House Repossessions In The South East

Current property repossessions are at an all time high in the Kent region of Thanet, provoking even more worry and misery for those that are currently struggling to keep their heads above water. Or rather a roof over their heads.

Despite the combined efforts of charitable organisations, bank-led schemes and of course the home-owners themselves, house repossession numbers remain far too high for many, and too close for comfort for others. What’s truly frightening is the fact that one home owner, under threat of eviction, turned to a local mortgage rescue scheme for help.

Due to the fact that the rescue scheme’s wheels turned far too slowly, the home owner found himself despairing, until he turned to the Citizens Advice Bureau. Thankfully, with some help from the CAB, he managed to rescue his situation at the 11th hour and has managed to keep his home and has got his finances back on track.

Unfortunately that’s not the case for everyone in the region and Thanet residents continue to struggle to meet their mortgage payments, and arrears abound throughout the area. Another area of the housing market that’s massively struggling is the rental one, with hundreds of individuals finding themselves evicted due to rent arrears.

According to recently published figures, rental repossession crept up around 27%, and it’s believed, in part, to be due to the 10% year on year increase in rental prices. Looking back over the last few years, demand for rental properties has continued unabated and landlords have reacted accordingly.

Unfortunately the persistent rise appears to have left many renters out priced, thus leading to the inevitable – evictions and the more house repossessions up and down the region. Of course there are some that claim the figures to be disproportionate to the actual number of residents, rental properties in comparison to other parts of the county.

However the figures are what they are and there must be some cause for concern as the recent spate of repossessions have cause the CAB to look into offering a new service to those living in the local area – they’re looking for funding for a project that will allow them to inject direct help to those that need it the most.

If you live in the Thanet region, and you need help in relation to mortgage or rent arrears, or you’re simply looking for some solid financial advice, you can contact your local CAB direct, or visit their website in order to make an appointment.

A Spanish protest

A Spanish protest.

As we come out of the socialist party offices, past the gleaming bust of Karl Marx which stands inside the doorway, suddenly I heard it, witnessed it, the Spanish reaction to property foreclosures sweeping the country, the sound of my very first cacerolada, the tactic is copied from Argentina when it also went bust in 2002, the idea lacks subtlety yet  appears to be affective, protesters block the streets banging pots and pans, these particular protesters are women, office workers mostly aged over 40 and well dressed,  they have spread themselves in a line across the road, blocking the traffic  at one of Madrid’s busiest intersections, they bang their pots and pans and chant, “the bailouts are rewarding the Banks” they say, but insist they  are doing nothing to ease the suffering of families laid low by the economic crisis. People are losing their jobs a woman tells me, decent families with children, living on the street, surviving on handouts and charity. This was one of many caceroladas I have witnessed in the last two weeks.

When Bankia Spain´s fourth largest banking group had to ask for a 4 billion euro bailout, followed by another  19 billion when the initial 4 was not enough I saw the same type of protest involving pots and pans again, deployed primarily outside many of its branches.  But Spain’s problem is not just its banking  system  the country’s economy  was buoyed up for a decade by the very property boom that the banking system fed, so now they are left with bankrupt banks and a shrinking economy,  with protests  happening up and down the country and no decisions as of yet by the government, the situation is set to worsen with one in four unemployed,  people from all sectors seeing their wages and pensions cut, all kinds of ordinary people have taken to the streets using methods copied from and sometimes aided by the M15 movement the hard core anti capitalist youth movement who occupied Spain’s Plazas over a year ago, but the new breed of  protesters are well aware that the constant  banging of utensils on Teflon is at the moment merely  acting as a kind of release valve on the feeling of social discontent.

Later I met a group of squatters who had occupied a block of flats in Seville after losing their own homes to repossession; they were planning a protest of this kind themselves outside the electricity company headquarters that had just recently disconnected the electricity to the building. The squatters mainly families, calling themselves Barrios en Lucha which translates as ‘neighbourhoods in struggle’ were evicted from their own homes when they were repossessed by the banks, released a statement

‘Twenty families in urgent need of housing, organised through the 15M movement, have squatted an empty building in Avenida de Juventudes Musicales, (the Avenue of Musical Youth!) to make homes for themselves there under the name of Patio of Neighbours “La Utopia” and to “make visible the terrible housing problem that so many people suffer. The building has been empty since it was completed in 2010. Instead of it sitting empty, twenty families have made it their home’.

