Foreclosure Mill Gets its Due

December 5, 2011

Foreclosure is always ugly business, but public complaints from homeowners alleging sloppy research, unethical filings, and outright lies, have made law firms that specialize in foreclosure especially villainous in the public eye. While many foreclosure firms may conduct their work with the honesty and diligence that is expected when practicing law, there are some that are less than, well, “sympathetic” to homeowners experiencing financial difficulty.

Last October the New York Times published photos of a Halloween party at the law office of Steven J. Baum. The Baum law firm handled around 40 percent of the state’s 46,572 mortgage foreclosures in 2010. The photos show an office costume party in 2010 where employees dressed up as homeless people and squatters, and decorated the office to resemble foreclosed properties.

The Baum law firm has been notoriously called a foreclosure mill by the media, and has been the subject of several complaints. Recently the firm agreed to pay a $2 million settlement in response to allegations that it had “filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in the state and federal courts in New York.” In November Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac cut off business with the firm, and this past week it announced that the Baum law firm is closing its offices.

Certainly not every foreclosure firm is heartless. However, when the wheels of the foreclosure machine are set into motion, it is often difficult to find a person who can stop it. If you are experiencing trouble paying your mortgage, there are options:

• Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is a federal program that offers homeowners a chance to refinance with their banks before they default and the home goes into foreclosure.
• Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court cannot modify your first mortgage, but it can eliminate your second under certain circumstances. Chapter 13 can also provide time to negotiate a modification with your lender, or repay mortgage arrears over three to five years.
• Chapter 7 bankruptcy: If discharging unsecured debt will free up money for your mortgage payment, Chapter 7 may be the answer. You are also able to discharge your home mortgage and walk away from the house.

Don’t be pressured by foreclosure firms! You have rights and options. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can explain your legal options and help you decide on a path that is right for you and your family.

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