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3 last-ditch efforts to halt foreclosure

Dear Benny: I am having problems with my mortgage.

I fell on some hard times lately and fell behind on my mortgage payments. My mortgage lender has been dragging this out for over a year.

I have been set up on two separate trial payments and made them both with no problem. Now my loan has gone into foreclosure. The lender keeps telling me that I am under review.

Can you tell me what options I have to try to keep my home? –Hodges

Dear Hodges: During the recent winter season — with snow and lenders having legal problems when they did not have the original promissory note — the foreclosure rate throughout the country fell.

However, with spring on the horizon, lenders are back to foreclosing.

Unfortunately, your situation is all too familiar. Lenders arrange payment plans, whereby the loan is modified and, even if the homeowner is diligent in making the requirement payments, suddenly the lender issues the foreclosure notice.

Communicating with lenders is often next to impossible. You have to call a phone number, and if you are lucky you will finally get to talk to a real, live person. But that person often has no real authority, and if they see that you are now in foreclosure, you are told to talk with the attorney handling that procedure.

And if you can finally get to talk with the lawyer, he/she tells you that you have to discuss your situation directly with your lender.

It’s time to stop this merry-go-round called “chase the lender.” Here are a few suggestions:

First, if your lender is a national bank, contact the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (occ.treas.gov) and file a complaint. This is a federal agency that regulates national banks, and banks must respond to the OCC on any complaints within 10 days.

Next, contact the congressman and senators in your state. Presumably, you are a registered voter, and one of the responsibilities of a legislator is to resolve constituents’ issues.

Next, see if your state has any foreclosure-relief programs.

Finally, if all else fails, see if you can arrange a short sale so that at least you won’t have a foreclosure on your record.

Dear Benny: I enjoy reading your column, but I must disagree with your pet peeve regarding condominiums vs. HOAs. I have now read two different answers where you accuse the letter writer of referring to his or her condo as an HOA.

Neither writer did any such thing. They both were writing to ask you about actions taken by the governing board of the condo, which is commonly referred to as an HOA. Perhaps there is a distinction to be drawn between the two in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, but in California, for example, the governing board of a condominium is called the HOA.

Similarly, bylaws and CC&Rs are used interchangeably when describing the rules governing the building; it really depends on what attorney draws up the papers.

I could understand if your pet peeve was describing a TIC or co-op as a condo, but there really is no confusing the issue when someone writes in to ask about the governance of their building. –Bill

Dear Bill: You are not the only Californian who wrote me about my “pet peeve.” Others — including an acquaintance who apparently was on a community association board in your state — have the same objections.

I checked with reputable and experienced lawyers around the country (including Arizona and Washington state) and they have all confirmed my opinion that there is a legal distinction between a condo and a homeowners association.

However, a California lawyer did say that although he agrees with my legal position, in your state the terms are used interchangeably.

So, in the future, I will continue to raise my pet peeve, but with a California caveat. As always, I appreciate hearing from readers on any subject, pro or con.

Benny Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to benny@inman.com.

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