The building in question  is an empty apartment block, never been lived in since it building work was completed in the year 2010,  it was previously owned by a large property company, since declared bankrupt, it is presently owned by the bank Ibercaja, the number of families now squatting has recently  risen to 36, some had simply fallen into rent arrears and been evicted, but the majority were still the victims of bank repossession, the people inside are a mixture of ages from the very young to the very old, some in a state of serious ill health, but even this has not stopped them being constantly harassed  by the local government, water and electricity have been disconnected, One woman I spoke to was previously living in a block of flats from which thirty families have been evicted, in an area called La Macarena which has the highest rate of mortgage foreclosures in Seville. If this continues I fear a lot more cacerolada´s will be heard ringing through the streets Spain.

Property Repossessions – How Are We doing?

There are many things in life that are stressful, and property repossessions has got to be one of the worst. During the last 3 or 4 years, foreclosure procedures on both sides of the Atlantic has caused countless families to lose their homes.

Whilst recent reports in the US state that repossessed homes are on the downturn, a closer look at figures would suggest otherwise. The recent figures are de facto but the speed with which properties are being processed is more the deciding factor re the numbers than an actual slow down in repossessions.

It’s no different in Europe, with vast numbers of Spanish home owners losing their homes on a daily basis. In the heart of the financial mess is Mercia, an area widely advertised a few years back as being some kind of Mecca for overseas property developers. Ordinary home owners were also targeted, with many a UK resident jumping ship and buying what they thought would be their Spanish Shangri-la.

Fast forward to the Spring of 2012 and disaster abounds. Properties are unfinished, complexes deserted. Beautifully constructed blacktop stretches for miles, then simply terminates. Manicured and lovingly tended golf courses are little more than expensive, ornamental landscaping and hotels, stores and bars remain unused.

The Spanish banks are groaning with the effort of trying to sustain a weakening economy and the rest of Europe has averted its eyes whilst praying for a financial miracle. Elsewhere, in the UK reports were published (at the end of May) that stated that house prices had fallen below those enjoyed during 2005.

In seven years, the UK householder has seen a significant drop in the value of property, and just like their American counterparts, it doesn’t look as though things are going to change anytime soon. Property repossessions continue to increase, despite the fact that UK banks have tried to create a better relationship between themselves and their borrowers.

Ireland fares no better, with house prices continuing to fall, and looking elsewhere in Europe it looks as though the entire continent is barely managing to keep a roof over its head. What does all this mean for the average home owner? Simply that you’re not alone, and that the world continues to struggle to regain the financial foothold it enjoyed prior to the 2008 crash.

What can you do to avoid going through a property repossession?

  • approach your bank/lender and discuss your future options. Banks aren’t gaining anything from foreclosures, so see what they can offer by way of support and negotiation. Ask for an extension, see if you can alter the terms of your mortgage; in short explore your options with your lender
  • if it’s possible to do so, try and sell your home. Better to off-load debt that you can’t manage, than to hang on for grim death
  • consider renting. There remains a high demand for rental property, and it may well be worth you moving out and renting your home out, whilst you (in turn) rent somewhere for yourself
  • seek financial advice elsewhere. There are a variety of charitable organizations around the country, make an appointment

Whatever you do, don’t hand your keys over and walk away, Turning your back won’t solve anything in the long term, and you may well find yourself before the court for more than just the mortgage debt itself.

Link: need realistic mortgage advice? Click here.

HUD TO EXPAND SALE OF TROUBLED MORTGAGES THROUGH PROGRAM DESIGNED TO HELP BORROWERS AVOID COSTLY, LENGTHY FORECLOSURES

Enhanced FHA note sale program part of Obama Administration effort to address shadow inventory, target relief to hardest hit communities

CHICAGO – Thousands of borrowers severely delinquent on loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will have help from a new servicer to explore affordable mortgage solutions or achieve a favorable resolution under an enhanced government note sale program announced today. In a press conference held at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative America Meeting, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Acting FHA Commissioner Carol Galante launched the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program, an expansion of an FHA pilot program that allows private investors to purchase pools of mortgages headed for foreclosure and charges them with helping to bring the loan out of default.

“While our housing market has momentum we haven’t seen since before the crisis, there are still thousands of FHA borrowers who are severely delinquent today – who have exhausted their options and could lose their homes in a matter of months,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this program, we will increase by as much as ten times the number of loans available for purchase while making it easier for borrowers to avoid foreclosure. Finding ways to bring these loans out of default not only helps the borrower, but helps the entire neighborhood avoid the disinvestment and decline in value that accompanies a distressed property.”

