Bonding with the Mortgage Company

We left you last month with our brave heroine winning the shootout in the 7th District Court (see Order in the Court).   The attorney in the black hat and ivory handled briefcase demanded $5,000 from the heroine to cover the evil mortgage company’s legal fees in the event that her case is lost at trial.  But since she was poor, the judge (its not clear whether or not he is a hanging judge) came to the rescue and ordered that the amount be covered by a surety bond in which our girl would only have to pay approximately 10%.  She was left hanging on the cliff of anxiety for 30 days until the attorney in the white hat found a bonding agent, a humble man wearing a green shade and sleeve garters from a local insurance company.  He assisted in the application process to determine whether the heroine was in possession of enough assets to be approved by the bonding company or whether she would need a co-signer (oh, where, oh, where would she find one of those!)  The application was submitted and after a very short breath-holding time, she was informed that she was not only approved, but that the bonding company was only requesting a $100 premium, not the $500 premium that her attorney had indicated.  Victory!  The bond was issued and signed and she took it home to await further instructions from her hero in the white hat.

One would think that this would be the happy ending to the story, but… no!  When I returned home there was a message on the answering machine from the guy at the insurance company.  I called his office, but he wasn’t at his desk.  There was a knock at the door as I hung up the phone.  It was him!  It turns out that he issued the wrong kind of bond (I had wondered about his hesitancy to issue a bond – I thought it was because of my financial situation).  Instead of the Replevins Bond that I held in my hand, he felt it MIGHT need to be an Injunction Bond.  He wasn’t sure as this was a first time experience for his company (and my attorney and the court in the county in which I reside).  He snatched the first bond out of my hand and returned to his office to research the issue at hand.  At the very end of the day, he called to say he had resubmitted my original application to see if I could be approved for an Injunction Bond.  At the end of the NEXT day, Wednesday, he called to say that he had not received approval yet.  The deadline to have it posted at the courthouse was Thursday.  Oh, agony, oh, stress.  Thursday morning, the nice insurance man calls with good and bad news.  The new bond application had been approved and they were still only asking for $100.  However, the bond company, based in South Dakota, mailed the bond.

Part three of this serial adventure brings us to a very panicked phone call to my attorney to ask if he would be able to extend the deadline or if he will be visiting me in jail.  Gasp!  He quickly called the judge who told him to call the opposing attorney and get permission from THEM and was finally granted an additional 7 days extension.  On Monday morning, the insurance man called to say he received the bond and I just needed to come in and sign it.  Being reliant on transportation, I was unable to pick it up until afternoon, then called my attorney to find out what to do with it.  The person answering his phone did not know and explained that NObody knew as this was a new situation.  She called back later in the day to say that I just needed to take it to the courthouse and post it in the civil department, NOT the bonds department with the warning to be sure to get a receipt to fax to my attorney so he can get a copy immediately to the opposing attorney.  If anything else needed to be done, they would find out after that.

Tuesday (the new deadline is Thursday), finds us in the courthouse in the afternoon when I could get a ride.  Following is a loose transcript of events:

There was no civil department window.  At the bonds window:

Me:  “Hello, I need to post this civil bond.”

Clerk: “Okay, let me look up the warrant.  What’s the name?”

Me:  “Christine Rodriguez, but there is no warrant, it’s not that kind of bond.  It’s a civil bond for foreclosure.”

Clerk: “Oh, you’ll need to take it to the Court Records window.  That’s where they post the civil bonds.”

Me:  “Thank you.”  I step five steps over to the right to the Court Records and stand in line for 20 minutes.  Finally, it’s my turn:

Me:  “Hello, I need to post this bond.”

Clerk:  “Oh, you’ll need to take it over to the bonds window.”

Me:  “No, they just sent me over here.  It’s a civil bond for foreclosure.”

Clerk: “Oh, well let me find the warrant.”

Me:  “There is no warrant.  It’s not that kind of bond.  It’s for foreclosure.”

