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Michigan senior too late to stop foreclosure, town fights back

Wayne County residents may have heard the recent story about an unorthodox foreclosure in a neighboring county. The details are chilling, and may raise questions about what actions our readers can take to stop foreclosure in their own situations.

The story involves a woman in her mid-eighties who lives alone in a condo that she has owned for almost 30 years. She originally paid $60,000 for the condo, which is now valued at $100,000. Her association fee of $160 is automatically paid from her account every month, but last year she was assessed a repair fee of just over $340 above and beyond the monthly fee. That sum was not withdrawn electronically and the owner never saw a bill.

When the assessment went unpaid, the association moved to quickly foreclose upon the unit. Allegedly a notice was left on her door that her home was going to be auctioned off; again, the owner did not see this supposed notice. An investor won the property at auction, and because the entire affair was occurring unbeknownst to her, she took no action during a six-month window. Now the investor is trying to have her evicted.

Fortunately, by now the homeowner has sought legal representation and, with the community aware and involved, a judge has ruled that she can pay rent and continue living in her home while litigation proceeds. Community members are using this episode to highlight unscrupulous tactics often perpetrated against elder homeowners in particular, who may face financial challenges.

Wayne County seniors are similarly feeling the effects of a struggling economy and some lenders will see them as vulnerable targets. Our bankruptcy law blog last week discussed the automatic stay that goes into effect with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, and this also holds true for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Senior citizens may be able to use this information to protect themselves from foreclosure actions and other debt collection tactics.

A legal professional can help educate residents about their rights and options under the U.S. bankruptcy code. They need to know that there are measures are available to help when threatened with foreclosure.

Source: Oakland Press, "Oakland County residents support elderly woman, 85, fighting to stay in condo," Jameson Cook, June 29, 2014

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