Sued for ejectment after a foreclosure? Avoid these mistakes.


Sued for Ejectment Following a Foreclosure?

What Should You Do Right Now?

Hello and welcome to our video. My name is John Watts. I’m a consumer protection attorney in Alabama, and we represent homeowners who have had a foreclosure and then have been sued for what in Alabama is called “ejectment,” or an eviction.

I appreciate you joining with us in this journey, and we trust that the time that we’re going to spend together will be very useful. If you want more information about this area of the law, you can read more articles or watch videos about foreclosures, and you can also reach us at (205) 879-2447.

You Are in The Right Place If…

foreclosure sign in front of houseYou’re in the right place if a couple of things have happened:

  • if you’ve been foreclosed, and now you’ve been sued – and that’s what we’re talking about, the ejectment or eviction lawsuit –
  • by a company claiming that they now own your house and
  • if you want to better understand your options. In other words, what options do I have to try to stay in my home, to save my home? This final point is really the most important.

You’re in the right place if you are willing to take massive action to save your home. There are some people who say, “You know, I can’t believe this is happening, and this is unfair, and I’m just going to do nothing because I refuse to believe that I could really lose my home.” You’re not in the right place if that describes you.

But if you say to yourself, “You know what? Whether right or wrong, I’ve been foreclosed, and now I’ve been sued, and somebody is trying to kick me out of my house and take my home, I am willing to take massive action to try to save my home,” if that describes you, then you’re in the right place.

If it doesn’t describe you, my suggestion is just stop reading this now, because I don’t think it’s going to do you any good. But for those of you who are willing to take action and fight for your home – if that’s the appropriate thing – then you’re in the right place, and I think that this time we’re going to spend together will be very valuable for you.

Legal Disclaimer

I do want to tell you a couple of disclaimers. First of all, this is not legal advice; this is general educational information for you. My law firm is called Watts & Herring, LLC. We have an office in Birmingham and an office in Madison in the Huntsville area. But we are not giving legal advice. If you want legal advice – and I highly recommend that you get legal advice if you’re in this situation – then you need to meet with a lawyer. The lawyer has to be an Alabama-licensed attorney. It doesn’t do any good to talk to a lawyer in Florida or New York or somebody who’s not licensed in Alabama.

But with a licensed Alabama lawyer, you tell them your specific situation, and then that lawyer can say, “Okay. Based on what you are going through, here are your options. Here is some advice for you.”

We can’t do that in this written format because I don’t know what your specific situation is. But I can tell you that the point of this is to help you understand some options, give you some questions to ask, maybe some things to think about so that when you do meet with a lawyer, whether that’s with my law firm or any other lawyer in Alabama, you’ll know some of the questions to ask and you’ll have a foundation or a basic idea of what the law and what some of the issues are when you’ve been foreclosed and now you’ve been sued.

I also want to point out there’s no representation that the quality of legal services to be performed by my firm is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

First, the Bad News…

Let’s get into the bad news. This is something where I’m going to be very honest, very brutally honest at times, and I’m not going to sugarcoat this any, because now is the time to absolutely understand how desperate the situation is – and to understand that you do have options.

The bad news: you’ve been foreclosed, you’ve now been sued. A lot of people say, “I don’t think they’re really going to foreclose on me,” or maybe a foreclosure happens and people say, “I read somewhere on the Internet they can’t do anything about this. They can’t sue me.”

You’ve been sued after a foreclosure. What are they suing you for? To kick you out of your home.

That’s what they’re asking for. Probably they’re also asking for money damages. They’re saying, “Hey, this person,” talking about you, “You’re in my home, and I want you to compensate me for you staying in the home that I now own.”

They’ll also ask that the court rule that you’ve lost your right of redemption. Your right of redemption is your ability to buy back your house within 12 months after a foreclosure if you meet certain requirements. They want an order saying you’ve lost that right to redeem, because that makes it easier for the company that claims to own your property to sell it, because they don’t have to put a little asterisk mark and say, “Well, the former owners might come back and buy it back.”

The final bad news I want to focus on here is if you’ve been served with the lawsuit, the ejectment lawsuit, and you do not answer within 30 days, then normally the company that sued you, which is almost always the mortgage company or some kind of player in the mortgage industry – it could be Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, some trust, and so it’s going to be one of those or your actual mortgage company you dealt with – they’re going to go ask the court to say, “Hey look, we sued this person, they were served, they did not answer. We want, your honor, the court, to enter what’s called a default judgment.” Default judgment just means you didn’t show up, you didn’t answer, so you lose. Normally, that’s granted very quickly.

Now for Some Good News!

What about some good news?

In Alabama, we are a non-judicial foreclosure state, which means that almost all foreclosures are done outside of a courtroom. That’s different than states such as Florida – and I think New York is the same way – where to get a foreclosure, they have to sue you, present their case to a judge, then the judge has to say, “Yes, you can foreclose.”

We don’t do that here.

Instead, it’s all done by the mortgage company and there’s some advertising in the newspaper, and then they have somebody stand outside the courthouse door, usually on the steps of the courthouse, and they auction off your house. No judge has ever looked at it.

Now you have a judge involved because you’ve been sued, and they’re saying, “Hey judge, we did the foreclosure, and now this person won’t get out.” Now you can have a judge look at this. You do have some options. We’re going to get into some of those.

Normally, it’s not too late to take some action. Every day that we delay, we may lose some options, but if you have not lost the ejectment case, there are still options that you may have and actions that you can take.

Let me just say this. By reading this, you are demonstrating to yourself that you’re not just going to bury your head in the sand, but you’re willing to take action. This is not short. If you get through this whole thing, you are showing to yourself, “I am now willing to step up and take action.” I want to congratulate you for that.

How Will This Information Help You?

What will we do? There are basically three things we’re going to cover.

First, we’re going to look at the big picture of the process of Alabama foreclosures and where are you right now, because it’s important to know where you are.

Second, we’re going to talk about the five common mistakes homeowners make after a foreclosure when they get sued, like you’ve been sued.

Third, we’re going to talk about what action steps can you take right now.

We also have a bonus section, where I’ve put in a lot of the questions that we are asked over and over and over by people in consultations or in phone calls or clients who we represent. I thought it might be helpful because maybe some of these questions are questions that you’ve had, and even if you haven’t had them, it may trigger some thoughts or other questions in your mind. Then when you meet with an attorney, you can have a list of questions and say, “What about this?” or “What about that?”

Here’s Who I Am

A really quick little section here on who I am. I’ve been a lawyer licensed in Alabama since 1995. As I mentioned at the beginning, I represent consumers who have been sued for ejectment after a foreclosure, and I’ve represented consumers all over the state. I train lawyers in this in Alabama and in other areas, and I’m a homeowner, a husband, a father. I have some idea of what you’re going through because you’re a homeowner and now somebody is trying to take your home away from you and your family.

Maybe you live there by yourself, maybe you’re married, and so that brings up some issues – because usually, one spouse is more in charge of paying the bills, paying the mortgage, and now this foreclosure has happened, and so this can create some tension.

You may have children at home. I have some kids who have left home and some who are still at home. It makes you wonder, what am I going to do? How is this going to work? How are my children going to react? So I have some appreciation for what you may be going through.

First, the Stages of Foreclosure

Having said that, let’s go ahead and get into our very first section, which is the stages of foreclosure. It’s critical that you understand these three stages.

