99 Homes: Fact v. Fiction
When foreclosure defense comes to the big screen, you know I’m going to see it. I took a break from work this weekend to watch 99 Homes, a movie about the 2o1o foreclosure crisis in Florida. Overall, I thought it was a great movie that brought to life many of the issues I confront with foreclosure defense. The movie tells the story of a father who, after losing his job, is foreclosed. In need of work, he ends up getting hired by the same realtor who evicted him, and falls into the sleazy work of foreclosing people who were in his same situation.
For this post, I want to discuss the facts v. fiction of the depiction of the foreclosure/eviction process as shown in the movie. Bear in mind that I am a Massachusetts attorney, which has a different foreclosure process than Florida. However, many of the issues remain the same regardless of the state where a foreclosure occurs.
- Difficulty in Contacting a Loan Servicer/Bank is a Major Reason Why Foreclosures Occur
99 Homes does a great job of showing how a homeowner’s inability to successfully work with a loan servicer/bank is often the reason for foreclosure. Too often, I have seen banks willfully ignore loan modification applications for qualifying homeowners and create excuse after excuse for refusing to properly consider homeowners for loss mitigation assistance. 99 Homes shows how the banks’ refusal to properly offer this assistance has forced many homeowners into foreclosure.
- The Court Process is Not “User Friendly”
99 Homes shows many of the homeowners attempting to represent themselves in court, with disastrous results. The movie takes place in 2010, when courts were flooded with foreclosure cases, and many judges simply pushed these matters through. While things are better now, the court process can still be very difficult to understand, especially for a lay person. For foreclosure defense, a homeowner should strongly consider seeking the assistance of an experienced lawyer with these matters.
- The Federal Government is a Major Owner of Foreclosed Properties
The realtor in 99 Homes often discussed how “Fannie/Freddie” were two of his largest clients. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored entities who are the owners of many mortgage loans across the country. When a foreclosure occurs, these entities often become the owner of these homes.
- “Cash for Keys” Is a Popular Means of Shortening the Foreclosure/Eviction Process
The movie depicts the use of “cash for keys” for settling post-foreclosure eviction cases: the bank offers the homeowner a cash settlement (usually $3,000-$5,000) to immediately leave the home. “Cash for keys” isn’t a terrible option for homeowners who wish to leave their homes and need financial assistance in doing so. A homeowner interested in this deal should still consult an attorney to discuss this option.
- A Homeowner Facing Foreclosure Can Be Out in a Matter of Days
99 Homes seems to suggest that a homeowner can be out of a foreclosed home in a matter of days. In Massachusetts, the entire foreclosure process can take 2-3 years, which leaves homeowners with the time necessary to try and save their homes. Sooner is always better than later in fighting a foreclosure, but rarely does a homeowner only have a matter of days to deal with a foreclosure.
- Homeowners Have Limited Means of Fighting Foreclosure
Many of the homeowners in the movie are depicted as having few, if any, defenses to foreclosure. In reality, homeowners have many more defenses available, such as a loan servicer’s refusal to properly consider a loan modification and failure to send the required notices required by the mortgage and law. Not all of these defenses will work for each homeowner, but homeowners often do have means of defending themselves in these cases.
In need of assistance with foreclosure defense? Contact me for a consultation.