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Homeowners Fighting Foreclosure Have Options

Don't be deceived by a brief lull in the foreclosure storm. With perhaps one in three American homeowners underwater on their mortgages, the steady stream of foreclosures isn't likely to end any time soon. Especially when the overall economy is this bad.

It's true that, from month to month, the number of foreclosures might go down a bit. But that is partly because the court systems in many states just can't keep up. Especially when those courts have themselves been hit with severe budget problems.

And then there is the problem of dubious banking practices. Consider the case of a married couple recently profiled in the Atlantic. Fred and Deana Dixon, of Massachusetts, sought to modify their home loan two years ago. Their lender was Wells Fargo, which of course is also a prominent player in the Minnesota mortgage market.

Wells Fargo led the Dixons to believe that a modification was possible. Officials from the bank told the couple to stop making regular payments and to provide various types of financial data. The Dixons did this and thought a viable modification process had been established.

Then, a year and a half later, the bank declared that the Dixons had defaulted and began foreclosure proceedings. The Dixons sued, seeking to stop the foreclosure. They argued that they had reasonably relied on Wells Fargo's statements that stopping payments was necessary in order to negotiate for a loan modification.

Wells Fargo tried to dismiss the case out of hand. But the U.S. district court has held that the Dixons must be allowed a chance to prove their case.

This ruling is a reminder that homeowners who are fighting foreclosure do have options.

Source: "Justice Foreclosed," The Atlantic, 7-25-11

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