The first stage is before the foreclosure. This is when you’re making your payments normally, then maybe you start to get a little bit behind, you start to get some letters, you start to get some phone calls. This is before the foreclosure.

The second stage is the actual foreclosure itself, and that’s where somebody stands at the courthouse steps and they auction off your property.

Then the final stage – and this is where you are now – is after the foreclosure, now you’re being sued for ejectment. It’s important to recognize that you’re in that final stage, because once the court rules on this, if the court rules against you, then it’s over. You can’t say, “Wait, I want to go back. I don’t think they should have foreclosed in the first place.”

Well, if you lose this ejectment case, normally, you cannot go back and argue about the foreclosure. It’s important to know you’re at the end of the process. But again, you have options, and we’re going to go over those.

The “Mechanics” of an Alabama Foreclosure

Here are the mechanics of a foreclosure, because often, people say, “What exactly happens in a foreclosure? I’ve been told I’ve been foreclosed, but I don’t know.”

The “when” is normally after you are more than 120 days late on your mortgage. That’s about four months of missed payments. Then the foreclosure sale itself will be scheduled during what are called legal hours – and that’s certain hours during the day, Monday to Friday – outside the main entrance to the courthouse.

“How” the foreclosure works is there is a guy called an auctioneer. It could be a lawyer, it could be somebody else, and he basically reads a prepared statement saying, “We’re foreclosing on the house at 123 Main Street, and here’s who is foreclosing.” They read some other legal stuff, and then they open it up to bids.

Unlike things that you may see on TV, some of these flipping shows on HGTV or something like that, there’s normally nobody there.

It’s not like there’s a whole crowd bidding on your house. There’s normally nobody present, and the mortgage company that’s doing the foreclosure is typically the one that buys the property, or it’s somebody who is backing up the loan and they claim some ownership in the loan – Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, some XYZ trust set up in 2007-1234. They have all these crazy names, but they’re going to say, “Hey, we own that loan, so we’re buying the house at the foreclosure.”

How much is paid? It’s normally not going to be market value, what you could get if you sold the house through a realtor and you had plenty of time, because this is sort of a forced sale.

Oftentimes, it will be what you owe on the first mortgage, and there’s a rule of thumb that if the foreclosure price is less than half of what the market value is, that kind of raises some eyebrows, makes us go, “Hmm. I’m not sure everything was done correctly here.” Typically, it’s going to be more in the 75% to 80% of market value range, and sometimes it can be even above that because oftentimes these companies will bid exactly what you owe on the first mortgage.

After it is “sold,” then the person who bought it, the company that bought it, will want a deed filed in probate court, so that they’re announcing to the world – that’s the purpose of probate records – that, “Hey. We, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, whoever, we own the house now.” So there’s a deed in there. Just like when you bought the house, there was a deed transferring it to you, now, there will be a deed called a foreclosure deed, transferring it from you to whoever bought the house.

Normally, right after this, you’ll get a letter from the foreclosure law firm. Often, that’s a firm in Alabama called Sirote & Permutt. They, I would guess, have probably 80% of the market. In other words, they do 80% of the foreclosures in Alabama. This letter will say, “Hey, we represent Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, whoever it is, and we’re telling you, you have ten days to get out of the house, and if you don’t get out, then we may sue you.” That’s where we are now with an ejectment lawsuit.

Second, the Overview of the Five (5) Mistakes Made After Being Sued for Ejectment

Five mistakes that are often made after people just like you are sued for ejectment. I want to go through these really quick, and then we’ll go into each one in a little more detail.

Number one, not answering the lawsuit. You get sued, and you get served, you get 30 days, and you don’t do anything. That’s a huge mistake, and that is the most common mistake.

The second mistake is saying, “Well, I have foreclosed. I guess there’s nothing I can do.” Oftentimes, you’ll be told that by a lot of people. “Oh, there’s nothing you can do. It’s too late.” That’s simply not true.

The third mistake: assuming your mortgage company had the right to foreclose. Maybe they did, or maybe they didn’t. I suggest that you don’t want to just assume that they did it correctly, that they had the right to foreclose.

The fourth mistake is more of that foreclosure process that we will talk about with the third mistake. Did they do that correctly? Did they advertise it correctly in the paper? Typically, your house will be advertised in the local paper for three consecutive weeks, and it will give the date of the foreclosure. Did they do that?

I had a case recently where the house is in Jefferson County. They were advertising it in Blount County, and saying, “We’re going to foreclose at the Blount County Courthouse.” Well, that property is in Jefferson County. You can do whatever you want in Blount County, but that’s not a real foreclosure. The mistake is assuming the process was lawful and valid. It may not be.

The fifth mistake is there’s a new federal law. Well, the law itself is not new, but there has been a massive overhaul to it. It’s called RESPA, and it governs mortgage companies. The mistake is not using that new law. It went into effect January 2014 – a massive change in the law. A mistake is not using that before a foreclosure – but remember, we’re now after a foreclosure – or not using it even after a foreclosure, if there was some type of wrongdoing or questionable activity. It’s a very powerful law.

Mistake One: Not Answering the Lawsuit

The first mistake is just simply not answering the lawsuit. This is the most common mistake we see. If you get served, and 30 days goes by and you don’t do anything, then normally the mortgage company that sued you is going to ask the court to enter a default judgment, which means you lose. You don’t show up, you lose, and then the judge will issue an order to the sheriff, saying, “Go remove this person.” The sheriff literally shows up at your house, knocks on the door, and says, “Get out, and we’re getting all your stuff out.”

I had that happen to a lady who had a daycare. She had all these kids in her house. They had to get them out. I’ve had elderly folks who maybe they don’t fully understand what’s going on, but they’re saying, “Wait a minute. This is America. I fought in the Korean War, and now some bank is going to kick me out and they sent to the sheriff to do it.” If we don’t answer the lawsuit, then this is what will happen.

I’ve had young couples who have small children at home, and sometimes the sheriffs will be flexible on the dates, and they might say, “We’ll come back in a few days. We’ll give you two days to clean out your house.”

I’ve also had them say, “Look, it’s 8:00, get your kids to school, you have to be out by 3:00.”

This happens, and this is all because we don’t answer the lawsuit. If you’ve been sued, then do not ignore that 30-day time period to answer. Instead, respond to the lawsuit.

Mistake Two: Assuming It is Too Late to Do Anything

The second mistake is just assuming it’s too late to do anything. Usually, not always, but usually this is because somebody has told you, “You know what, Bob? It’s too late.” “Cindy, I’m sorry. You just waited too long.”

It could be family telling you that – maybe a spouse, maybe a parent, maybe a sibling.

It could be a lawyer.

For example, if you call a bankruptcy lawyer, a typical bankruptcy lawyer after a foreclosure, you’ve been sued for ejectment, they’ll say, “Look, I’m sorry. It’s too late. You should have called me. You should have made an appointment before the foreclosure.”

I understand what they’re talking about there, because usually, if you file bankruptcy before the foreclosure, it’ll stop the foreclosure, but if you file bankruptcy after the foreclosure, it doesn’t stop the foreclosure because there is “nothing to stop” as the foreclosure has happened.

But just because bankruptcy may not be the best option now doesn’t mean it’s too late to do anything.

Sometimes the sheriff or the person that serves you with the lawsuit will say, “Look. I’m sorry. I hate to do this. Here are the papers. You have to be out in 30 days. It’s too late to do anything.”

