Monday, January 30, 2012


The Obama Administration announced important enhancements to the Making Home Affordable Program, including the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), to expand the reach of the program to help additional homeowners stay in their homes and strengthen hard-hit communities.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Loan Modifications Are on the Decline: Moody's

Again, for the most part banks earn much more money when you're in default. So, why bother trying to modify a loan earning less interest when you can simply earn more by keeping the borrower in limbo? We've seen multiple cases where borrowers are in trial mods for over 18 months! Why is that? I don't for one minute believe it takes any lender that long to make a decision. The whole process regarding loan modifications or the denial thereof depends on where the lender earns the most money. And in many cases more money is earned in late/bogus fees. It's that simple.

Chase, BofA may lose $131 million in HAMP payments

The incentives the feds are offering for HAMP compliance is nothing compared to how much money banks earn in late fees (and any other fees they can think of)when they purposely keep a borrower in default.

Old mortgages rise from the dead, haunt homeowners

This is just another way banks make a mess out of everything they touch. After your loan is satisfied you need to go to your county clerk and be certain the satisfaction is recorded. You must also keep a copy of the satisfaction for your records as well.

Bank of America Settlements Impede Fraud Probe, Arizona Says

Bank of America has never played by the rules. Why should now be any different?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Foreclosure Robo-Signing Deal Worries N.Y. Official

Yesterday we had the honor of meeting the AG at a Chinese New Year Brunch. We spoke with him for a few minutes and he seemed very determined to go his own way and get the best deal possible for New York. There are other states who wish they had our AG.

Top Banker Servicing Abuses. Has This Happened To You?

-Loan sold without your knowledge
-Dual Tracking (working on mod & foreclosure filed)
-Foreclosure filed even though you’re current
-Faxing modification paperwork multiple times
-Different stories every time you call your lender
-Trial Mod exceeds the 3 month timeline
-Improper denial of HAMP (or in-house mod)
-Rights waiver inserted into loan modification agreements
-Improperly applied mortgage payments
-Escrow payments applied incorrectly
-Bogus/inaccurate fees on reinstatement figures
-Not providing timely reinstatement or payoff figures
-Bank provides no communication to borrower regarding late payments or pre-foreclosure
-Robo-signing (save the best for last). Bad signatures, bad assignments, no affidavits

If you believe any of the above has happened and feel you need help to resolve the problem please contact our office for a FREE consultation.

Law Offices of Robert E. Brown, P.C.
2409 Richmond Road Staten Island, New York 10306
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Looming wave of new foreclosures threatens rebound of Staten Island's real estate market

Looming wave of new foreclosures threatens rebound of Staten Island's real estate market

Clearly, this is the calm before the storm. Once Steven J. Baum's cases are transferred to other firms these cases may once again begin moving forward. What should also be considered is that banks are taking longer to file foreclosure actions. These are the other side of the "shadow inventory" coin. These I guess you could call "Shadow Foreclosures" in that the foreclosure should be filed but the bank has chosen not to do so. Perhaps on reason is because during reporting times to their shareholders they don't have to report them as actually being in foreclosure. They can simply state they're in loan modification "review". Yeah, review. they'll have plenty of time for review since they ask for the same documents over and over and over again. Or better yet-servicers like the borrowers to stay late because they earn late fees (and any other fee they can think of).

Top Banker Servicing Abuses. Has This Happened To You?

- Loan sold without your knowledge

- Dual Tracking (working on mod & foreclosure filed)

- Foreclosure filed even though you’re current

- Faxing modification paperwork multiple times

- Different stories every time you call your lender

- Trial Mod exceeds the 3 month timeline

- Improper denial of HAMP (or in-house mod)

- Rights waiver inserted into loan modification agreements

- Improperly applied mortgage payments

- Escrow payments applied incorrectly

- Bogus/inaccurate fees on reinstatement figures

- Not providing timely reinstatement or payoff figures

- Bank provides no communication to borrower regarding late payments or
pre- foreclosure

- Robo-signing (save the best for last). Bad signatures, bad assignments, no

If you believe any of the above has happened and feel you need help to resolve the problem(s) please contact our office for a FREE consultation.