Clerk:  “Oh, there’s a warrant.  There’s always a warrant for a bond.”

Me:  “No, this is different.  It’s not that kind of bond.  This is a new kind of bond and it doesn’t require a warrant.”

Clerk:  “There has to be a warrant.  We can’t post a bond without one.”

Me:  “There is no warrant.”

Clerk:  “Let me ask someone else.”

To cut to the chase, the bond was passed to three other clerks.  Finally, one clerk in the BONDS department took it and said for the fifth time, “This is a different kind of bond.  We’ve never had one like this.  Let me check to see if the bonding company is even legitimate.”  She took the bond to the back of the room behind a cubicle for about 20 minutes while I sweated it out in front of the protective glass.  Finally, she returns and declares, “Okay, it’s been posted.  You’re all set.”

Me:  “My attorney said to be sure to get a receipt.”

Clerk:  “There is no receipt.”

Me:  “My attorney said we absolutely had to have a receipt.”

Clerk:  “There is no receipt because no cash was exchanged.”

Me:  “Can I get a printout from the computer showing it’s been posted?”

Clerk:  “No, we don’t do that.  What do you need it for?”

Me:  “My attorney said we needed it for his records and to send proof to the opposing attorney that the bond was posted.”

Clerk:  “There is no receipt or print out.  Tell your attorney he can look in the repository and see that it has been posted.”

Me:  “Okay.”

I called my attorney when I returned home to tell him that I could not get a receipt.  The person answering the phone said that was weird.  My county does things differently than everywhere else she said.  I told her I wasn’t surprised considering how this event has unfolded thus far.  She said she would let the attorney know and hoped it would be okay since the deadline is Thursday.  I hope so, too.

Pecking Order

There is currently a huge movement in the U.S.  More and more urbanites are becoming backyard chicken farmers (see http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2011/June/Backyard-Chickens-All-the-Rage-in-the-Big-Apple/).  Whether it is a fad, economics, healthy eating or an animal hobby, there are more and more people adding chickens to their list of necessities.  I had been wanting to own a small flock for a long time and finally got the chance when I purchased my 1/3 acre home replete with lawns, garden space, patio, sheds and a variety of fruit and nut trees.

Our 90 year old home had recently been remodeled, but the yard had been fallow for over five years.  After the guys raked up the two foot deep debris littering the entire yard and mowed the knee high grass and weeds, we discovered that whole entire armies of every kind of bug you can think of had made our yard its habitat.  And without the protective cover, they went on the move.  There wasn’t enough bug spray in Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware or Walmart combined to kill all the bugs – and some of them were beneficials which we would need when we got the gardens going.  Time for organic methods.

My sister brought over her old 5′ x 6′ coop and after building a shaky chicken wire run, we bought two bantams, Archie and Edith.  Bantams are the best bug eaters in the world next to anteaters.  They started gobbling up the bugs and within a couple of weeks, the ground in our yard was no longer “moving”.  Chickens are so entertaining to watch, that we decided we needed more and bought a banty hen named Big Mama, and her three daughters.  We soon learned that there is an unkind pecking order with chickens and even though Big Mama and the girls were the newest, they were also the biggest and eldest.  They picked on poor Edith.  The neighbors picked on Archie when he started crowing (all day and all night – worse than a barking dog) and animal control informed me of the city ordinances.  I could have up to five registered hens, but no roosters.  Archie got relocated and Edith died of a broken heart.  After that experience, we were more careful about housing the chickens together too soon.  Now we have a 10′ x 10′ coop with a 10′ x 10′ dog kennel chicken yard and currently have 7 regular laying hens (Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds) and one pretty little bantam, Winnie, who all provide us (and friends and neighbors) with two and half dozen eggs weekly.