First of all, that’s not what the lawsuit says. You’ll get a summons that says you have 30 days to respond. That’s just a legally and factually incorrect to tell you that you have to leave in 30 days.

Let’s assume they’re doing it with the best of intentions. They’re saying, “Look, it’s too late. You’ve been foreclosed. What could you possibly do?”

Fortunately, there are some things you can do. Even somebody with the best of intentions, they may have the wrong advice for you, and you do have options after a foreclosure.

Mistake Three: Assuming the Bank Could Foreclose

Remember, the first one, do nothing, don’t answer the lawsuit. Mistake number two, just assuming it’s too late. Mistake number three is assuming the bank had the right to foreclosure.

Here are some questions. It might seem basic, but these are important to go through.

Were you really behind? We had a case one time where it was a major bank, and client sent them about $10,000. The bank got it, they deposited it, and then they said, “We’re going to foreclose on you.”

My client, just before she hired us, she said, “Wait a minute. I sent you the money.”

The bank said, “No, you didn’t.”

She goes, “Yeah, I did. I sent it FedEx.”

They go, “Okay. Well, we might have got it, but we never saw a check in there.”

She goes, “I have the canceled check. You signed it. You endorsed it.”

Then the bank says, “Okay. Yeah. We did get the package, we did get the check, we did deposit it, but we can’t find the money. It’s lost in our computer somewhere. So that’s your fault, and we’re going to foreclose on you.”

That’s crazy. She wasn’t behind, she was current. She had been brought current, and the fact that some multinational bank can’t keep up with the money that they get, that is no right to foreclose.

So many homeowners being foreclosed say to themselves, “Well, I just assumed the bank had the right to foreclose.” Maybe not.

Then this is the more common one. Did the mortgage company follow the note and the mortgage? The note is the debt, the loan. The mortgage is what ties the debt to the dirt, so to speak. That’s what makes your loan a secured loan, which gives the right to foreclose. If there is no mortgage, it would just be like a giant credit card. They could sue you, but they can’t foreclose on you to take your house.

Did the mortgage company follow the law? We’re going to see this in mistake number five, but did they follow the new Federal laws, the RESPA laws, which change even how a foreclosure is conducted in Alabama? A mistake is just assuming that they could foreclose.

Mistake Four: Assuming the Foreclosure Process Was Lawful

Mistake number four is assuming the foreclosure process itself was lawful.

Where was it held? We had one case where our clients sat outside the front entrance to the courthouse all day long. Nobody showed up to foreclose, but amazingly, a foreclosure deed got filed. There, the person swore that they did the foreclosure. They didn’t.

They just, I guess, assumed nobody would be there. “Why do I want to go stand out there? It’s cold. I have the foreclosure deed already prepared, and I’ll just go file that in court.” That’s a huge problem. For the mortgage company.

And a wonderful opportunity for you to get rid of a foreclosure.

What about when was it held? Was it held between the legal hours? If it’s too early, it’s invalid. If it’s too late, it’s invalid.

How much was the property sold for? 25% of the market value? That’s going to be a problem. That may show us that the foreclosure process itself was incorrect.

I mentioned this earlier, because this is something I’ve literally been dealing with just the last couple of days is a bank was going to foreclose in Blount County when the property is in Jefferson County. They advertised it in Blount County – that’s no good – and then they were about to foreclose in Blount County. You can’t foreclose in a county where the property is not even located. They could have a deed, but that would be worthless. Somebody would be making a terrible assumption to say, “I assumed the process was lawful.” I don’t know. We have to check this out.

How about, how far behind were you when the foreclosure happened? If you say, “I was 90 days behind,” then that foreclosure was most likely incorrect because the federal law says you have to be at least 120 days, and really, you can’t even foreclose at that point. It has to be a little bit past that.

What about, did you apply for loss mitigation before the foreclosure?

If you did, how far before the foreclosure? Did you submit all of the required documents? Did the mortgage company tell you if you were missing documents?

Here’s what loss mitigation is. Think of this as the big picture of what can be done to avoid a foreclosure. Underneath that, we have some specific details or options, such as loan modification, short sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure, principal reduction, and forbearance. All these different options. Those are all under that broad category of loss mitigation.

The new federal laws require that if you do a loss mitigation application a certain number of days before the foreclosure, and you fill it out properly, and if you’re missing any documents, the mortgage company tells you and you get them within the time limit, then they cannot do the foreclosure.

This is what used to be called dual tracking. The idea was picture two trains, two railroad tracks, one is the foreclosure train, the other is the loss mitigation train.

The mortgage companies were so proud of themselves, because they said, “We do dual tracking. Yes, we’re talking to you about trying to save your home, loss mitigation, but that foreclosure train is heading full speed, and whichever train gets there first wins.”

The Federal law does not apply to every single mortgage out there, so you have to make sure it applies to you, but for the vast majority of people who are living in their home, this federal law applies. This law says, “Look, you can’t do that dual tracking if the loss mitigation request is made far enough before the foreclosure.”

This is something that we see mortgage companies do over and over. They’ll foreclose when they have no right to foreclose under this federal law.

Mistake Five: Not Using the Power of RESPA

The fifth mistake is not using, not understanding, not taking action on the power of RESPA. This is the federal law. This law was just desperately needed because there’s so much abuse in the foreclosure context.

Finally, the Federal government said, “We’re doing this massive overhaul of the law, and we’re also going to impose requirements and restrictions on these mortgage companies who think they can do just whatever they want to do; instead mortgage companies you have to follow these rules.”

Here’s the kicker. If I could sum up this law, it says to the mortgage companies, “You must be truthful. You cannot lie to borrowers.”

This is amazing, but we have had a person representing a national – it’s actually international – bank that foreclosed on our client, or was about foreclose, actually, in the wrong county, and we sued, and this person swore under oath any Alabama consumer, homeowner, who believes anything the mortgage company tells you over the phone, you are naïve, and you deserve to be defrauded, because you should assume that this international bank is lying to you.

That was shocking – not because that’s what the banks believe; it was shocking that this person admitted it under oath. Now why could the bank be so arrogant about admitting that it routinely lies to Alabama homeowners?

Because Alabama law, according to some, says it is ok to lie (at least verbally and maybe in writing also).

Here comes this federal law that says, “Look. No more games. You have to tell people the truth. If you get a loss mitigation package in, and the person’s missing a document…”

Get this.

This requirement to tell the truth drives the banks crazy.

They just think this law is absurd, because the rule says, “You have to tell the homeowner. ‘Hey, we’re missing your tax return. Hey, we’re missing a bank statement,’ and you have to give them a time period to respond.”

It’s just common sense, common decency, but that was missing in the foreclosure world and the world of loss mitigation. This federal law comes along and says, “You have to be decent, you have to treat people like human beings.”

One thing it says is somebody has to be 120 days late. What that means is you are literally 120 days late. If you make a payment that’s accepted by the mortgage company, it’s a full payment, now you knock 30 days off. Now you’re 90 days late.

If you’re 120 days late, then they can start the foreclosure process. There’s a little bit of uncertainty about this, but probably that means in Alabama, they can do the first advertisement of a newspaper (there are three advertisements to do a foreclosure).