Law Offices of Robert E. Brown, P.C.
2409 Richmond Road Staten Island, New York 10306
Att’y Advertising

NY AG funds $1 million to borrowers contesting foreclosures

THANK YOU New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman. This money will help some of the nonprofits that are trying to help those in foreclosure. If you're in foreclosure and believe you qualify for free legal services seek out their services in your local area.

Wells Fargo earns record $4.1 billion in 4Q

WELLS FARGOOOOO! You now have RECORD earnings for the 4th quarter. Where are the loan modifications?????? Stop stalling already!

More failed HAMP trials end in foreclosure

And here you have it. Less loan modification approvals more foreclosures. What's most interesting is Wells Fargo's announcement of record earnings ($4 Billion - 4 Q). Yet they have one of the lowest modification rates in the Country!

If you're having problems being approved for a loan modification or if the bank has already filed a foreclosure action please give us a call today for a FREE Consultation. We'll be happy to answer any questions you might have on how best to protect yourself and your family.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Looming wave of new foreclosures threatens rebound of Staten Island's real estate market

-- Any hope for a rebound in the Staten Island real estate market this year is being strangled by a looming wave of foreclosures that will add homes to an already flooded market.

Foreclosure filings on Staten Island last year dropped by nearly one-half from 2010, but lawyers say those figures are misleading.

Pointing to a still-sluggish economy, they predict foreclosure filings will jump dramatically this year and say last year's drop-off resulted from several factors, including tougher filing requirements and the shutdown of the law firm that handled the lion's share of the litigation for lenders and servicers.

"I don't think it is at all a sign that things are getting better. People still aren't paying their mortgages," said Robert E. Brown, a New Dorp-based foreclosure defense attorney. "All it means is it's piling up. I think it's going to be a tsunami."

In fact, a June 2011 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed that one in 10 residential mortgages in the city either was in foreclosure or "seriously delinquent" -- defined as 90 or more days past due. Figures weren't available for Staten Island.

"I think it's the lull before the storm," said Paul Hollender, a bankruptcy lawyer and partner in the Bloomfield-base firm, Corash & Hollender.

Last year, 997 new foreclosures were brought on Staten Island -- a 46 percent drop from the 1,846 filings commenced in 2010, according to information maintained at the Richmond County Clerk's office.

The dip was even sharper (almost 58 percent) compared to 2009, when 2,361 new foreclosures were started on Staten Island. There were 1,954 filings in 2008.

While each of last year's monthly filings declined compared to 2010, the lowest numbers were recorded in the first and last third of 2011.

Brown attributed the drop over 2011's first four months to the stringent new requirements enacted by New York state's chief justice in October 2010.


In cases involving one-to-four family homes, bank lawyers must submit a "due diligence" affirmation, certifying they've taken reasonable steps to verify the foreclosure documents' accuracy. A supporting affidavit is also required from a representative of the lender or servicing company bringing the action.

Brown said the dip over the final four months of 2011 resulted largely from the closure of the upstate Steven J. Baum law firm. Baum's company -- decried as a foreclosure mill -- handled about 40 percent of the 46,572 foreclosure proceedings brought by plaintiffs statewide in 2010, the New York Law Journal reported. It was not immediately clear how many are on Staten Island.

Brown said he expects foreclosure filings will be low early this year as banks and lenders determine Baum's replacement.

The firm agreed in October to pay $2 million after admitting to errors in legal filings. It also aroused ire when The New York Times published pictures from the company's 2010 Halloween party, showing people dressed to look homeless and part of the office decorated to resemble a row of foreclosed homes.

"There's no firm in New York state to handle the volume that Baum's handling," Brown said. "Foreclosures are highly technical. It's not like you can hire any attorney to do it. There's going to be a feeling-out process."

Brown anticipates foreclosures will spike once such matters are resolved.

"There's going to be a lot more filings," he said. "I don't think the economy has turned around."


Realtor Joan Camerlengo has seen some activity in the first two weeks of the year, but she expects a release of shadow inventory -- pending foreclosures that haven't been processed yet -- will depress the market further.

"I think this is going to be an uncertain year," said Ms. Camerlengo whose namesake firm is in Grant City. "Are they going to open the floodgates and release the shadow inventory they are holding or are they going to continue to hold them and delay a recovery. If they do release the inventory, there may be a little bit more of a decline in prices."

The county clerk's foreclosure data notwithstanding, one defense lawyer said she hasn't witnessed a decline in cases.