The FHA note sales program began as a pilot in 2010 and has resulted in the purchase of more than 2,100 single family loans to date. A servicer can place a loan into the loan pool if the following criteria are met:

  1. The borrower is at least six months delinquent on their mortgage;
  2. The servicer has exhausted all steps in the FHA loss mitigation process;
  3. The servicer has initiated foreclosure proceedings; and
  4. The borrower is not in bankruptcy.

Under the program, FHA-insured notes are sold competitively at a market-determined price generally below the outstanding principal balance. Once the note is purchased, foreclosure is delayed for a minimum of six additional months as the borrower gets direct help from their servicer to help to find an affordable solution to avoid foreclosure. The investor purchases the loan at a discount and then takes additional steps to help the borrower avoid default, whether through modifying their loan terms or helping them through a short sale, in order to maximize the return on the sale.

“The Distressed Asset Stabilization Program offers a better shot for the struggling homeowner and lower losses to the FHA,” said Acting FHA Commissioner Carol Galante. “By addressing the growing back log of distressed mortgages, FHA is helping to mitigate the negative effects of the foreclosure process as part of the Administration’s broader commitment to community stabilization.”

Beginning with the September 2012 scheduled sale, FHA will increase the number of loans available for purchase from approximately 1,800 each year to a quarterly rate of up to 5,000, and add a new neighborhood stabilization pool to encourage investment in communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

In an additional safeguard against blight, HUD will require that no more than 50 percent of the loans within a purchased pool become real-estate owned (REO) properties and – if the servicer and borrower are unable to bring the loan out of default – that the servicer hold the loan for at least three years.

“Currently, FHA’s inventory of REO properties available for sale is at its lowest level since FY 2009,” added Galante. “At the same time, the inventory of seriously delinquent loans is near an all time high. With many neighborhoods still fighting to recover from the housing crisis, going upstream will allow us to help more borrowers before they go through foreclosure and their homes ever come into the REO portfolio.”

BANK OF AMERICA AGREES TO PAY MORE THAN $160,000 TO SETTLE MATERNITY DISCRIMINATION CLAIM

Bank of America to pay in maternity discrimination case

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that Bank of America has agreed to pay up to $161,180 to settle allegations that one of the bank’s San Jose, California branches refused to refinance the mortgage of an Irvine woman because she was on maternity leave. HUD reached the agreement with Bank of America to resolve a Fair Housing Act complaint that had been filed by the Fair Housing Council of Orange County (FHCOC).

Bank of America to pay in maternity discrimination case

 

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination in mortgage lending and real estate-related transactions based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability. Refusing to approve a mortgage loan or provide refinancing because a woman is pregnant or on family leave violates the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against sex and family status discrimination.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits lenders from denying home loans to women because they are pregnant or on maternity leave,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s settlement follows HUD actions involving other lenders across the country which we will continue until maternity leave discrimination is eliminated.”

The woman told FHCOC, a non-profit fair housing organization funded by HUD, that in December 2009, a Bank of America agent offered her a 5% interest rate for a home refinance loan, with no costs or fees. But in January 2010, after she had applied for the loan and supplied the necessary documents, the bank allegedly refused to process her application because she was on maternity leave. In her complaint, the woman alleged that a bank agent told her that she would have to return to work full-time in order for her loan to be approved. Even after she informed the bank that she received the same rate of pay and benefits while on maternity leave, the bank would not process her application. In March 2010, the bank finally approved the woman’s application, but by that time the interest rate on her loan had increased to 5.25%, making each loan payment higher.

A Bank of America official said: “We regret our treatment of the applicant. We take our Fair Lending responsibilities very seriously and will work with HUD to ensure our customers on maternity leave are treated appropriately during the mortgage application process.”

Under the terms of the Conciliation Agreement, Bank of America will pay $30,000 to the woman, $16,180 to her attorney, and $15,000 to FHCOC. The bank will also create a $100,000 Compensation Fund to pay damages to loan applicants or borrowers who may have been denied a loan, subjected to adverse loan terms, or had their loan applications delayed because they were pregnant or on maternity leave. In addition, the bank is requiring all of its loan officers nationwide to complete annual fair lending training.

Anyone who believes that a bank has discriminated against them during the mortgage application process because they were pregnant or on maternity leave should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY).