Monthly Archives: September 2015

2015
09/30

Category:
Mortgages

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Leaked Audit Reveals That Many Seattle Mortgages Are Void

An audit of land records commissioned by the Seattle City Council and leaked to local activists found that many mortgages held within the city are void, meaning that foreclosures based on them are illegal and unenforceable.

The revelation makes the King County recording offices where the documents are held “a massive crime scene, writes David Dayen at The Intercept.

The audit was conducted by McDonnell Property Analytics, a forensic analyst firm specializing in mortgage documents. The findings could cast doubt on mortgage agreements nationwide.

Dayen continues:

The problems stem from the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), an entity banks created so they could transfer mortgages privately, saving them billions of dollars in transfer fees to public recording offices. In Washington state, MERS’ practices were found illegal by the State Supreme Court in 2012. But MERS continued those practices with only cosmetic changes, the audit found. …

Christopher King, a Seattle-area real estate professional who makes short films about the foreclosure crisis at MortgageMovies.net, confronted the City Council at its Monday night meeting. King has been among several Seattle-area activists demanding that council members pay attention to fraud in the public records, even inviting them to public seminars on the issue. …

In every one of the 195 mortgage assignments reviewed by McDonnell Property Analytics, MERS attempted to transfer legal interests in the mortgage, which the Washington Supreme Court says it does not hold, to another entity.

By pretending to transfer interests that MERS does not own, the assignments are fraudulent under Washington law, the audit concludes. And all subsequent filings, and subsequent foreclosures, depending upon that invalidated assignment, are similarly void. The audit cites state law that makes filing false or forged documents to public offices a felony, with penalties of up to $5,000 and five years in prison. …

The audit’s recommendations include enforcing the felony laws, enacting mortgage fraud statutes with higher monetary penalties for filing false mortgage documents, and requiring all transfers of mortgage notes to be recorded. It even suggested trying to suspend MERS’ license to operate in Washington.

“The city is not being proactive in the face of ongoing lawlessness,” Christopher King wrote on his website when he announced the release of the audit.

Dayen quoted Marie McDonnell, an author of the audit, as writing: “Both legislative and prosecutorial action is necessary to protect the public. … The flooding of void title documents into public land recording offices throughout Washington must be stopped, as swiftly and surely as the public works department would stop the flow of waste water from a broken artery that threatened the public’s health and safety.”

Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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2015
09/30

Category:
Filing Bankruptcy

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RadioShack Creditors Sue Hedge Fund Over Chain’s Collapse

The lawsuit targets Standard General, its principal investment officer, company lender Wells Fargo Bank and RadioShack’s former top managers, including Joseph Magnacca, the former chief executive.

Reduced Price

Creditors accuse Magnacca of helping Standard General take over RadioShack at a reduced price in return for getting a position on the board of directors for another troubled retailer controlled by the hedge fund, T-shirt maker American Apparel, according to the complaint.

After filing bankruptcy, the company closed about half its 4,000 stores and in March sold about 1,700 of the remainder to Standard General, which had been the company’s biggest shareholder, for about $145.5 million.

Richard Hahn, a bankruptcy lawyer for Standard General, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail requesting comment on the lawsuit. Alfred Perez, a lawyer for Magnacca, and Cory Falgowski, an attorney for Wells Fargo, didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

2015
09/29

Category:
Filing Bankruptcy

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Bankruptcy: Should you file now or later?

INDIVIDUALS who have accumulated excessive debt are often left to ponder whether they should file bankruptcy in order to get out of debt.  Sometimes, these people feel that somehow, they’ve lost, failed, or that they will never have a chance to rebuild their credit again. Because we are living in a society where having a lot of credit cards has become the norm, they can’t imagine themselves without credit cards.

Of course, the truth is that credit cards only give us a sense of false security. Why? Because these plastic cards create the illusion of having money that you really don’t have in your bank account, that’s why. That is exactly how most people end up spending their money before they even earn it. And they wonder why they are broke every pay day no matter how hard they work.