The actual foreclosure is going to be a little bit beyond 120 days, but a lot of people don’t know about this law. What if they get foreclosed on day 86 of being late? If we don’t understand the power and we don’t take massive action under this RESPA law, then we may lose our house and we shouldn’t have.

I mentioned this. If you apply for loss mitigation, this may prevent a foreclosure. This is that dual tracking that is now against the law until you get an answer on your loss mitigation.

There are tools called notice of error and request for information. These are letters you can send. They have to go to the right address at a mortgage company.

If you usually look on the back of your statement – but it could be on the front – it’ll say, “If you’re sending a notice of error or request for information or qualified written request, use a specific address.” You have to send it there. You have to send it certified or you need to assume the bank is just going to toss it in the garbage.

So send it certified.

If you ask for the right things, you can put the mortgage company on notice. “Hey guys, you made an error. I want you to fix it.” Again, they are just going crazy over this law, because what the laws says now is, “If you made an error, fix it.”

That seems common sense, right? You bump into somebody accidentally on the street, and you go, “Look, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

If you knock something out of their hand, you reach down, you pick it up, you give it to them.

The banks are like, “Wait a minute. We have to fix errors that we made? We can’t operate under these conditions.” They may say that and that may be true because of their culture and the way they approach these, but you have the power to make them do this, even after a foreclosure.

Let’s say the foreclosure is wrong, that they foreclose when you’re 87 days late. You can send them notice of error and say, “Hey guys, you foreclosed in error. I want you to fix it.”

Now that mortgage company has this dilemma because they go, “Well, if we fix it, that means we have to undo the foreclosure, money has got to change hands, and we may not be able to foreclose against these people. But if we don’t foreclose, we violated this law, and we can get sued. Which do we do?” Then it’s just going to be an economic decision for them.

Request for information is you ask the mortgage company – what’s called the servicer, the one that sends you your statements, makes sure you have escrow, insurance, taxes, all that stuff. Request for information says, “Hey, I have some questions for you. I want you to answer these questions and give me these documents.” As long as it’s within the rules of the law, you’re entitled to that.

A lot of times, mortgage companies do not answer these letters. They have five business days upon receipt to acknowledge it – they have to say, “Hey, we got your letter” – and they have 30 business days to actually give you the documents, answer your question, investigate the notice of error and make a decision. When they don’t do that, it can be $2000 per violation.

Typically, our clients are sending out 10, 15, 20, or even 30 of these letters. If the mortgage company completely ignores them, then we may have 30 or 60, because it can be two violations for each letter.

Remember, they must acknowledge it.

“Oh, they didn’t acknowledge it.”

They have to respond in substance within 30 business days. “Oh, they didn’t respond.”

You can have a massive number of violations, which may give you the ability to sue for damages, and your attorney’s fees can be paid at the end of the case if you’re successful.

The mortgage company has to pay their attorney’s fee, they have to pay you damages, and they may have to pay your lawyer’s fees. It provides a great incentive for the mortgage company to say, “We don’t like this, but we’re going to sit down and try to make this right.” That’s what the smart companies will do when they’ve been caught.

Sometimes, we do this as a counterclaim which means we’ve been sued for ejectment, we answered that ejectment lawsuit, we counterclaim against the mortgage company.

More often, we do this as a separate lawsuit against the mortgage company in federal court.

Third, What Can You Do Right Now?

First, we talked about those three stages, and we’re in the last stage of the foreclosure – we’ve been foreclosed, and now we’ve been sued.

Second, we talked about the five mistakes we see people make, and by making any of those mistakes, particularly making all of them, then you really have very little chance of saving your home.

Now, third, what can you do right now?

There are two basic ways to do this.

You can do this on your own, through trial and error. You can say, “I’m going to figure out what the law is, I’m going to figure out how to handle myself in court, and I think I can do this.” There are some people who can do that. Most cannot, but you may be the exception and you can do it. That’s one way to do it.

Or you can hire a lawyer – for example, my firm. We represent people all over the state. You can get us to help you with this.

Those are the two kind of basic options: do it yourself or get professional help.

Who Should Not Contact My Office as I Can’t Help These Types of Folks?

Let me tell you who I do not want to contact my office, and I’ve gotten these calls over the years, and I’ve sat through meetings like these. I’m sitting there with Joe and Cindy, and I say, “All right. You understand your house has been foreclosed?”

“Yep.”

“You understand you’ve been sued?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“You understand they’re trying to take your house?”

“Yep.”

“Are you willing to work to save your house?”

“No. I’m busy. I have Little League, and I’m busy with my work, and we have vacation, and I just don’t have time to deal with this, so everybody’s just going to have to wait on me.”

It doesn’t work that way – and certainly, I am not interested in representing somebody like this.

I don’t think you would make it this far in the article if you were not willing to work, and that means spending time and spending money.

I find some people say, “I want to do this amazing thing of undoing a foreclosure, and I want the mortgage company to make things right. Yeah, and I’m not willing to spend any money on that. I think that they should just do that automatically. I think they will come to their senses, and I think if a lawyer is going to help me, they should do it for free, and I’m entitled to that.”

If that’s your feeling – and I don’t think it is – please don’t call my office. I actually don’t know any lawyers in Alabama who would want you to call, but definitely do not call my office.

If you refuse to believe this is real, or if you pretend, “If I just don’t open my mail, if I just don’t answer the door, if I don’t answer the phone, this will all just go away because I read something on an Internet forum that said there is no foreclosure in America, and if you just ignore it, or you take a little piece of paper down to the probate court and say, ‘Now my loan is completely gone…’”

If that’s what you believe, then please don’t call my office, because you won’t like what I have to say. I think I’m a pretty nice guy, but I’m also going to be very honest with you, very blunt with you, and if you don’t have a case, I’m going to tell you that.

If you say to yourself, “I’m just not willing to do anything, and I expect everybody to help me, I want the government to help me, I want the lawyers to help me, I want the judge to help me, but I’m not willing to do anything,” then you and I would not be a good fit at all, so don’t waste your time, don’t waste your money contacting my office.

But if you are willing to work and you are willing to say, “I know I’m in a bind here, I know I’m in a bad situation, but I’m willing to do whatever I can legally do to get out of this bad situation,” then we can talk.

Are You Ready for Me to Help You Now?

If you’re ready for me to help you, and you’re willing to work, you’re willing to spend time, willing to spend money, then I’m willing to meet with you. You can call us at (205) 879-2447, and tell the receptionist you’ve been sued after a foreclosure.

If you’ll also mention to the receptionist you watched this video, then she’ll get you to somebody so that we can get you in as soon as possible. We do appointments in person, but we also have people who are all over the state. Sometimes it’s easier to do it by video conferencing or even just good old-fashioned phone calls as that works fine, too.

Thank You for Reading This!

I want to thank you for reading this. I want to just tell you I appreciate you taking the time to go through this and this speaks well of your willingness to take massive action that is needed to get out of your tough situation.

My phone number is (205) 879-2447, if you’d like for us to help you.

Bonus Section… Frequently Asked Questions

I added this because when I’m trying to learn something, it’s nice if I can go to an FAQ or frequently asked questions and see what other people’s questions are. A lot of times, I go, “Yeah, yeah, that’s my question, too,” or I go, “I never thought of that, but I’m glad that’s written on there, because now I have that question, also.”

