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U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) is advocating home-owners threatened with foreclosure exercise squatter's rights in trying to stave off the loss of their house.
"I'm saying to them possession is 99 percent of the law; you stay in your house," Miss Kaptur said yesterday, continuing a crusade she started several weeks ago in Congress and CNN picked up Thursday night.
She said she believes that many so-called predatory and subprime loans - those made to borrowers who did not qualify for a conventional mortgage - may have been illegal.
She urged homeowners not to panic and leave their home just because they receive a foreclosure notice from their lender, and she said they should demand that the mortgage-holder produce a mortgage audit.
"I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don't you leave," she said during a speech in Congress earlier this month.
Miss Kaptur was interviewed Thursday night on CNN by Lou Dobbs, and a CNN report cited a woman who lives on Cass Road in South Toledo as an example of the trend of homeowners ignoring foreclosure notices from their lender.
But Jim Moody, a Realtor who is running for mayor of Toledo as a Republican, said Miss Kaptur may be misleading people into thinking they can stop a legal foreclosure once a judge has issued an order.
"I think those are dangerous statements," Mr. Moody said. "What's she going to say when the sheriff comes and puts all their stuff on the street when they didn't leave because Marcy Kaptur said they could stay and become a squatter?
"I think she's clueless. This is goofy. Of course, the attorneys file the proper paperwork," Mr. Moody said.
Allen Seelenbinder, a Toledo-based mortgage banker with Main Street Financial, said the only audit the borrower is entitled to is an audit of the borrower's payments.
Asked if the mortgage lender is required to prove that its loan was made properly and that the borrower was qualified to sign the loan, he said, "absolutely not - you're under a contract that you both signed.
"The only audit they're required to provide to you is that the payments that you made are made correctly. It's a transaction history," he said.
But Sandusky lawyer Dan McGookle, who is representing a homeowner trying to have a predatory loan rescinded, said mortgage firms may not be able to prove they complied with truth-in-lending laws and other state and federal procedures.
"We have strong reason to believe that a majority of the mortgage loans made in the last 10 years are defective - unenforceable for various reasons," Mr. McGookle said.
Ironically, Mr. Moody agreed that people threatened with foreclosure should try to work out a solution and should stay in the home as long as possible.
Cathleen Tillman, director of the Lucas County Sheriff's Department's civil section, which carries out court-ordered foreclosures and evictions, also said people should remain in the homes until the deed has been transferred, and not to abandon a home that is still listed in their name.
"The foreclosure takes a long time," she said. More than 4,000 foreclosure actions were filed in 2008 in Lucas County, and the sheriff's department carried out 85 foreclosure-related evictions.
Miss Kaptur said she started advocating that homeowners fight foreclosure by staying their home after it became clear that the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry passed last year was not working as intended by Congress.
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