Benefits of owning a personal flock of chickens:

  • No waste.  After recycling the approved items with the city, and feeding all food scraps to the chickens, we only have one bag of trash to dispose of each week.
  • Compost.  If you are a gardener or landscaper, you can fully appreciate the advantage of owning chickens.  The chicken yard is the compost bin.  We throw in all food scraps, weeds, grass, soiled straw from the coop and rabbit pen, windblown fruits and vegetables and the chickens eat it, scratch it, and add fresh manure which is dug out twice a year, “cooked” for another year and put on all plants and trees.
  • Insect, weed, and vermin eradication.  Chickens will eat most all bugs, spiders, centipedes, scorpions and small vermin like mice and voles.  They also eat huge quantities of weeds and if contained in a “tractor” will completely clear a spot of ground in hours.
  • Food.  Home grown eggs are not less expensive than store bought, but are more safe and nutritional (see http://handcraftedcoops.com/home-raised-eggs-offer-superior-nutrition ).  At least I know what my chickens are eating and that they are happy and healthy.  Also, if you’re not squeamish and your chickens aren’t pets, you will have a source of organic poultry for your freezer.  However, most city ordinances prohibit any kind of animal butchering.  You may have to seek out a local butcher or farmer to do the dirty deed.

Other eggcellent reasons can be found on this site, http://www.goodfoodworld.com/2011/05/a-dozen-reasons-to-have-urban-chickens/.

What will happen to my chickens if I lose my home?  No problem.  The coop is portable and they will either go with me or find a new home at my sister’s homestead or my son’s horse farm.  I can visit them any time.  Think you might want to venture forth into the backyard poultry craze?  Try http://www.backyardchickens.com/ for more information.

Survival of the Unfittest

There have been a lot of inquiries asking how I survived financially during the waiting period after applying for disability. Fortunately, I documented everything and kept great notes because the medications I was on pretty much wiped out my short term memory. While barely able to function, I still understood how important it would be to my future and the future of my youngest son still in college and living at home to make the right decisions.

There is a five month to two year waiting period for SSDI in my state during which time there is no income while you are unable to work. Even if you qualify for unemployment, you cannot apply unless you are able to work. What really helped us out was the accidental timing. I had become more and more ill while working and finally felt I needed to take some leave to try to recover. It became apparent closer to the end of the 12 week family leave from November through February, that I would never be able to return to this job and probably never work again. That decision was extremely difficult as I always felt I would work until the day I died. How were we going to make it?

I started a notebook and listed all of my assets and bills. First, we did the obvious and dropped unnecessary services like cable, sold extra items around the house, and used coupons, discounts and sales with every shopping trip. It was tax time so the hefty return I expected would be a huge advantage. After retiring in February and applying for both state retirement disability and social security disability and hiring a disability attorney to speed things up, there was a good chunk of money in my final paycheck which I recieved in March. We had Care Credit (a medical credit card), and three other credit cards with limits from $500 to $1,200 which all had $0 to very low balances as I always kept up on my payments. We would need all of our cash and credit cards for monthly bills. In April, I applied for Food Stamps and Medicaid and switched as many of my medical appointments to a sliding scale fee based clinic. If you look online, there are many pharmaceutical companies that will send you free prescriptions if you qualify based on income. Zero income qualifies. That took care of the immediate and short term financial situation.

Long term, I needed to concentrate on my mortgage, the largest monthly payment that could not be paid by most of the methods listed above. At least not indefinately. Of course, the first thing I did was communicate my concerns to my mortgage lender. They were not sympathetic and could think of no other alternative than to pay in full each month and every month or go into foreclosure. Nice. The loan officer at my bank who gave me the original mortgage tried his best to refinance my current loan, but said my interest rates were already as low as they could get and even after paying five years of principal, the economy had reduced the value of my home so there was no equity and I would have had to pay an additional $3,000 down on another loan with payments only minutely smaller than my current one. Next. After calling a half dozen mortgage assitance agencies, they said I had done all that I could do and there was nothing they could offer to help out.

