The Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP held a town hall meeting on Nov. 16 at Jericho City Praise Church in Landover to hear complaints from Maryland homeowners facing foreclosure and to rally support for its lobbying effort to get Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) to place a statewide moratorium on foreclosures.
The meeting, which was open to the general public, drew politicians, community and business leaders and attorneys, in addition to hundreds of homeowners.
Laurel resident Scarlett Davis, like several other homeowners who recounted their battles to save their homes, said her troubles started when she hit rock bottom four years ago after losing her job.
Once Davis realized she was in a financial crisis, even though her husband was still employed, she called her lender, Bank of America, and told them she was unable to make her mortgage payments. She said she was told that because she was not a financial hardship case due to her husband’s employment, it was impossible for the bank to assist her. In 2011, she filed bankruptcy under chapter 13, which she thought would enable her to develop a plan to repay all or part of her debt.
She said she never got the information to help her avoid losing her home, despite making untold numbers of calls.
“I would always be transferred to one department after another. This went on for months,” she said.
It wasn’t until her loan was sold to Wells Fargo that she was told that because she was behind 19 payments, her home would be sold. A September sale date was set. After piles of paperwork, letters and phone calls, she said, her home was eventually taken off the foreclosure list, or so she thought. It later appeared on a list to be sold on Dec. 6.
“I am not a fan of merry-go-rounds,” she said. “I want someone to help me get off this ride.”
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Maryland is ranked second in the nation in mortgage complaints. In October, RealtyTrac, a website that tracks real estate listings and foreclosure filings, reported that foreclosures in Prince George’s County were up 9 percent over the previous month and 97 percent since 2012.
A representative from the office of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said he has pledged to work with the NAACP on the foreclosure issue.
Yatta Thompson-Quire, a Frederick, Md., homeowner since 2005, said that although her home is not in foreclosure yet, she is sure it will be soon. Like several others, she said she has been struggling to get a modification on her mortgage payments for months.
NAACP officials offered their help. The state NAACP is currently working with more than 400 homeowners who were facing foreclosure; none have lost their homes, said Carmen Johnson, the Maryland NAACP State Conference Housing Committee chair.
Johnson said though many believe those facing foreclosure are to fault for purchasing homes too expensive for their income, that is not the case. She said many of the cases she has investigated resulted from homeowners being victimized by fraudulent lender activities.
“These homeowners don’t deserve to be treated like this,” she said in a previous interview with the AFRO. “They can afford to be in their homes. They have been bamboozled.”
In some cases, she said, homeowners’ payments are lost or not applied to their principles. Some get in trouble because the paperwork they have submitted to modify their loans is lost or misplaced. In some cases, homeowners are victims of what she called “dual tracking.”
“The banks are foreclosing as the residents work with them on modifications,” she said. “The homeowners have no idea they still face foreclosure because they are trying to resolve the problems.”
Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s NAACP, said the various state chapters are working to educate the public about the hazards of foreclosure.
“There is a real problem with foreclosure,” he said. “First we are having a meeting. The next step is to call legislators to support a moratorium. We want a two year moratorium.”
O’Malley’s office had not responded to the request directly, NAACP officials said.
They want foreclosures stopped until an investigation is conducted about practices that are resulting in homeowners losing their property, Johnson said.