If you find yourself over-extended and have tried living on a budget, doing financial counseling, etc. and still have not made great progress in repaying your debts, I applaud you at least for your efforts. However, your plan must be a realistic one or you will simply end up getting frustrated.  When you have incurred more debt that you can possibly repay, perhaps filing bankruptcy may be the only way to get debt relief. And in most cases, it’s not as complicated and as bad as what your creditors would like you to believe. As a matter of fact, most of the 1.5 million people who file for bankruptcy in the United States do just fine. They rebuild their credit after a few years and a lot of them are able buy homes just like everyone else.  Filing bankruptcy doesn’t have to be the end of the world. It is only a new beginning for those who really need it.

Suppose you have attempted to negotiate with your creditors to work out an affordable repayment plan but they simply would not work with you? Although you’ve told them repeatedly that you cannot afford to pay the entire amount, they refuse to cooperate and continue to threaten you with filing a lawsuit, obtaining a judgment and perhaps even garnishing your wages (which you know you cannot afford). What else can you do?  This may leave you no other option but to seek debt relief through our federal bankruptcy laws.

If you are drowning in debt, don’t wait until things get worse or you may regret not having acted sooner.  Waiting until the last minute also doesn’t give you enough time that you need to find a good attorney who can protect your interests. Remember that like doctors, not all lawyers are the same. You need a competent legal representative who understands the debt collection and bankruptcy laws and has had the experience of handling a lot of cases like yours. Hiring the wrong attorney can only make your situation worse.

For a free office consultation, please call Toll-Free 1 (866) 477-7772. We have offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Cerritos and Valencia.

* * *

None of the information herein is intended to give legal advice for any specific situation.  Atty. Ray Bulaon has successfully helped thousands of clients in getting out of debt. For a free attorney evaluation of your situation, please call  Ray Bulaon Law Offices at  TOLL FREE 1 (866) 477-7772. 

2015
09/28

Category:
Filing Bankruptcy

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Bankruptcy Basics – “Will I Lose My House in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?”

Almost daily I meet with families that have avoided filing for bankruptcy because they fear they will lose their home as part of the process. In this article I will discuss how you can know if your house will be put at risk by filing bankruptcy and discuss the different ways secured and unsecured debts are treating in the bankruptcy process.

Will I Lose My House?

Secured debts are treated different in bankruptcy than an unsecured debt. A secured debt is a debt that is secured by property or collateral of some sort. The most common secured debts are car loans and home loans. With these types of loans if you dont make the payment the care will be repossessed or the home foreclosed on.

For the most part it is no different if you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy. You must keep making the monthly payment on your home if you want to keep it while you are going through the bankruptcy process. If you dont make the house payment then, just like it would be if you werent in bankruptcy, the bank can ask the bankruptcy court to permit it to start the foreclosure process.

What if I have Equity in My House?

Over the last 4-6 years it almost seemed laughable that someone would have equity in their home here in Arizona. Due to the Great Recession nearly all Arizona homes were upside down where there was more owed on the home than it was worth.

As the housing market has improved I am starting to see families that do have equity in their homes, and sometimes quite a bit of equity. In Arizona you are permitted to have up to $150,000 in equity in your home that creditors cannot touch. This is true if you are going through bankruptcy as well.

So long as you continue to make the monthly house payment and dont have more than $150,000 in equity you are fine and you will not lose your home simply because you filed for bankruptcy.

What If I am Behind on My House Payment?

If you are behind on your house payments or if your house is in foreclosure then chapter 7 may not be the best chapter of bankruptcy to file and keep your house. You would likely want to file a chapter 13 case which is better suited to helping consumers get caught up on their missing house payments and begin making the regular payment going forward.

So, if you are dealing with large amounts of credit card debt or medical bills and you need some relief bankruptcy can be a good option to eliminate the unsecured-type debts, keep your home, and get your fresh start.

