Facing the loss of their home in the tiny northwest Ohio village of Gibsonburg, Jeffrey and Katrina Weickert pleaded for more time.
Instead, lawyers for their mortgage holder asked a judge in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court to expedite foreclosure proceedings.
Now, Mr. and Mrs. Weickert are using the court system to fight back. They are among thousands of homeowners nationwide who are challenging the right of mortgage servicing companies and trustees to commence foreclosure proceedings.
"We have 20 of these cases pending all over northwestern Ohio," said John Murray, a lawyer with the Sandusky firm of Murray & Murray.
Few of the complaints deny that homeowners have fallen behind in mortgage payments. Rather, they typically question whether mortgage servicing firms and trustees seeking foreclosure have the right to sue.
It's often a legitimate question, said Lauren Saunders, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center in Washington. In the mortgage craze that led to the economic crisis, proper documentation sometimes wasn't finished on behalf of investment trusts that own most mortgages, she explained.
Cynthia Fischer, a Cincinnati lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the Weickert case, declined to comment.
Pittsburgh-based Home Loan Services Inc., one of the parties suing the Weickerts, is seeking to move the case from a state court in Fremont to U.S. District Court in Toledo. Judge Jack Zouhary has asked each party to submit briefs on the transfer question by March 2.
Mr. Murray, who represents the Weickerts, will urge the judge to return the case to Sandusky County.
He has filed a counter-claim against the plaintiffs and is seeking to turn the matter into a class-action suit on behalf of homeowners in similar straits.
Mr. and Mrs. Weickert couldn't be reached for comment.
The foreclosure suit against them, which if successful will lead to a sheriff's sale of their East Stevenson Street residence, was filed July 17 by trustee Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. on behalf of an investment trust called FFMLT 2005-FF8. It says the Weickerts owe $82,000 on a loan taken out in 2005 for their house in the 2,500-person village 30 miles southeast of Toledo.
"We do not deny the fact that we owe the debt," the Weickerts said in a letter to the court Aug. 14. "We have only had one income in the household since February of this year." Both are working again, the letter said, and the couple asked for time to catch up.
Judge Harry Sargeant, Jr., a Sandusky County judge, didn't rule on the plaintiff's request for expedited judgment. But in an initial ruling Dec. 23, he rejected the Weickerts' claim that the mortgage holders failed to comply properly with information requests from the couple's attorney.
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