"We're seeing no diminution in filings of summonses and complaints," said Margaret Becker, lead attorney with the Homeowner Defense Project of Staten Island Legal Services in St. George, referring to the legal papers filed to start foreclosure litigation. "The foreclosure problem hasn't decreased. We answered more summonses and complaints in 2011 than in 2010."

To document that point, Ms. Becker provided a July 2011 report by MFY Legal Services, the Manhattan-based non-profit that, like Staten Island Legal Services, offers homeowners free legal aid. The study states the foreclosure crisis "shows no signs of ebbing, and foreclosure filings are expected to remain at a crisis-level high."

Just as troubling, both Ms. Becker and John Brancato, loss mitigater for Brown, the defense lawyer, said lenders, servicers and their lawyers are dragging their feet in filing the "due diligence" affirmations that get the cases rolling. Those affirmations, filed after the foreclosure summons and complaint is served, help start the clock for the mandatory settlement conference.

Without them, the cases languish, and late fees and other charges accrue against homeowners, decreasing their chances for a loan modification.

Eligible residents can apply for mortgage modifications through the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Lending institutions can also offer their own loan modifications.

Brancato contends that banks make homeowners jump through hoops to obtain a HAMP loan, and, as a result, most don't qualify.

"It's unfortunate that the only things banks understand is when you take them to court," he said. "This is not going to get better until they modify loans that can truly be modified."

Ms. Becker, however, said HAMP, while not perfect, is working.

"We're seeing more modifications," she said. "It has always been effective [and] it can be hugely effective, and it is getting better because more banks are complying with it. It does work, and it can work a whole lot better. HAMP needs better enforcement and compliance."


Even with the potential for an increase in foreclosures, local Realtors are hoping the sales numbers from the last three months offer a glimmer of what may come in 2012.
Prices have moderately dropped year-over-year, but the borough experienced a 12 percent increase in houses sold in September, October and November compared to the same time period in 2010, and a nearly 6.5 percent gain in houses going to contract.

"My people are telling me their phones have been busy," said Sandy Krueger, chief executive officer of the Staten Island Board of Realtors. "I expect to see a nice bump down the road. We should start the year off better."

The borough numbers are in line with the market taking shape around the country, where November sales reached their highest levels in 19 months with a 7.3 percent increase. The only time they were higher was in April 2010 when buyers were racing to cash in on the one-time-only home buyer tax credit.

Krueger also cited the still record-low interest rates, which are hovering at about 4 percent, as an incentive to buyers. But he noted that banks are being stiffer in approving mortgages.

"The lenders are making it more and more difficult to close these things out," he said. "I think word is getting out on that, and it is making people leery about jumping into the market. They are holding back a little."

George Wonica Jr. has also noticed that trend.

"People are recognizing this is a very good time to buy," said Wonica of Wonica Realtors and Appraisers, which has offices in Castleton Corners, Midland Beach and Rossville.

"But unfortunately, the banks are being more rigorous now. They are getting difficult to deal with and that is stirring buyer frustration. In the advent of tougher regulations, it's not uncommon for the banks to ask for 15 pieces of documentation that all say the same thing."

Still, Wonica is selling homes.

"People see the value in home ownership and realize that like stock and investments go up and down, the real estate market goes up and down," he said.

One of Wonica's most recent buyers did the opposite of many. Instead of trying to downsize, he went bigger.

"There were houses on the market that were a nice size on the inside, but didn't have a lot of property," said John Vitucci, a criminal court lawyer who was in the market for square footage, the right price, a good neighborhood and mostly, a big backyard for his two young children to play.

Vitucci and his wife, Randie, closed in October on a corner property in Westerleigh for $515,000 -- down from the $535,000 asking price -- and an interest rate of 4.1 percent.

"I found a lot of houses were overpriced for where the market was," said Vitucci, whose new home was on the market for 160 days before he bought it. "We were looking for something we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Justice Department Issues Report in Support of Foreclosure Mediation

Although this was a great start to helping home owners more needs to be done. Banks have the upper hand in that they still earn their interest. Now if interest were tolled from the start then I believe we'd have the banks willing to settle within a more reasonable time frame.