Thinking of Bankruptcy? Want More Information? Check out My Bankruptcy Video Course!

This on demand video course will give you all the nuts and bolts of a chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy and help you in your decision process. Click HERE for more information.

2015
09/28

Category:
Filing Bankruptcy

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How to Rebuild Your Credit After Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy can stir up a mixture of emotions. It may feel like a personal failure, a big relief, or it could cause feelings of anxiety about your financial future. One area you may be anxious about is your credit. Your credit score will take a pretty big hit after a bankruptcy filing, so it will take some time to rebuild. The key is to stay committed to taking the steps necessary to move toward an ideal credit score. Although bankruptcy negatively impacts your credit, in some cases it can help you get back on the road to financial health sooner.

“Ironically, a bankruptcy may help you start building good credit sooner than if you don’t file for bankruptcy and continue to struggle with more debt than you can pay, especially if you wind up filing bankruptcy later anyway. Eliminating or reducing debts through bankruptcy will help you (when the bankruptcy is over) to meet the two most important goals for a good credit score: making your payments on time (35% of your score) and not using most of your available credit (30% of your FICO score), said Robin Leonard and Margaret Reiter in the book Credit Repair.

Here are four tips for attaining healthy credit after a bankruptcy.

1. Build savings

Not having enough savings is likely a big part of what got you to the point where you needed to file for bankruptcy. It will be important to begin putting away at least six months of savings so you can have enough cash on hand for emergencies. This way you won’t have to rely on credit to get through a tough financial situation. You can start by having a set amount of money automatically withdrawn from your checking account and placed into savings each pay period.

2. Add positive information to your credit report

Have you taken a good look at your credit report lately? There may be positive information missing that could help boost your score. This is one of the simplest ways to improve your credit. You can write a letter to the credit reporting agencies, requesting that positive information, such as an account in good standing, is added. Sometimes a creditor will submit your account details to one major credit reporting agency, but forget to send this information to the other two. If this is the case, you will have to send a copy of the credit report that has the complete information to the other two major agencies. Include a letter asking for the information to be included. You can also contact your creditor directly and ask for unreported accounts to be reported to the agencies.

3. Consider a secured credit card

2015
09/27

Category:
Filing Bankruptcy

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David Cassidy Reacts Strongly To Anchorman’s Question About His Bankruptcy …

David Cassidy is being described as an angry person who lashed out on the anchors of ITVs This Morning. The circumstances surrounding the retaliation, however, show a different side of the story.

In the recent airing of an interview with This Morning, former musician David Cassidy rebuked co-anchor Eamonn Holmes for rubbishing him. Cassidy appeared on the morning talk show via satellite from Florida. He appeared to be quite cordial, but seemingly lost his cool, when Holmes persistently asked him about his current financial status. The actor appeared quite agitated when he was directly questioned about filing bankruptcy.

Though Cassidy held his ex-wife responsible for his financial setback, he mentioned it had nothing to with him declaring bankruptcy. Incidentally, David Cassidys $1.8 million Florida mansion was recently put up for auction and the sale could hint at an attempt to recover from insurmountable debts. But, Cassidy was insistent that selling his mansion and filing bankruptcy had no correlation.

It had nothing to do with declaring bankruptcy, that was a totally separate issue. Im doing it because Im in the middle of a divorce.

A persistent Holmes lingered on the issue and asked if selling of the mansion would help clear some of Cassidys debts, reported MSN. Cassidy offered his response.

When you declare bankruptcy in this country, its something you do in order to reorganize what you have, your assets, so Im not going to discuss that. I have and I still have fantastic assets. Are you trying to rubbish me?

When the anchorman tried to speak, Cassidy snapped back.

Waithellip;.. Dont interrupt me. When you are trying to separate the assets over 25 years [of marriage], you must do what is necessary and thats whats necessary. Donald Trump has declared bankruptcy a number of times and it doesnt mean hes poor, hes simply reorganizing things. I got my advice from my attorneys who said, This is the opportunity you have because youre going through a divorce.