We’ve been doing this for a bunch of years, representing just dozens and dozens and dozens of people – state court, federal court, all related to mortgages and foreclosures – and so I thought that this might be helpful, might get the juices flowing, get some ideas flowing for you.

Questions

  • I read online that all mortgages are invalid – is this true?

The first one, this is a crazy one, but I put it out there because we do get this. Somebody says, “Look, I read online all mortgages across the nation are invalid. Is this true?”

The answer is no. If every mortgage, every loan was invalid, the entire economy would fall apart.

There are people who say, “Oh, when we went off the gold standard…” – I guess that was back when Nixon was president – “…everything now is meaningless. It’s all void.” That’s not the law.

Somebody will say, “Since Bank of America or somebody else got the government money…” – if you remember the bailouts when the crash happened – “…now they cannot collect any loans.” That’s not the true.

This idea that all mortgages, all loans, all notes, all that stuff, it’s all invalid, that’s just absurd, and that is not the law.

  • Who is Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or some trust? That’s not who I paid my mortgage to every month.

Another question is, you may have been dealing with Bank of America, Chase, Ocwen, Nationstar – whoever it may be – and now you’ve been sued for this ejectment, and it’s Fannie Mae or it’s Freddie Mac, or it’s some trust and it’s got a year on there, and it might take up four sentences in the lawsuit to describe this trust. You’re going, “Who in the world is this? This is not who I made my mortgage payments to every month.”

This is normally a company that says, “We actually owned your loan.” There’s some truth to that in this sense. Usually, the company you’re making your payments to does not own the loan. You might have borrowed the money from Bank of America, you might be making the payments to Bank of America, but Bank of America normally does not own your loan. They are the servicer, they are the company that makes sure you’re paying your bills, makes sure escrow is taken care of, makes sure that the property is not abandoned, things like that.

But there’s somebody behind the scenes who either claims to own it or they’re almost an insurance company.

It gets convoluted with this, and a lot of times, it depends on what these companies are trying to do – they’ll describe themselves differently. But anyway, they claim to be the owner in some form or fashion of your loan, and so they come in and buy the property. Now they’re saying, “We own your property and we want you out.”

That’s why Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or some trust is suing you.

  • What is a right of redemption?

What is a right of redemption? If you read in the ejectment lawsuit, normally, it will say that the company suing you wants a ruling that you’ve waived your right of redemption. Right of redemption is the one-year right that you have – assuming you meet the requirements – to buy back your property from the owner.

You could think of it in a religious context. We talk about if we have sinned, then God or Jesus has to redeem us or buy us back from that sin.

You could think about it in a pawnshop context. You take a TV to a pawnshop, they give you some money, and you come back to redeem it, to get it back.

Same concept here. Let’s say somebody pays $100,000 for your house. Within a year, if you meet the requirements, you can redeem (buy back) the property. You have to pay some interest and some other things, potentially, but you can buy it back. Here’s the general rule. Once they tell you to get out, that ten-day vacate notice, if you don’t get out in ten days, normally you’ve waived your right to redeem. You’ve lost it.

That’s why whoever is suing you for the ejectment, they want the court to say you lost your right of redemption so that they can easily market the property and they don’t have to say, “Oh, and by the way, the former owners might come back and redeem the property,” which would tend to make a lot of a buyers a little (or lot) nervous to buy your property if there could literally be a knock on the door and you show up and say, “Hey, I’m back, I’m buying my property.” That’s what right of redemption is.

  • What am I being sued for?

What are you being sued for? We’ve covered this, but let me put it all together in one place. You’re being sued because the mortgage company or the owner – alleged owner – now is saying, “You got foreclosed and it was a valid foreclosure,” and they want you kicked out of the house. Anybody living in the house they want kicked out.

They usually want money damages because they’re saying, ‘Hey, we foreclosed in January, and now it’s May, and you didn’t get out, so we want you to pay (usually it’s the rental rate of the property) in damages, because you’ve deprived us from the use of our property.”

Then they’ll say the right of redemption that we talked about in the last question, and finally they basically just want the sheriff to come in and literally throw you out of your house. That’s what they’re suing you for.

  • What is the FDCPA and does it help me in dealing with the mortgage company?

What is the FDCPA and does it help? If it does help, how does it help in dealing with mortgage companies?

The FDCPA is a very good federal law. It’s been around since 1977, and it stands for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

It’s a law that governs debt collectors. That could be a collection agency, a collection law firm, somebody who buys up debt. There’s all these what are called “junk debt buyers” who buy up old credit card debt.

A lot of people do not think that this applies to mortgage companies. I was asked to go a number of years ago out to Denver. There was a national meeting of lawyers who do this type of work. I think it was a two or three-day seminar. I was asked by the people who put on that seminar, “Will you come out here and will you train us in using the FDCPA when dealing with mortgages?”

So I got up, and I introduced the topic, and there were just these blank incredulous stares coming back to me. Some people were just totally blank, and some people were going, “What in the world are you talking about? The FDCPA applies to the debt collector, not to Bank of America or Wells Fargo.”

Here’s the truth to the matter. A lot of times, the mortgage servicing company that you were dealing with up until the point of foreclosure is considered a debt collector. I don’t care if it’s this huge bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, or if it’s Ocwen, this massive servicing company. It doesn’t matter. A lot of times, they meet the requirements and the definition of a debt collector under this federal law. I’m not going to get into all of the details of how you figure that out, but just understand that it’s very likely that applies.

What does that mean? This law says, if I can summarize it very briefly, you cannot lie – any type of lie, deception, or trickery violates this law – and you cannot treat people unfairly. It gives a whole bunch of details, but I’m just summarizing it.

If a mortgage company says, “We did not get your loss mitigation package in and it had to be in by April 4th and we didn’t get it until April 7th, so that’s why we rejected it and foreclosed,” and it turns out they got it on April 3rd because you have the FedEx delivery and you can prove that it was delivered on April 3rd, and now they’re lying, saying it was delivered on April 7th, it’s a huge violation of this law.

Doing things unfairly – like foreclosing in the wrong county, foreclosing before that 120 days, or maybe you submitted a loss mitigation package in plenty of time and they foreclosed anyway – that would violate that RESPA law, and it also violates the FDCPA.

There are some state law rules in Alabama that have been interpreted – I think, incorrectly – by the mortgage companies, and even by some judges, to basically gut your rights when you’re dealing with a mortgage company. Those don’t apply when we’re dealing with federal law, so that’s one very powerful thing about the FDCPA and that RESPA law.

In the FDCPA, you get damages, you get attorney’s fees, and so it’s very helpful because if you can sue your mortgage company legitimately under the FDCPA, again, it brings some leverage to bear on the company when they know they’ve been caught doing something wrong and they go, “Oh man. We’re going to have to pay our lawyers a bunch of money, we’re going to have to pay the consumer’s lawyers a bunch of money, and pay the consumer, and we’re going to get hit with this verdict. Maybe, just maybe, we should think about undoing this foreclosure and making this thing right.”

  • Do I have to hire a lawyer to help my family save our home?

Here’s a question. Do I have to hire a lawyer to help my family save our home? No, you don’t have to. You are allowed to represent yourself – now you can’t represent anybody else, but you can represent yourself – even if you’re not a lawyer. You do not have to have a lawyer.

I’ll tell you this, though. Doing these types of cases, and you’re not a lawyer, is very, very difficult. I’m going to break it into two areas. There’s the substantive law. What is the law in foreclosure? What is the law on all these different areas here?