By this time in July, I was accepted for state disability and started receiving monthly payments plus back pay to the day I applied. I called my mortgage company back and offered to make partial payments to cover principal and interest each month until I was accepted for disability. I sent a partial payment to show good intent. They kept it, but didn’t count it as a payment. They said they wouldn’t accept partial payments and I wasn’t eligible for mortgage forebearance unless I had an income of at least $1,000 a month which I did not. At this point, I stopped making mortgage payments and started doing research on how I could stay in my home as it would be a hardship to move while disabled.

Just as my cash stash was tapped out and the credit cards maxxed, I was approved for SSDI and payments began in December with back pay and medicaid coverage to last January. I paid off the credit card bills with the back pay and sent the medicaid number to all my pharmacists, physicians, etc. and received refunds for services received during that time. More bill catch up and here I am with a disability income approximately the same as my working income without insurance or benefits.

The fight for my home continues as documented in previous blogs, but I have confidence that it will work out in the end. If you know someone who needs to be on disability, but doesn’t think they can make it financially during the long waiting period, please refer them to http://www.thedisabilitydigest.com. It is the best resource out there.

Order in the Court!

Attorney’s office called yesterday afternoon to ask me to attend the Temporary Injunction Hearing this morning (which was actually scheduled on June 7th) so I was a wreck last night.  Apologies to all for listening to my clonazepam induced ramblings and thanks to all who attended to me.  I am grateful to have so many friends who care.  Let’s see if I can make this short and sweet.  The hearing was AWESOME!  Short transcript to follow (my lame layman version).

Shortly after my attorney and I talked on Monday, an attorney for my bank filed an appearance.  They are NOT objecting to a preliminary injunction.  That means they don’t have a problem with me staying in the home for now.  They did want some bond money each month.  Our objective at this point was to convince them of how poor I am.  No problemo.  I typed out a budget sheet for my attorney.

At the hearing, the judge read the Idaho Code pertaining to the situation and couldn’t find a way around the bond issue.  He asked the mortgage attorney what they were thinking of in terms of a bond.  Their attorney stated that they, of course, wanted the full past due amount and regular payements of $736 a month.  My attorney objected stating that the bank holds the property in collateral and they forced me to pay for mortgage protection insurance that would pay them in full  in case of default on the debt. He said that they were doubly covered and are not losing anything if I don’t pay a bond.  He stated his interpretation of the Code saying that it was entirely up to the court to decide.

The mortgage attorney then asked for a $9,000 bond.  My attorney objects again.  He tells the court what my financial situation consists of, reminds the judge that the bond is at the discretion of the court and states that the mortgage is protected by insurance, that they hold the property itself and therefore, a bond is a third security.  The mortgage attorney claims that their company will be damaged in the difficult economic times if they don’t retain a bond.  The judge reminds the mortgage attorney that they did not object to the injunction and therefore the Plaintiff will more that likely prevail, so why must they insist on a bond?

The mortgage attorney holds his position and insists on $9,000 and $730 a month bond which is standard due to a low down payment, claiming they need security, if for nothing else but legal fees.  The judge agrees that according to Idaho Code, there must be some bond and asks the mortgage attorney if they object to a surety bond.  The mortgage attorney agrees and the judge set the surety bond at $5,000 (no additional monthly payment) due and payable within 30 days.  The judge asks the attorneys how long the bond will hold as there was no deadline in the Code.  The mortgage attorney stated that it has been taking them about 12 months to build a case.  Court was adjourned.

Recap:  My attorney explained to me that I will get to stay in my home for another year at least, that I need to pay $500 (10% of bond) to a surety bond agency which he will find for me, that he will continue to fight for the title free and clear, but at the very least can negotiate for the lowest possible mortgage payment if that is what we have to settle for.  This means that the battle is half won!  One year with no mortgage payment, another year with a $500 payment.  Why aren’t more people fighting foreclosure!  Would you?

