By John W. Goodwin Jr.
Experts on foreclosure and one man who has gone through the process say fighting a foreclosure simply is not a do-it-yourself project.
Brian Bayless has been fighting a bank in foreclosure proceedings on his Delaware County home for more than four years, filing endless paperwork and negotiating on his own behalf until about three weeks ago.
Thousands of others like Bayless are fighting to save their homes in Mahoning County as well.
Recent data from Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy- research institute, show 1,819 foreclosures in Mahoning County in 2010, compared with 1,755 in 2009.
Bruce Broyles, a Boardman attorney specializing in foreclosure matters, said about 90 percent of those 1,819 foreclosures in the county are not challenged.
Most of the remaining 10 percent, he said, go through the court without the home-owner having an attorney.
Such is the case with Bayless, who built his home in 1999 for his wife and five children. He talked about his ordeal to The Vindicator.
Bayless worked for the state of Ohio for more than 15 years as a consumer advocate before leaving his job and starting a home- remodeling business. When the housing market stalled, he said, his business took a major hit and making mortgage payments became difficult.
Bayless said he contacted the bank holding his mortgage to make arrangements. Bank officials told him no assistance could be offered until he was at least three months behind.
After he was three months behind, he said, the lender would no longer accept his usual payment, beginning a lengthy process of negotiations and foreclosure proceedings.
Jim Foster, a loan officer in Mahoning and Trumbull counties for 29 years, said a bank does not necessarily want to take a home from its owner, but it is important to understand that any financial institution must protect the interest of its investors.
Foster said it is also important that a bank follow guidelines that dictate when it is appropriate to foreclose to make sure that it is acting fairly across the board to all those securing loans through that bank.
He said banks do not want an empty property, but cannot pick and choose to foreclose on one person and let another person slide.
Foster said banks can no longer draw interest on a loan that is 90 days delinquent; therefore that is the benchmark for beginning the foreclosure process.
“Once that contract is written, and there is a contract to pay, that sets all these things in motion. There are rules that say when a loan is 90 days past due it is technically written off. ... You have to have set policy, and you can’t deviate from that policy,” he said.
Bayless was fighting the foreclosure efforts without an attorney or advocate and ultimately found his property foreclosed upon and purchased by the same lending institution that held the original note and mortgage.
Bayless reached out for help and found it in the operator of the blog site ohiofraudclosure.blogspot.com and Broyles. The operator of the blog site, after a trying foreclosure on his own Boardman area property, offers help to others fighting a foreclosure.
Broyles represents Ohiofraudclosure in legal matters concerning foreclosure rights.
“I have been representing homeowners facing foreclosure and getting the message out there that there are a number of different defenses that are available. We can work with the banks so you don’t have to leave your house,” Broyles said.
Broyles said most people who receive a notice of foreclosure assume, since they are likely late on mortgage payments, that the bank has taken the needed steps and they must leave the home. That, he said, is often not the case.
Broyles said banks must do a number of things before forcing an individual out of their home, including proving the plaintiff has the right to receive payment on the property. He said mortgages are often bundled and sold to different lending institutions, meaning the bank that originally issued the loan may no longer have rights to the loan.
Broyles also said banks must properly serve notice to a homeowner and prove that they hold both the mortgage and promissory note on the property — details that could work in favor of the homeowner.
“You are going to lose your home, and the bank makes you follow all the rules, so you have to make them do the same thing,” said Broyles. “All we are doing is making the bank go through the litigation process.”
Broyles said those benefits often are overlooked without the benefit of an experienced attorney.
Bayless said the sheriff’s department has come to remove his family from their home, but, with the help of the blog site operator and Broyles, were held off. Now Broyles has filed an appeal to the foreclosure and asked for a stay order while the appeal is being heard.
Bayless said he still is in his home for now, but feels he would have been out on the street if he had not sought help.
Broyles said the bottom line is that the banks have help and the homeowner needs to make sure he has all the help he can find to stay in his home.