You have to know that law, and it’s not the easiest law to learn. There are code sections, there are case decisions. They don’t always fit together in an obvious way, and you have to bring all those together to understand what the law really is.

Maybe even more difficult than that, though, is the procedural law. I see people all the time, they’re representing themselves and they’re convinced that they’ve figured out the law, and they’re on all these online forums, and they’re ready to go and “I don’t need a lawyer. I’m going to do this on my own.”

Then the mortgage company files what’s called a summary judgment motion, and the homeowner says, “This is ridiculous. I’m not even going to respond to this. I don’t have to. My buddy in South Dakota told me you don’t have to respond. Now, I never met the guy, he’s just on some forum talking about foreclosures, but surely, he knows what he’s talking about.”

So they don’t follow the rules, and then the judge says, “You didn’t respond in the right time under rule 56 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, so you lose. The entire case is over.”

The person goes, “No, no, no, no, no. You don’t understand. I’m supposed to win. I have the better arguments.”

The court says, “You didn’t follow the rules.”

The thing is, if you act as your own lawyer, most judges are going to say, “Okay. Then you’re expected to know the law, substantive and procedural.” You might think of form and substance. By form, I mean you have to respond within a certain number of days, or if you’re filing a lawsuit or a counterclaim, you have to do it in a certain format. Most judges will say, “If you’re acting as your own lawyer, then I’m going to hold you to the standard of a lawyer.”

Yes, you can do it on your own. I’ll just say it this way. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it work out in a foreclosure context. If it has, then that would be a very rare thing.

  • It sounds like sometimes a foreclosure can be set aside. Have you ever done this and how does this work?

Here’s a question. I even had a judge’s secretary ask me this one time. Actually, she was arguing with me, saying, “You cannot undo a foreclosure. It just cannot be done.”

I said, “No, we can do it.”

This person said, “I’ve been a secretary here for 30 years. I have never seen this happen, I’ve never heard of this happen. It’s impossible for you to undo a foreclosure.”

I didn’t want to argue with her. I just said, “I’ve done it dozens and dozens of times and probably you will see it happen in this case.”

Her response was, “Well, I’ll be looking for it because I don’t believe you.”

She believed me after her judge signed an order setting aside the foreclosure.

The question is, “It sounds like a foreclosure can sometimes be set aside. How does it work and have you ever done it?”

Yes, foreclosures can be reversed, set aside, vacated, voided. There are all these different terminologies for it. I’ve done it plenty of times.

Typically, this is how it works. We show the mortgage company that they messed up, they violated the law, and there is serious danger to them, and we show the mortgage company we can afford our mortgage – maybe we need it modified, but we can afford it – and we are ready, willing, and able to go back and start making our payments because we want to keep our home.

When we can show those two things, you can think of it as the stick and the carrot. Think of it as avoiding pain, gaining pleasure.

The two forces that motivate us in everything we do are to avoid pain or gain pleasure.

These companies are the same way because they’re made up of human beings.

Avoid pain. “Hey, we have these great claims against you. We may take you to a trial. You may get hit with a verdict. You may owe a bunch of money. It will be bad publicity for you.”

They go, “I want to avoid that.”

Then we say, “Look, our client can afford her house. He can afford to pay his mortgage.”

They go, “Well, let’s see. We can avoid the pain and get back in a business relationship with this homeowner. Okay, that sounds good. Let’s do that.”

If we can get the mortgage company to agree, then what we typically do is file a motion for something called a consent judgment. That means it’s a judgment that everybody agrees to, and that judgment says the foreclosure sale of whatever day your foreclosure sale was is vacated, it’s held as void, it’s meaningless, and it basically never happened. That’s the way that this normally occurs.

  • How do these cases settle so folks can keep their homes?

First, we have to undo that foreclosure if we’re going to stay in our home, so we undo the foreclosure. That puts the note in the mortgage back into play, back into effect, and so we either continue to pay on that or – and this is the typical way we do it – we modify the note.

Maybe the payments they say we were missing, maybe those are waived, maybe they’re put on the back end. Typically lower the interest rate. Maybe we extend the term, which will bring down the payments, and you can always pay it ahead of time. We make the loan so that it’s something the mortgage company can live with under the circumstances and we can live with it under the circumstances.

There’s usually a cash component where the mortgage company is paying cash. When I say cash, I mean they send a check, but they’re paying money for damages for what they’ve done in breaking the law. Oftentimes, there is some work done on the credit report to get rid of false credit reporting. Sometimes the mortgage company will say, “We’ll just delete the whole account, and we’ll start over next month when you start making payments.”

There are all different ways and different aspects of settlement in these cases, but we have certainly represented people who – just like you – have been foreclosed, they’ve been sued, and it ends up there’s no foreclosure on their record, they get a loan modified, and they’re back making payments, and they are staying in their house without worrying about whether they’re going to lose it.

  • Are you promising me I’ll be able to keep my home?

Here’s a question we’re sometimes asked. “Are you promising me I’ll be able to keep my home?”

Absolutely not.

I have no earthly idea if you can keep your own or not. I don’t know if it makes sense for you to keep your home. The only way I can know that is to have a consultation with you where we talk about your specific situation, your unique circumstances, and then we figure out what are your options?

Even if we fight the mortgage company, I would never say, “Oh, I promise you you’ll keep your home,” because I’m not the judge. I can’t make that promise. No lawyer can make that promise.

If a lawyer makes you that promise, my suggestion is run the other way, because nobody can promise you what the judge will do.

I am not making that promise, but I will tell you this. You do normally have options, and if the mortgage company has broken the law, if you bring the right type of suit at the right time, then you can greatly increase your chances of being able to be successful, which may be getting money damages against a mortgage company, or it may be to motivate the mortgage company and say, “We’ll undo this foreclosure, modify your loan, get back making payments to you because you caught us doing this wrongdoing.”

  • I’m confused why the mortgage company foreclosed when I’m underwater? They are not going to make any money selling my house.

Here’s a very legitimate, reasonably question, and it makes a whole lot of sense. Somebody says, “I’m confused. Why did the mortgage company foreclose on me? I’m underwater. They’re not going to make any money selling the house. That’s crazy. I owe $250,000. The house is worth $200,000. Why did they take the house? They’re going to sell it for $170,000.”

From a commonsense standpoint, it’s a brilliant question, but in the world of mortgages, commonsense often plays very little as far as a role in this. A lot of times, the motivation, the incentive is for the mortgage company to foreclose, because they’re not going to be the ones that are trying to sell the property – the house that you owe $250,000, it’s worth $200,000, so you’re underwater $50,000, and they buy it for $200,000, and they sell it for $175,000.

They’re not the ones taking the loss. It may be the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the trust, there may be the government standing behind this. When you go, “There’s no way this company would foreclose because who would want this house?” a lot of times, the mortgage company can make more money by foreclosing than by you being able to work it out and stay there. It’s crazy, but that happens.

  • What should I do if I’m underwater? Should I stay or should I leave?

That, then, leads to a question. Somebody says, “Look, I’m underwater. Should I stay or should I leave?” Here’s how I approach it.

I think when you’re evaluating what you should do, you have to look at it from two standpoints.