A Personal History of Foreclosure

On Sundays, I like to dabble in one of my favorite hobbies, the pursuit of my family history or geneology.  This is a very new interest and has proven to be an adventure full of surprises.  My maternal grandmother did tell us stories as children, mostly of her pioneer background.  She was a modest, quiet person, who sported an unusually regal bearing for her perceived background.  In fact, when she worked as a waitress in a small cafe for a time in the 1980’s, a young, up and coming artist sketched her as she sipped her afternoon coffee.  A few years ago, my sister attended an art show in a nearby city and found a watercolor painting of Grandma in a stack of canvases for sale.  She recognized her immediately and asked the artist about it.  The artist told her the story of this woman who waitressed in the small coffee shop and how she was stricken by her unusual stately physical attitude.  When my sister told her it was our grandmother, the artist was thrilled to give her the painting as she had always wondered over the years just who the woman was.

It turns out that this unlikely pioneer’s daughter and farmer’s wife harbored the genes of royalty.  My sister and I find it difficult to believe that we are the product of such greats as King Henry I and Henry II of England as portrayed in movies and books like Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, The Lion in Winter, and Beckett.  That we were in direct line of Richard the Lionheart from the Tales of Robin Hood.  Related to El Cid, Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and many more kings, queens and lesser royalty who ruled in many countries spanning the ages from before 400 AD through late 1100 AD.  There are other greats also, including John Drake, brother of Sir Francis Drake who did not produce issue or heir.  After showing my sister this lineage, she declared, “What happened to us?!”  I laughed and replied, “The great European women met and fell in love with the handsome Danish farmers who brought them to America to become Mormons in Zion and that was the end of that.”

However, if you read about the history of these people who ruled the world, you will see that it is not all romance and opulance.  It seems to me that royal lives were always precariously in danger, that they were often cold hungry, and ill, and their homes constantly being taken from them.  Given these circumstances, I suppose I am genetically predisposed to hardship, but like my ancestors, am willing to don the armor of war and fight for my right to keep what I deem to be mine.  Who will join me in this battle against the greedy land grabbers?

A Temporary Life

In spite of my attorney assuring me that I can go ahead and plant my gardens this summer, I am still reluctant to go through a lot of work and trouble in case I am asked to leave.  Also, I am unable to do as much as I used to and last year was too ill to work in the garden at all which resulted in a three foot high overgrowth in the beds and pathways this year.  Very discouraging.  But, I did go ahead and weed the mailbox garden and have had the front lawn mowed weekly in order to keep the neighbors from mobbing my house with pitchforks and torches.

So my brother-in-law gave me a few vegetable starts on our last visit and I couldn’t bear to see them just sit in their little pots and die unattended so my practical sister suggested I do container gardening this year.  That way, if I have to move, they can go with me.  It also turned out to be much easier on my poor body.  I got to sit in a chair and plant on a little table top and my son helped me move the containers (one half-barrel, two Earth Boxes, two tree size nursery pots and two large planter pots) over to the side of the house right next to the water faucet so I won’t have to walk far to take care of them!  With any luck, I’ll be able to harvest a small amount of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, six assorted sweet and hot pepper plants, a couple of broccoli and two cabbages, a mini-hubbard squash and a pumpkin.  I can add another container with some lettuce, radishes and green onions (I always have seed).  At least I won’t feel left out even though it is nowhere near what I usually plant each year.

There are temporary relationships, temporary jobs, temporary “situations”.  Practically everything in life is temporary, including life itself!  But, the satisfaction I will get from being at least a little self-sufficient will stick with me for a very long time.

The Waiting Game, *sigh*

While I wait for a random Category 5 solar storm to create a Carrington Event (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/tom-bogdan-the-sky-at-night-stops-me-from-sleeping-2296759.htm) that will wipe out the computer registration of my title/deed and any evidence of my mortgage loan (and possibly throw us back into a third world country status), maybe I could hire H.A.A.R.P. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Frequency_Active_Auroral_Research_Program ) to direct a mega tornado or bank destroying earthquake just to the specific area of my records.  Oh, wait.  The people who run the banks are probably the same people who own H.A.A.R.P.  Drat, back to the research board.

