a foreclosure action against the homeowner. Lenders often ask for as much as $4,000.00 to be added to homeowners’ loan balances to pay for such expenses. Since our firm did not have to defend a lawsuit, the homeowners’ legal expenses were also much smaller.

The client hired Shuster & Saben to represent them at mediation under a written agreement that called for a fee of $350.00 together with a success bonus form $500.00 to $1,500.00 depending on the nature of the loan modification obtained. ($500.00 for a small loan modification up to a $1,500 for a loan modification with both interest and principal reduction). The result obtained, a loan modification that will reduce the client’s interest rate to 2% for the next 5 years and to 5% thereafter, qualified the firm for a $1,000 success bonus. The total cost to the client was $1,600 ($250 for QRW, $350 Mediation, $1,000 success bonus). The client’s new mortgage payment of $1,561.78 is a huge savings from their original payment of over $3,000.00 and is less than their prior trial modification payments. At the mediation, attorney Shuster insisted that conversion of the new trial modification to permanent modification be guaranteed in writing and would happen automatically so long as all payments were made. Under the loan modification obtained by Shuster & Saben, the client will save over $85,000.00 during the next five years and over $100,000 over the life of the loan. Shuster’s biggest bonus was two hugs, from the couple whose home was saved by this settlement agreement.

To review the redacted mediation agreement and redacted confirmation letter from LBPS please click the links below.

Mediation Agreement

LBPS Confirmation of HAMP Modification