The first is an economic standpoint. You say, “Okay. How much is the house worth?” You say, “Well, the house is worth $200,000. What do I owe on the house? $250,000. Is it worth fighting for? Because even if I’m successful and I can get the foreclosure undone and get back making payments, unless they reduce the principal, I’m going to owe $250,000 on a house that’s worth $200,000.”

I had one extreme case where I think we owed $1.7 million and the house was worth $800,000, and the owner of the house was saying, “I want to fight this foreclosure.”

I’m looking around the room going, “Why? Why would you want to fight when if you’re successful, you’re going to have a house that’s worth half of what you owe? Your house would have to double in value just to get you back even.”

If you owe, let’s say, $1.6 million and it’s worth $800,000, you have to double the value of your house just to get back even with what you owe. I don’t know many people who think houses are going to be doubling anytime soon. That’s the economic standpoint.

Related to that is “If I’m not in my house but I’m going to have to go rent a place or get some other place, what will that cost me?”

Maybe you have a business that’s located on your land or in your house or in a building next to your house, and you say, “Well, my house is underwater, but for me to go get a place to live and set up my business, that’s going to cost me a whole lot more, so I’d rather be underwater.” That’s understandable. That’s the economic angle.

The second part is the non-economic angle. You might think of it as the emotions of it – how much do you enjoy the house? For the some people, a house is four walls and a roof; that’s it. That’s just a place where they sleep and eat.

Other people, they say, “Look, you have to understand, when I was eight years old, my grandfather took me out on his property, pointed out a certain section of land, and said, ‘Son, this will be where you build your house and you will always have a home here.’”

Now the guy is 53 years old and he’s been foreclosed, and he’s underwater, but he’s saying, “I cannot let go of this land. If I have any legitimate basis to fight this, I have to fight it because my grandfather promised me this property when I was eight, he gave it me, and I’m not going to lose it.”

Okay. I get that. For some people, it’s very emotional. “This is where my children grew up, I have a lot of memories here, and I’m willing to fight, even though I’m underwater.” That’s okay.

You just have to go through the analysis, economic, and non-economic.

  • What if I have equity in my home? Should I stay?

What about if you have equity in your home? That really goes to that economic analysis. By equity – let’s make sure we’re on the same page – that’s where we look at if the house is worth $400,000, and I owe $275,000, I have $125,000 worth of equity. That’s a pretty good reason to want to fight, if you have a legal basis to do so, because they typically are only going to pay at foreclosure the purchase price be what you owe. You may have lost all that equity.

In the example I just gave, that’s $125,000. That’s a lot of money.

That will typically motivate you to say, “I’m willing to fight on this because I have so much money at stake here.”

  • I’ve heard about summary judgment – what will that mean in my case?

What about summary judgment? The way these lawsuits typically go is they file the lawsuit, the ejectment case, and most people – just like you – do nothing, so they lose. Let’s say that out of every 100 people, 10 or 15 respond. They answer the lawsuit. Then the very next thing is the mortgage company is filing a summary judgment on the ejectment lawsuit, saying, “We’re entitled to win.”

Particularly, if you’re defending yourself, you’ll say, “What in the world is this?”

If you have a lawyer representing you, presumably that lawyer knows what happens in civil cases and a summary judgment is a very common thing.

Let’s say you’re representing yourself or you haven’t decided whether to hire a lawyer, but you’ve heard about these summary judgment motions, what is it?

Let’s break it down in parts. A motion is just a request of a judge. We don’t normally make those verbally; they’re done in writing. We call it a motion, so it’s a written motion.

A summary judgment is saying to the judge – let’s say I’m the mortgage company here – I would say, “Judge, based on the undisputed facts and the law, there’s no way this homeowner can win. A reasonable jury, a reasonable court could only come to one decision, and that is that we win.”

That’s what the mortgage company, their lawyer is going to argue against you.

If you lose that, then normally, that means the whole case is over. It’s as if the judge summarily enters judgment. “We don’t need a trial, we don’t need to go through that all, I’ve decided on these written papers here.”

This just is so frustrating to people and so confusing, because somebody will say, “Oh yeah, that mortgage company filed some crazy motion for summary judgment. I looked at it. It’s a bunch of garbage. My buddy from South Dakota told me don’t worry about it, it doesn’t mean anything, and I am ready to try my case.”

Then they get an order saying, “Motion for summary judgment granted. The defendant…” – that’s the homeowner – “…failed to respond,” or “The defendant failed to show up,” or “The defendant showed up but didn’t respond in the right way.”

There’s judgment entered, and now the sheriff is going to get involved to kick you out of your house.

People say, “No, no, no, no, no. I get my day in court.”

Well, a summary judgment was your day in court if you lose it.

It’s a very dangerous attack that you’re facing when that mortgage company files a motion for summary judgment. You have to respond in the right time and the right way with the right arguments, because if you lose this, the whole case is over.

  • If I want to have a consultation with you, how much is this?

Somebody says, “All right, I’m not sure I want to do this on my own. I’m not sure if I should stay, if I should leave. Should I fight? Do I have a case? I want a consultation with you. How much is that consultation?”

The consultation at my firm – and normally you’d be meeting with me – that’s $500. We take about an hour and a half, whether that’s in person or by phone or by video. I find out about your situation, and I walk you through your options.

You might remember the old movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That’s what we do. We say, “Here’s option one. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of it. Here’s option two – the pros and the cons. Here’s option three. Here are the advantages, the disadvantages.”

The idea is that you will leave that consultation and you will either know right then what you’re going to do, or you’ll have enough information and enough guidance that you can go home and, assuming you have time here – we prefer people not to come to us on day 30 of when they’ve been sued, but assume you have a couple of days – it gives you a chance to absorb it, to think about it, sleep on it, mull over the options, and then make your decision.

The consultation, again, is $500. You pay that to us, and that’s what you get, that consultation. We do not agree to do any additional legal work. If you want additional legal work, we’ll tell you very clearly what that will cost, what will be involved in it.

The whole idea of this is really for you to get your bearings to say, “Okay. Where am I right now?”

Thinking of a metaphor of a GPS, you say, “I want to go to Atlanta. How do I get there?” I don’t know. Where are you?

Are you in Birmingham? Then we would go east.

What if you’re in Charlotte? Then I think you’re heading west.

What if you’re in Chicago? You’re heading south.

What if you’re in Miami? You’re heading north.

We have to figure out where you are, and by that, I mean, “Okay, when were you served? How much time do you have? Tell me what happened before the foreclosure, and what happened at the foreclosure. Tell me what efforts you made to save your home. Did you do loss mitigation? Was loss mitigation offered? Did they tell you that you’re missing documents? Are there requests for information or notice of errors that you sent out? What is happening here?”

Once we can figure all that out, then we can tell you, “Here’s where you are. Now, where do you want to go?”

Some people say, “You know what? I want to leave my house, but I think this mortgage company violated the law and I want to sue them.” That’s fine. We do that. We can say, “Okay. That’s your objective. Here’s how to get out of the house, here’s how to sue the company.” Certainly most folks want to stay and fight and we lay out your options and a plan for doing this.

The whole idea of the consultation is so that you have a good feel for your options, and then you can decide “What do I want to do going forward?”

Normally, people say, “What do you recommend?” and we’ll give you our opinion. “Okay. Here’s what I think you ought to do. This is what I think would be in your best interest based on what you’ve told me.” That’s what you get with the consultation.

  • If I have other questions, can I bring those to the consultation?

