MSN had a fascinating article this week about a woman who's been living in her house, mortgage free, for 25 years. It's fascinating both because of the results, and because of the vagueness with which her defenses are described:
Patsy Campbell could tell you a thing or two about fighting foreclosure. She's been fighting hers for 25 years.The 71-year-old retired insurance saleswoman has been living in her house, a two-story on a half-acre in a tidy middle-class neighborhood here in central Florida, since 1978. The last time she made a mortgage payment was October 1985.....
Campbell's foreclosure case has outlasted two marriages, three recessions and four presidents. She has seen seven great-grandchildren born, plum real-estate markets come and go and the ownership of her mortgage change six times. Many Florida real-estate lawyers say it is the longest-lasting foreclosure case they have ever heard of.
Campbell has challenged her foreclosure on the grounds that her mortgage was improperly transferred between banks and federal agencies, that lawyers for the bank had waited too long to prosecute the case, that a Florida law shields her from all her creditors and for dozens of other reasons. Once, she questioned whether there really was a debt at all, saying the lender improperly separated the note from the mortgage contract.
While the story is interesting and all, I'd be interested to know (a) how much of that 25 years was time in between suits -- that is, when there was no litigation pending at all, and (b) how much of that time was simply the delays brought on by court systems; I had an appeal last 18 months once on a simple procedural issue, and the fact that it took 18 months had nothing to do with my efforts at all.
I'd also like to know how valid the defenses actually are; one lawyer quoted in the story suggests that they're not very valid:
"This is every lender's nightmare," says Robert Summers, a Stuart, Fla., real-estate lawyer who represents Commercial Services of Perry, an Iowa-based buyer of distressed debt, which own Campbell's mortgage and has been trying to foreclose. "Someone defending a foreclosure action can raise defenses that are baseless, but are obstacles for the foreclosing lender," he says, calling the system "an unfair burden" for lenders.
The story doesn't mention whether the homeowner has ever been punished for raising baseless defenses, and a baseless defense is one thing in the eyes of the other lawyer -- every lawyer I've met has thought every claim raised against them was baseless, no matter how stupid they were for thinking that -- and another in the eyes of the Courts. (As I pointed out here.)
What I know is this: Whenever a story like that makes the news, I field calls for 2 or 3 weeks from current and prospective clients who expect me to be able to do the same thing -- so thanks, media, for not bothering to learn the details and provide them in that article; I enjoy spending up to 1/3 of my time in the office explaining to people why their foreclosure isn't necessarily going to be the same as that woman's, and in the process often dashing the hopes of people who thought MSN's story was promising them a free house.