Botched Foreclosure Shines Spotlight On Banks’ Ignorance Of The Rules

In Georgia, there is a program called HomeSafe, intended to prevent homeowners who have just lost their jobs and are only a little behind on their mortgage from losing their homes. When someone is accepted into the program, lenders are required to pause foreclosure actions, but that didn’t stop Citi and Freddie Mac from trying to evict one woman.

After she and her husband lost their jobs, they tried in vain to get someone at Citi — which services the mortgage owned by Freddie Mac — to let them apply for a modification. When that failed, they went to HomeSafe, a federally funded, state-run program that essentially provides qualifying homeowners with zero-interest loans that are forgiven in five years if the homeowner is able to stay in their home.

More than two weeks before her home was to be foreclosed on, Citi gave its okay for the home to be allowed into the HomeSafe program. This means that the foreclosure proceedings should have been halted. And yet, a few weeks later, the bank sent the homeowner an eviction notice telling her and her husband to leave the home they built together in 1999.

At the root of this problem is what’s known as “dual tracking,” in which one department of the bank handles mortgage modifications and deals with programs like HomeSafe, all the while a separate department moves ahead full steam with the foreclosure. Dual tracking is often the reason you hear horror stories of homeowners evicted while still in the process of applying for a loan mod.

Dual tracking became such a problem in California, one of the hardest-hit states during the housing crash, that it will be outlawed in that state when new consumer protections are enacted in January.

But the process is alive and well in Georgia, which also has no judicial review of foreclosures, thus allowing banks to move ahead with evictions without having to run everything by the court first.

“They work with paper, but that paper is someone’s life, someone’s home that they built from the ground up,” the homeowner explains to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about her frustration.

After the paper got involved and contacted Citi and Freddie, the eviction action was halted. Yet Citi tells the AJC that it was only following orders.

“As the loan’s servicer, we act under the direction of the investor who owns the loan, in accordance with their guidelines and expectations,” writes Citi. “This case is currently under the investor’s review, and we will continue to proceed as they direct us.”