Amid the avalanche of foreclosure proceedings unleashed by the housing crisis, thousands of families may have been illegally booted from their homes.
The story of the King family, recently reported by WLUK FOX 11, offers a nightmare scenario of the hardship a family may endure because of such wrongful foreclosures.
The Kings returned this fall to their old home in the town of Clayton, Wis., to find it in utter ruin: The basement was flooded in eight feet of water, the walls covered with mold and the kitchen littered with mouse droppings.
Their ill-fated home had sat unoccupied for more than a year, after the family succumbed to pressure from Bank of America, who notified them that their home would be subject to foreclosure because they had missed a mortgage payment. The Kings, who have eight children, knew that they had actually made their payments but gave in to the bank in order to shelter their children from the rocky proceedings.
"We didn't want to further traumatize our children by having a sheriff show up," Christina King told WLUK.
Originally, in 2009, the family had applied for the Home Affordable Modification Program, an initiative launched by the Obama administration that allows qualified borrowers to receive interest rate reductions on their mortgages. The program, which was recently modified so that it could reach more beleaguered homeowners, would have provided significant relief to the Kings by reducing their rate from 10 percent to 4 percent.
But after a year of cooperating with the bank under the terms of the program, the Kings were informed that they had missed a payment during the program's trial period. Then a steady tide of foreclosure notices arrived, prompting the family to move into a rental property.
Fast forward by about a year, to when the family receives a notice from Bank of America.
"In a previous letter to you, we told you that ... you missed a Trial Period Plan Payment. However, this was incorrect," it reads, according to WLUK. The letter also reportedly informs the family that their mortgage actually was approved for HARP.
The Kings return home, perhaps thinking that their long streak of misfortune may finally have come to an end. Not so. They find a house that has fallen into such disrepair that a contractor estimates that the cost of fixing it exceeds its value.
"It's really awful, it's really awful what was done to us," King told WLUK.
Unfortunately, the story of the Kings is only one of many examples of families who have suffered unjustly at the hands of mortgage lenders.
The practice of "robosigning," which refers to a range of foreclosure paperwork abuses, has launched various probes around the country, including an investigation led by a broad coalition of state attorneys general which reportedly could end up costing banks upward of $20 billion in a settlement. Setting a precedent, Nevada recently filed criminal charges for robosigning by indicting two staffers at a mortgage company for directing employees to falsely notarize foreclosure documents and forge signatures.
And these proceedings have had a very real impact on homeowners. One homeowner in Pittsburgh had her home -- and her parrot -- mistakenly seized by Bank of America, while another family in Houston faced foreclosure simply because their property title wasn't properly transferred.
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