After the interview concluded, Holmes took to Twitter and declared his interview with David Cassidy his worst.

The 65-year-old singer has been through a lot during and after his divorce. At one point, David Cassidy was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. For a cordial conversation, Holmes choice to ask about Cassidys divorce, bankruptcy, and mansion auction might not have been the ideal line of questioning.

[Photo courtesy of ITV, This Morning screen capture]

2015
09/26

Category:
Mortgages

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Mortgage Rates Steady Before Fed Decision

Mortgage Market Roundup: Interest Rates (9/17/15)

Mortgage rates are holding firm before the Federal Reserve’s rate announcement, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly market survey.

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.91% with an average 0.6 point for the week ending Sept. 17, 2015. A year ago, the rate averaged 4.23%.
  • 15-year fixed rates averaged 3.11% with an average 0.6 point. The same term priced at 3.37% a year ago.
  • 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages priced at 2.92% with an average 0.5 point. Last year at this time the same ARM averaged 3.06%.

The Treasury market was relatively quiet this week, and as a result the 30-year mortgage rate barely budged,” Sean Becketti, chief economist for Freddie Mac, said in a release. “Even if the Fed decides to raise short-term interest rates, we don’t expect a significant impact on the housing market. We’re still on track for the best year of home sales since 2007.”

Compare mortgage rates now

Borrowers took a late-summer break as mortgage applications fell 7% for the week ending Sept. 11, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Statistics were adjusted for the Labor Day holiday. Refinance application volume also sagged, down 9% from the previous week.

What an interest rate hike by the Fed will mean for homebuyers

Whether the Federal Reserve raises short-term interest rates today, next month or next year, homebuyers will certainly be affected, in some markets even more than others.

“The potential move away from zero interest rate policy, for short-term rates, is a harbinger of higher mortgage rates ahead and the beginning of the end of this seven-year era of incredibly low mortgage rates and corresponding high affordability,” Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, said in a statement provided to NerdWallet.

Smoke says just a 50 basis point increase in home mortgage interest rates — for example, from 4% to 4.5% — would increase monthly payments 6% on new mortgages, while causing a 7% rejection of loan applications.

“Based on analysis of loan-level ratios for a large sample of loans approved in the first half of this year, as much as 7% of mortgage applicants would have failed to get approval as a result of higher debt-to-income ratios caused by higher rates,” Smoke said.

Smoke says the markets most affected by rising home loan rates, with a potential for 10% or more of failed mortgage applications, would include:

  • Honolulu (14%)
  • Stockton, California (12%)
  • Fresno, California (12%)
  • El Paso, Texas (11%)
  • Fort Pierce, Florida (11%)
  • San Diego (11%)
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee (10%)
  • Los Angeles (10%)
  • Miami (10%)
  • Modesto, California (10%)
  • Reno, Nevada (10%)
  • Sacramento (10%)
  • San Francisco (10%)

Housing starts stumble, but permits positive

Builders are still behind the curve of housing demand, but momentum may be growing. The Commerce Department reports today that US housing starts fell 3% in August while building permits were up 3.5%.

The volume of permits is up more than 12% from one year ago. Housing starts, while down last month, are still nearly 17% ahead of the August 2014 rate.

Home affordability takes another hit

Buying a home is a bigger challenge than just one year ago, as the median price of a single-family home rose nearly 6%, to $235,500 since July 2014.

The National Association of Realtors reports the greatest price gains occurred in the West (+8.4%) while the Northeast saw a minimal increase (+1.8%). Homes in the South (+7.1%) and Midwest (+6.5%) also saw significant price increases.

Meanwhile, incomes rose only 2% during the same period.

More from NerdWallet:

  • Complete Guide for Homebuyers
  • Compare Mortgage Rates
  • How to Decide It’s Time to Buy a Home

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick

Image via iStock.

