Stopping Foreclosures: Two Stories
Martha was about to lose her home — and then she found us. A 77-year-old African American widow, Martha lives alone in her longtime home in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast D.C. Over the past decade, she was repeatedly contacted by an unscrupulous mortgage broker — someone we have now identified as a repeat offender who has targeted several low-income seniors throughout the Washington region. This broker sold Martha multiple mortgages with payments and adjustments that far exceeded her limited fixed income. Shockingly, he signed Martha up for seven mortgages in the span of just seven years, racking up thousands of dollars in fees and penalties, and putting her deeper and deeper in debt. Her most recent mortgage had an adjustable rate with a monthly payment that ballooned up to $1,800 after the introductory "teaser" rate ended. Martha's monthly income from her modest Social Security checks and a small pension totaled only $1,483. Not surprisingly, she fell behind in her mortgage payments.
After several agonizing months — and believing she had no options whatsoever to save her home of over 30 years — Martha learned that she could get free help from Legal Counsel for the Elderly. In addition to stopping the foreclosure sale, we are now representing Martha against both the unscrupulous broker and the lenders for violations of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act and the Truth in Lending Act — so that these kinds of illegal actions by those who target low-income seniors will not go unpunished.
In January of 2010, an older African American woman ("Mrs. R.") arrived at our office with her shoulders slumped and in tears. Mrs. R. told us she wanted to "walk away" from her home in Anacostia where she lived by herself, because she simply couldn't keep up with her mortgage payments. She was trembling with fear, as she had nowhere to go and would be homeless. This vulnerable elder felt completely alone, lost and without hope.
LCE staff attorney Amy Mix sat down with Mrs. R., listened to the details of her situation, and discussed with her the options that were available. Mrs. R. agreed that it made sense to apply for the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). We even helped her apply by phone directly from our office. As a result, she now has a lower monthly mortgage payment for at least the next three months, during which time she will be evaluated for a full loan modification. Not surprisingly, Mrs. R. left our office filled with relief — a crushing burden having been lifted from her shoulders, the fear of homelessness abated. She also left with her head held high, knowing that she had been heard and treated with dignity.
On February 16, 2010, a remarkable milestone of service to D.C.'s low-income seniors was reached: Legal Counsel for the Elderly opened Case No. 100,000 in our client database. For more than three decades, LCE has championed the dignity and rights of our older neighbors in need, and logging our 100,000th case during our 35th Anniversary year is definitely something to celebrate. Standing with these struggling seniors — shoulder-to-shoulder and side-by-side — we are proud to say that LCE is truly "Making a Difference in the District" each and every day. These are just a few of the 100,000 stories that we celebrate during this special 35th Anniversary year.