If you have questions, can you bring those to the consultation? Absolutely. You can send them to us ahead of time by e-mail. If you want, you just write them down, bring them to the meeting. A lot of times, what I like people do is get as educated as possible about this before you meet with me – watching this video is one part of that – so that when we meet, I’m not having to spend our 90 minutes together talking about, “Here are the three stages of foreclosure and somebody says, ‘My cousin in Florida got sued for foreclosure. I didn’t get sued. So why is that?’” and I have to say, “It’s a different law down there.”

I would rather you know all of that, so when we walk in that room together – we sit in a conference room that’s private – and I look at you and say, “What questions do you have for me?”

And you say, “Here are my questions. Here’s how much I owe on the house, here’s the equity I have, here’s how much underwater I am. Here’s what happened. What should I do?”

Definitely bring those questions with you.

  • Where are your offices, and can you help me if I don’t live near one of your offices?

Then the next step is, “I live in Anniston or I live in Huntsville or I live in Mobile or Montgomery or Birmingham. Where can I meet you, and what if I don’t live near you?” We have two offices. Our main office is in downtown Birmingham, so it’s a pretty central location. We also have an office in Madison, Alabama. Madison, if you’re not familiar, basically sits in between Huntsville and Athens.

If you’re going up I-65, as you get close to the Tennessee border, you’re going to run through Athens. If you go east on a road called 565, that will take you into Huntsville. Madison sits in between those.

Those are the two physical offices we have. Then we have access to lawyers who we’re friends with or who we work with, and we could use their offices. But if those are not convenient for you, then we can always do it by phone, we can do it by video chat.

We can do it through a video conferencing where, for example, you can put up documents on your screen and I can see them, or you can give what’s called control of the presentation to me. I can put stuff up, you can see it, and so we can do it as interactively as possible.

Sometimes, it’s just really difficult. You might be in Dothan or Mobile, and say, “That’s a pretty good drive to Birmingham. Maybe I don’t want to make that drive if I don’t know I have a case.” That’s no problem. We just do it by video, do it by phone. Those types of details, we can work those out.

Thank You Again, and Let Us Know If We Can Help You… Call (205) 879-2447

I think that’s probably all the questions we have time to answer now, and I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I know it’s lengthy, I hope it was interesting to you, and more importantly I hope it was helpful to you.

I’ll leave with two thoughts. One is there’s the old expression, knowledge is power, and I want you to know that is not true; knowledge is potential power.

The only way knowledge becomes power is if we add in action.

Knowledge plus action is power.

We have an e-mail newsletter we’ve been sending out for years and years, and we called it all those years ago Consumer Power. Knowledge plus action equals consumer power.

I hope that this general overview, these educational materials, help you to gain some knowledge.

But if you do nothing with that knowledge, then was it worth your time to learn this? I’d suggest probably not. If you know that the mortgage company did something wrong, you strongly suspect it, and you don’t do anything about it, then that knowledge does you no good.

The second thing is that this is to give you a start. This is to give you a foundation so that you can take that action. You may decide, “You know what? I don’t want to stay in my house.” Now, I suggest you meet with a lawyer before you make the decision to stay or fight, but that’s ultimately your choice.

But you may decide, “I’m going to fight.” Okay. Now you have that foundation, so when you do meet with a lawyer, you can ask the right questions, you can listen, you can ask the lawyer questions. Does the lawyer seem to know what he or she is talking about?

I’ll give you a little bit of advice about finding the right lawyer for you. You want to make sure the lawyer is competent – in other words, knows what she’s doing, knows what he’s doing. But you also want to make sure that you’re comfortable with that lawyer, that there’s a good fit, a good connection.

This type of case, it’s a long journey, and we’re talking about your house here. We’re talking about where maybe your kids live, where you and your spouse live. There may be a lot of equity at stake, and it’s a tense and stressful thing.

You want a lawyer who going to make you feel confident and comfortable. It’s almost like a doctor. Someone might be the greatest doctor in the world, but if you and this doctor just don’t click, that may not be the right doctor for you. Same thing with the lawyer. Find a lawyer who you feel confident, knows what he or she is doing, but also one that you feel comfortable with.

If we can help you, give us a call: (205) 879-2447.

 

Thank you very much for spending the time with me, and if I can help you in any way, just give us a call: (205) 879-2447 or fill out our online contact form here.

No matter what you do, whether our paths ever cross again, I want you to know that I wish you only the best.

Thank you.

John G. Watts


7 Comments

  1. Julene Beaudoin says:

    Hello Mr. Watts,

    Can I file an answer to an ejectment lawsuit myself, and if so, can it be modified at a later date? I am trying to buy a little more time to decide if I should hire an attorney and pursue this further in court.

    Thank you.

    • John Watts says:

      Julene,

      Yes you can answer the lawsuit yourself and sometimes you can even get the judge to give you more time if the judge knows you are looking for a lawyer. Normally an answer can be modified or “amended” although there are some limitations.

      I would either ask for more time or file the best you can while you search for a lawyer.

      If you are in Alabama feel free to get in touch with us at 205-879-2447 thanks.

      John Watts

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  3. I live in FLorida, I cannot post what haa happened to me. I have a Reverse Mortgage and An attorney stepped in and actually use documents from 2001 and got another judge, not the one originally on the case, and received my Title.
    The mortgage company pretty much allowed this to happen, and since being sued by BONY, whom I have never dealt with, Which turns out to be hired by GMAC. Can you recommend someone to help me, they are trying to boot me out after living here 19 years. My attorney has taken $15,000.00 and and has agreed to a deal to make me homeless without my knowledge or consent. I am 79 years old, I built this home. Please, can you help me.

    • John Watts says:

      I’m sorry Shirley you are having these problems. My suggestion is get with your lawyer and have him explain to you what is going on. It may be something that makes sense or it may make no sense but that’s the starting point.

      I don’t know who to recommend for you but first get with your lawyer and then if that doesn’t work out find another foreclosure defense lawyer to help you. Time may be critical here for you as it sounds like there may be a settlement that is in place or that is about to be in place.

      Best wishes and sorry I can’t help you directly.

      John Watts

  4. Donald Ray says:

    My question is : what if you are the mortgage holder to a sales agreement, that has been defaulted in every way & house has been basically abandoned. Nobody has lived in it for yrs. it has depreciated
    Drastically, if even save able & the buyer after a yr. of trying to work with to no compliance, then tries to claim its pd for after being served 6 mos. later & prior to you posting notices of no treaspass by owner. what does a forecloser have to do with it ?
    The sales agreement states that after 2 payments are missedb the owners have all rights to property & sales agreement is void. What’s the scenario it a case like this as far as a foreclosure is concerned ?

    • John Watts says:

      Donald,

      I’ll assume you are in Alabama. If somewhere else, I have no idea as to the law and rules.

      If you sold the property to someone else and there is a mortgage, then to transfer ownership in the probate court you’ll have to foreclose. Or get the homeowner to do a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

      I’ve never seen a situation where the sales agreement trumps the law on foreclosure.

      But you should get with a foreclosure lawyer (I defend against foreclosures) to find out your options. There may be something different about your situation. I’m normally dealing with mortgages and notes involving big banks, standard type mortgages, etc.

      But if you get with a foreclosure lawyer they should be able to help you.

      Hope that helps you some — sorry I can’t help you more.

      John Watts

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