What can be done about new epidemic of unfair foreclosures?

OKLAHOMA CITY — To no avail, this reporter has inquired locally about what is being done or what might be done to stop apparently deceptive practices that result in mass foreclosures.

A local law firm said a class action lawsuit could be filed, but first, victims have to come forward and approach a lawyer or law firm that handles this type of work.

Another step is to fight foreclosures in court, said real estate attorney and real estate investor Robert Elder.

“If the homeowner will do the least little bit to fight it, then they can force (the mortgage company) into a judicial foreclosure,” said Elder. “You have a legal contract, and the borrower has an obligation to respond. If the borrower fails to respond, they get steamrolled. It’s particularly true if the mortgage company was a bad actor.

“I understand these homeowners are novices and all that. But still they ought to at least do a hand-written letter to the court. Go to the stinking county court. I’m sympathetic to these people. But in essence, if they get sued, they have an obligation to say something in their defense.”

In the bigger picture, if nothing is done, it stands to seriously worsen the city’s epidemic of vacant properties.

Oklahoma City officials recently completed an inventory of vacant and abandoned houses in the city – finding at least 12,000 currently. This disaster promises to add to it exponentially in the next couple of years if no serious action is taken by prosecutors or the legislature.

The City of Oklahoma City says it will impose several hundred dollars in annual fines for vacant properties which typically result from foreclosures. This is due to the cost of responding to code violations, police and fire calls they incur. But these are pretty toothless disincentives, implies city spokeswoman Kristy Yager.

“Until they do something legislatively, that’s really all we can do,” said Yager.

So what can homeowners do to avoid winding up in the Hedge fund grinder?

For one, select a mortgage company that services its own mortgages and will not sell yours.

Another path is to refinance, although these mortgage servicers have been known to chase borrowers for alleged or deceitful fines and fees after they’ve refinanced with new lenders.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office has the authority to step in, but requests for comment when this story was being completed were not answered.

NOTE: Stacy Martin, managing editor for The City Sentinel newspaper, is an award-winning business and general news reporter.