New America Media, News Report, Aaron Glantz,
But Chavez, who has lived in the house in Oakland’s Fruitvale District for 30 years, says he doesn’t want to leave.
So even after the bank foreclosed on his home in April, Chavez stayed on. He saved as much as he could from his job as a security guard and in June and July was able to send a series of checks to the bank totaling $5,300.
But much to his surprise, the bank returned his money.
“They told me to forget about making payments, that the house was already foreclosed, that I had to move, to get out,” Chavez said. He said the bank has given him until September 30th to vacate the property or be forcibly removed.
Chavez was among the dozens of troubled homeowners and renters who showed up at Oakland’s First Congregational Church this past Saturday to get free advice from housing counselors certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“I want to know if I should just go ahead and get out or if there’s any chance that I can stay on,” he said, with a packet of loan documents, bank statements, and cancelled checks arranged on his lap.
The “Your Home, Your Rights” event -- the first in a series of forums around the country -- was organized by HUD and the non-profit ethnic media service New America Media.
The organizations put the forum on in part, because the foreclosure crisis has led to an unprecedented number of mortgage scammers, who have been defrauding struggling borrowers out of the very funds they need to save their homes.
“Their methods are always changing,” said David Lim, the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney in charge of real estate fraud.
“As soon as I tell you what they’re doing, they’ll change their tactics,” he said. “But their goal is always the same. They want to separate as much money from you as they can while doing the minimum amount of work.”
Since the foreclosure crisis began a year and a half ago, the California Department of Real Estate has initiated more than 600 enforcement actions against shady brokers, while the State Bar of California has opened more than 4,000 investigations into attorneys accused of scamming troubled homeowners.
Chuck Hauptman, HUD’s regional director for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said the main point troubled homeowners should remember is that they should go to a free, government-certified housing counselor.
“If you’re in a situation where you need to get help, it doesn’t cost you a thing,” said Hauptman, who gave out HUD’s main complaint line (1-800-347-3739) as well as his direct line at work (415-989-6536).
A new California law passed last year made it illegal for anyone to charge for loan modification services up front.
According to HUD, more than 2.4 million Americans are expected to lose their homes to foreclosure this year, with the number of California foreclosure filings rising dramatically over the summer.
Nearly 350,000 California homes have been foreclosed in the last six months.
The next housing rights forum organized by HUD and New America Media will be held this Wednesday, September 15, in Stockton at 5:30pm at the Cathedral of the Annunciation gymnasium, 1110 North Lincoln Street.
Forums are also planned for October 14 in San Bernardino and October 16 in Los Angeles. The exact times and locations of those events have not yet been set.