2015
09/25

Category:
Finance

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Finance director promoted to assistant village manager

“I’ve been here for two years and have gotten a really good feel for how the village administration operates,” she said. “I’ve been interested in getting my hands into more of the projects on a different level other than just financially.”

Vanzant, 34, has worked for the village as the finance director since 2013.

Vanzant will continue to handle the duties of finance director, but she will also take on additional responsibilities related to development projects and will work with various village commissions.

“I have such a deep love for the village,” she said. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to give back in a different way.”

Vanzant will replace John Yung who resigned, effective Sept. 4, after working for the village for eight months. He accepted a position with a private company.

Yung was hired from a pool of 50 applicants. After he resigned, Yellow Springs Village Manager Patti Bates re-evaluated the resumes of some of the top candidates.

“After consideration of those applicants, along with Melissa’s qualifications, I chose to promote internally,” Bates said. “… She is very well-qualified, holding a master’s of public administration degree from Wright State University, and has shown an exemplary work ethic during her tenure. She grew up in the area, and her continued concern for making the village a better place for everyone is the icing on the cake.”

Yung, the first assistant village manager, started in the new role on Jan. 5. He was hired three years after the council eliminated the planning assistant and economic sustainability coordinator part-time positions and added the assistant village manager position.

2015
09/24

Category:
Finance

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Campaign Finance Reform Activist Lessig Announces 2016 Bid

Campaign finance reform advocate and Harvard Law School professor Larry Lessig announced a bid for the White House on Wednesday as he pushes for sweeping changes to the way presidential campaigns are funded in America.

The announcement comes after Lessigs campaign says it reached its goal of raising $1 million by a Labor Day deadline.

2015
09/24

Category:
Finance

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Exclusive: HNA plans China’s first Islamic finance deal

SYDNEY HNA Group, owner of Hainan Airlines, is planning the first Islamic financing deal by a mainland Chinese company, highlighting a growing push by Chinas private firms to find funding overseas as domestic loans remain scarce and costly.

The shipping and airlines conglomerate plans to raise up to $150 million in Islamic loans in October to buy ships, said Andrew Kinal, managing director of Geneva-based Shariah Advisory Group (SAG), which is advising on the deals.

HNAs financing arm will then issue a very large offshore sukuk, or Islamic bonds, of benchmark size before year-end, said Kinal, which typically means of at least $500 million.

A mix of global and Gulf-based banks are working on this transaction, he said.

Though it will be the first sharia-compliant financing used by a mainland Chinese company, Kinal does not expect it to be the last.

This first Chinese Islamic transaction is just the beginning for Islamic finance into China, he said.

Islamic finance has boomed on the back of strong economic growth in its core markets of the Gulf and southeast Asia, but such pools of capital remain mostly untapped by Chinese firms.

As Chinas economy heads for its weakest growth in a quarter century, the central bank has cut lending rates and trimmed reserve requirements to spur economic growth, but this has not translated into cheap financing for private firms.

State-owned enterprises enjoy privileged access to the loan market, so their cost of financing is lower, but for private companies this is different, said Hong Kong-based Ben Ping Chung Cheung, SAGs Asia-Pacific head.

The availability of credit is lower for them, so this is feeding interest into offshore funding sources.

Islamic finance is a growth area for global financial centers including Britain, Hong Kong and Luxembourg, which have all issued debut sukuk over the past year.

Hong Kong tapped the market for a second time in May, a $1 billion deal, as part of efforts to attract mainland firms to issue sukuk of their own.

HNA Group, which posted revenue of 170 billion yuan ($27 billion) in 2014, has been on a spending spree this year, agreeing to buy stakes in air cargo handler Swissport International Ltd and Irish-based aircraft leasing firm Avolon Holdings Ltd.

(Reporting by Bernardo Vizcaino; Editing by William Waterman)