Why More Widowed Homeowners Are Struggling To Prevent A Foreclosure
by Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times
5/4/2016 update: The Judiciary Committee voted 4 to 1 to approve the bill, which will now go before the full Senate.—Los Angeles Times
When Jesus Sequeira’s wife, Yadira, died in 2008 from lung cancer, times soon grew tough.
Sequeira said his income plunged, leaving him unable to pay the mortgage on the couple’s Canyon Country home when payments more than doubled a year later.
Sequeira hoped a loan modification might save him, but there was a glitch: Even though he was listed on the title, only his wife was on the mortgage note — a setup Sequeira said a Countrywide Financial employee suggested given her superior credit.
The arrangement, he said, turned efforts to secure a modification into a multiyear red-tape nightmare that may end in a trustee sale scheduled for May 11.
“It’s like I can have a heart attack, because I don’t know what is going to happen,” said Sequeira, 58, who owns a small Koreatown market. “It’s been like that for three years.”
Consumer advocates say widows and widowers nationwide are falling into a similar bureaucratic black hole.
Although servicers will generally accept their loan payments, surviving homeowners who are not on the mortgage face significant resistance when they seek loan modifications once they’ve fallen behind on payments — often because they’ve lost their spouse’s income.
“They are being told they can’t do anything to prevent foreclosure,” said Charles Evans, an attorney with pro bono law firm Public Counsel, which is assisting Sequeira.
The problem is growing, advocates say, and has caught the attention of federal regulators and state lawmakers.
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