NE Ohio: Faulty foreclosures are widespread

10:40 PM, Apr 25, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Clevelander Jennifer Simmons is experiencing a foreclosure mess that one expert says happens with disturbing regularity. 

"It's a tragedy and it didn't have to happen," Simmons told the Investigator Tom Meyer.

Simmons had lived in a home on N. Lotus in Cleveland for 24 years when the now-bankrupt Washington Mutual filed for foreclosure.

Within months of leaving the home, vandals, thieves and crackheads destroyed the home. Water was left running for three weeks, floors are now buckled, and the furnance, plumbing and windows have been stolen.

Simmons, once a proud homeowner, showed Channel 3 News photographs of the home before foreclosure. She re-financed several times before foreclsoure so she could make $24,000 in improvements.

Within months of foreclsoure, the home turned into a dump.

Simmons was shocked to learn that the bank recently dropped the foreclosure and told her she's allowed to move back in and assume responsibility for the taxes, maintenance and insurance.

"How is this woman gong to move back into this place that's not habitable any more?" asked Jim Szakacs, the executive director of the Nehemiah Mission in Cleveland.

His organization renovates about 100 homes a year for the physically and financially challenged. "It is a travesty what has happened to this lady," he said.

Simmons says she can't sell the house and she doesn't have the money to have it demolished or to bring it up to code. She estimates it would cost $45,000 in repairs to make it liveable once again.

"It was bad enough to lose my home, but then to say, you can now have it back and it's destroyed, is devastating," she said.

Simmons says the huge mess could have been avoided if Washinton Mutual would have agreed to mortgage payments she could afford when she tried to refinance the loan.

"I wish banks would be more realistic. It's destroying neighborhoods and it's destroying me as an indivdual," she said.

Former Cuyahgoa County Treasurer James Rokakis knows more about the foreclosoure crisis than perhaps anyone else in the county.

He said what happened to Simmons happens daily in this area and he blames the banks. 

"They're hurting the homeowner and the neighborhoods. If they just got with the program and said your property is only worth half of what you paid for it and let's renegotiate the mortgage. Until the banking and investment community wakes up, this will continue to happen," Rokakis said.

Simmons' dilemma comes at a time when the Ohio Attorney General and attorneys general in 49 other states are nearing a settlement with lenders over faulty foreclosure practices.

The settlement can't come soon enough. Rokakis said there were 22,000 local mortgages that were 90 days past due in 2007.

The number has jumped to more than 80,000 today. He called this the "crisis that will keep on taking."

Rokakis advises that Simmons and others like her work with one of four foreclosure consulting services in the Cleveland area in the hopes they get lenders to negotiate a deal to preserve the property.

Simmons says she has no idea what she's going to do.

"I'm still in a state of shock," she said.


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