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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

House Is Gone but Debt Lives On

Joseph Reilly lost his vacation home here last year when he was out of work and stopped paying his mortgage. The bank took the house and sold it. Mr. Reilly thought that was the end of it.
In June, he learned otherwise. A phone call informed him of a court judgment against him for $192,576.71.
It turned out that at a foreclosure sale, his former house fetched less than a quarter of what Mr. Reilly owed on it. His bank sued him for the rest.
The result was a foreclosure hangover that homeowners rarely anticipate but increasingly face: a "deficiency judgment."
Forty-one states and the District of Columbia permit lenders to sue borrowers for mortgage debt still left after a foreclosure sale. The economics of today's battered housing market mean that lenders are doing so more and more.
Small banks are leading the way.
aggressive pursuers of deficiency judgments, a review of court records in several states shows.
At Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union in Tampa, Jim Simon, manager of loss and risk mitigation, says the institution has a responsibility to its members, and that means trying to recoup losses by going after loan deficiencies. He calls such legal action the credit union's "last arrow in the quiver."
The biggest banks appear to have stayed largely on the sidelines as they deal with the foreclosure-paperwork mess. One big bank, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., "may obtain a deficiency" judgment in foreclosure cases but will "often waive" the leftover debt when a homeowner agrees to a so-called short sale of a house for less than is owed on it, a bank spokesman says.
Leftover Debt:

Some of the 41 U.S. states where lenders can pursue deficiency judgments:

• Florida
• Georgia
• Illinois
• Michigan
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• Ohio
• Pennsylvania
• Texas

Read it all

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