After learning about MERS http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/business/06mers.html which is the type of loan I have, I started calling around for an attorney.  Found one in my area and started proceedings for my foreclosure defense.  He sent two letters requesting the mortgage company to “produce the note” http://www.proofofnote.com/ .  They didn’t.  The day before my foreclosure sale, the attorney filed a restraining order against the sale and stopped it until a hearing can be scheduled between the attorneys and the district judge that signed the order.  This will take awhile.  So far, I have been living in my home “rent” free for one year.  At first I felt guilty, but when my attorney explained that the mortgage company will get paid through the insurance I was required to purchase at the time of my sale, and reminded me that I had offered to work out an alternative payment arrangement which they refused, I no longer felt as if I was “robbing the bank”.

What will happen now?  There is still a chance that I will lose my home.  Other cases that he has completed have mixed outcomes.  Some clients have opted to work out new payment arrangements with the mortgage company, one client has won the title to their home free and clear, nobody has been evicted to date, and some of them have been living in their homes for over two years while the process continues.

While I wait, I try new things to keep my mind and “devil’s playthings” busy.  I learn to blog, to quilt and to try and find my way back from the Inner Sanctum, a veritable labyrinth of padded brain cells.  Anyone willing to lend a helping hand or guiding light?  Comments welcome.

Falling down – not recommended!

There is no age limit for adversity.  We all experience it in life, some more than others. One out of 600 homes nationwide is currently in foreclosure.  Two years ago, I never imagined I would become a part of this statistic.  I never missed a mortgage payment, was never late, bills were paid on time, credit was in great shape.  Then illness struck.  Everyone in foreclosure has a story, whether it was a bad adjustable rate mortgage, sudden unemployment, MERS, illness, bankruptcy or other unexpected fall from financial grace.

I think my situation is a lot like falling down.  When I was young I fell down on purpose thinking it was funny to entertain my friends with clownish antics.  It didnt hurt… much… not more than a bandaid.  Have you fallen lately?  I don’t recommend it.  Now, it hurts.  The older you get, the harder the fall, there is much more at stake.

Being the stubborn type, I took the proactive approach which may soften the blow.  When I realized I was not going to be able to return to work after a 12 week leave, I began weaving a safety net.  After some extensive research on disability, I started the paperwork with SSDI.  One of the best resources I found was The Disability Digest at http://www.thedisabilitydigest.com.  It turned out to be my ace in the hole, so to speak.  An invaluable support system.  I also hired a disability attorney which speeded up the process.  In my opinion, it was well worth the money.  I was careful to bypass legal counsel on several other occasions including pro se divorce and bankruptcy to have my massive medical bills dismissed.  That worked out fine, but in this instance, time was not on my side.  It often can take years to be approved for disability.  I filed in January 2010 and was approved in October 2010.  Employment checks ended in March and my State Employee’s Disibility began in July, but that only provided about 1/3 of what I was getting from my regular monthly paycheck.

As soon as the disability procedure was in play, I took all the steps I could to avoid foreclosure, including applying to refinance my mortgage.  Because the value of my home had declined and there was only five years of equity, the reduction would not have been enough to make a big enough change in my monthly payments.  I called several other mortgage assistance agencies, but did not qualify for assistance.  Of course, I kept in touch with the mortgage company and asked them to temporarily reduce my payments.  They not only wouldn’t cooperate (like absolutely EVERYone of my other creditors, but when I sent a partial payment (my last payment to them) in July, they not only did not return it, but also did not apply it to the principal or interest.  They just kept it and sent a statement with the full monthly payment owing and past due.  I was livid!  This meant war. 

Are you sitting on the edge of your seat yet?  BTW, if this blog is the book I’m supposed to write, and each chapter is a year of my life, then this segment of my life is Chapter 61.  No fair peeking at the end of the story!