Uh-oh, Credit card Robosiging. JP Morgan Chase drops 1,000 credit card lawsuits

Credit card robo-signing and sloppy paperwork? Why not the bankers did the same with mortgages.So why not continue the trend and follow up on the mortgage fraud with credit card fraud and keep the illegal money machine humming?

Morning Radar: Fed showed little alarm as housing bust loomed

And to think these were the "brightest" economists/bankers we had to offer. God only knows what would have happened if we had more intelligent people at the helm.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mortgage Fraud & Predatory Lending Can Cost Borrowers $100,000+

Many borrowers we speak with have little understanding of what mortgage fraud or predatory lending is. And that’s just the way bankers and brokers like it. Who better to take advantage of than those who are in the dark? There are many ways brokers and lenders take advantage of borrowers. The real sin is the cost of these mistakes. The type of fraud will usually dictate the losses the borrower will incur. We’re not bashing all brokers and bankers – just the ones who take advantage of borrowers. Here’s a brief view of some of the most common types of mortgage fraud and predatory lending practices.

YSP (Yield Spread Premiums). Basically a kick-back from the lender to the broker. Usually a “reward” for putting the borrower into a loan they either weren’t qualified for or “up selling” them (charging an interest rate higher than what the lender quotes the broker). As an example the lender quotes the broker a rate of 5%. The broker calls you and says the best he can do is 5 1/2%. That ½ % over a 30 year time span can be costly to an unsuspecting borrower (approximately $74,000 in interest on a $500k loan).

Loan Discount Fee. This can happen two ways. 1). You tell the broker you’re unable to pay a certain rate he quoted. He states if you pay “x” the rate will be reduced. And then it’s either not reduced or reduced very little. 2). The broker simply pays himself extra by charging the borrower without telling the borrower or lowering the rate.

Bait and Switch. Fixed rate is switched to an adjustable rate without the borrower’s knowledge. Sometimes the borrower finds out for the first time when they come to our office for a loan audit. Adjustable rate loans usually cost the borrower much more in fees and interest payments.

Prepayment Penalty. This feature basically locks the borrower into the loan for a certain period of time. If the borrower refinances or sells before this period they’ll have to pay the penalty. The lock in time may be as long as 3 years!

Bogus Fees. This can be one of the worst fees. Why? Because you’re paying for a service you’re not getting. Bogus fees can cost a borrower thousands of dollars at the closing.

The end result with having a loan that may include any of the above is usually foreclosure. So in addition to what the above might cost the borrower, the cost of foreclosure must be taken into account as well.

This is a short list of how Mortgage Fraud & Predatory Lending Can Cost Borrowers $100,000+. If you feel you may be a victim of predatory lending or mortgage fraud give us a call for a FREE consultation.

The Law Offices of Robert E. Brown, P.C. 718-979-9779

Big Banks Face Inquiry Over Home Insurance

Forced-placed insurance is yet another way the banks make money. It may be good practice for home owners to automatically at the time of renewal or when switching insurance carriers to forward to their lender the binder or proof their policy remains in force. After you forward to your lender you must follow up with a call and confirm they received your proof of insurance. Be certain to get the name of the person you're speaking with as well as their ID number and department.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mortgage Modification Scams Make Top Ten Scam List for 2011

Scammers come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Usually they'll try and target people they have something in common with. Sometimes a scammer is a trusted friend or family member or in some unfortunate cases an attorney. If you believe you've fallen victim to a scammer please call our office for a FREE consultation.

Law Offices of Robert E. Brown, P.C. 718-979-9779

Treasury not ruling out changes in last year of HAMP

For the most part HAMP has been nothing but a huge failure as well as a waste of taxpayer money. How could a program like HAMP be successful when their underwriting standards are more stringent than the borrower's original loan??? Or at the start of a "trial mod" when the bank NEVER tells the borrower that if they're not approved for a modification that they will owe all of back payments they didn't make while the bank wasted time determining if the borrower qualified for a modification. Modifications - so simple unless you're a servicer or the Fed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sloppy seconds: Feds probe million$ in 'double-billing' by banks

Approximately $179,000,000 in escrow overcharges! Another reason why the banks should not be allowed to collect escrow. If at all possible you should never allow them to collect taxes and insurance on your behalf. Set up a separate bank account and deposit enough funds monthly to cover the escrow. Escrow only provides another way for the banks to screw up. more: