Golden Valley resident Rose McGee’s home of 18 years was sold last May.
But the bank that sold it didn’t bother to let McGee know about the sale until June. She was still living there.
Like so many others, things went downhill after she lost her job, McGee explained at a Capitol press conference Jan. 16. She was involved in discussions with her mortgage company — she’s listening, she’s believing, McGee said — until one day she called to inquire about the status of her home to learn that it had been sold.
“‘You’re kidding, right? You really don’t mean that?’” she recalled saying in disbelief. “But they did mean that.”
District 45B Rep. Mike Freiberg lives three blocks from McGee in Golden Valley and was aware of his neighbor’s plight. He and two other DFL lawmakers recently introduced a bill HF 83 seeking to protect homeowners from foreclosure and require more transparency from lenders.
“I feel like it’s taken on a life of its own, which is wonderful,” Freiberg said of his legislation.
Freiberg, an attorney, believes his neighbor was a victim of what is known as dual tracking.
“(Dual tracking is when) someone with the mortgage holder is ostensibly working to help you refinance your loans so you can stay in your home, while someone else who is not talking to you during that whole process is basically trying to kick you out of your house,” Freiberg said. “To me, this seems to be kind of immoral. I don’t see any good business justification for this process.”
Under the bill, mortgage companies must defer beginning the foreclosure process for 60 days upon receiving a loan modification request from a homeowner.
If the foreclosure process has already begun when a loan modification request comes in, the company again would need to stop for 60 days or until lender and borrower had reached agreement.
Borrowers who incur losses in cases of dual tracking may take civil actions under the bill. Reasonable attorney fees could be recovered. Other provisions require mandatory mediation if requested by the borrower, lenders must provide homeowners with a single points of contact in their company and extra protections is given for military veterans.
The foreclosure problem isn’t unique to his neighborhood, Freiberg said. When campaigning for office he noticed empty homes all over the legislative district.
Housing Finance and Policy Committee Chairwoman Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, said there were more than 21,000 foreclosures in Minnesota in 2011. Numbers are down, but still three times higher than in 2005, according to Clark.
“It’s big,” Clark said of the scope of the problem.
Clark is upbeat about the chances of Freiberg’s bill.
McGee has legal representation and is fighting the foreclosure process.
“What I discovered is that people don’t know where to go to fight,” said McGee, a poet with a fondness for quoting poet Langston Hughes. “It’s just ridiculous, is all I can say.”
Freiberg’s bill had its first House committee hearing Jan. 14, where it was referred to the Housing Finance and Policy Committee.
A petition on Change.org calling for Citibank to issue McGee a new mortgage has received more than 200 signatures. In November YouTube video posted by OccupyHomesMN, Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris said he supported McGee and her efforts.
“Rose has been a wonderful member of our community for decades, and we’d like to keep it that way,” he said. “We appreciate the community rallying around her and supporting her at this time, not only today, but for the future, so we can have her here for many more years to come.”