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Occupy Chicago Unites To Fight Eviction

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Vowing to Block Sheriff’s Eviction, Neighbors and Friends Rally around Family scammed by Reverse Mortgage Services, Inc

Neighbors and local activists help family to block their eviction by Cook County Sheriffs following reverse mortgage scam and foreclosure.

(Chicago, IL) Rallying around longtime resident Ve Rowell, 62 years old, and her family, neighbors and local supporters rally to keep her from being evicted by the Cook County Sheriff’s deputies. Two weeks ago, supporters of the Rowell family held a vigil to highlight this family’s plight, calling on Reverse Mortgage Services, Inc., to keep the family in the home, only to find out that their eviction had been scheduled for the morning of September 25th.

This eviction is part of worrying trend, where, according to the Woodstock Institute, foreclosure auctions have continued to rise in South Side neighborhoods like Ashburn (up 29.8 percent), Calumet Heights (up 36.7 percent), and Auburn Gresham (up 20.9), during the first six months of 2014. This sharp increase in foreclosure activity in already hard-hit South Side neighborhoods comes just as foreclosure auctions have declined more than 20 percent across most of the City of Chicago during that same time.

“We’re not going to give up,” explained Vernell Rowell. “My aunt worked so many years to buy this home and I’m not going to give it up without a fight, regardless of any reverse mortgage scam.”

In 2007, Vernell Rowell and her elderly aunt, Harriet Huff, the former owner of this single family home, sought out Janaan Mortgage Company after viewing their commercial on television, largely in the hopes of receiving additional income through a reverse mortage to help maintain their home. Employees of Janaan Mortgage Company came to the house to verify Ms. Huff’s eligibility. After the company qualified her and Ms. Huff signed the reverse mortgage agreement, Mr. Tom Welch-a loan officer for Waterstone Mortgage Company- called to finalize the deal. However, in finalizing the agreement, he failed to notify Vernell that if her name was not on the mortgage, she could be evicted once Harriet passed. For more than two decades, Ms. Rowell had served as her aunt’s primary care givier and was entrusted with her power of attorney.

A reverse mortgage is a home loan that provides cash payments based on home equity, with payments deferred until the borrower moves out of the home or passes away. Since 2010, the federal government has required borrowers to attend counseling course. However, Vernell Rowell and her aunt took out this loan prior to these regulations, leaving them vulnerable to lenders who promised them that Ms. Rowell’s name would be added to the title and that she would be able to stay in the home after her aunt passed away.

In 2010, Ms. Huff passed away. By then, her loan had been transferred to another company, Reverse Mortgage Solutions, Inc., which refused to acknowledge any previous arrangements and demanded payments on the mortgage. In 2011, RMS began foreclosure proceedings, claiming that Ms. Rowell and her aunt had failed to make payments on a 2009 mortgage with a different Federal Housing Authority case and loan number. According to Ms. Rowell, the signature on these documents has cut from somewhere else and pasted on to this new loan agreement.

Rather than resigning herself to being left homeless, Ms. Rowell has rallied her neighbors and sought the support of local housing rights activists. Across the country, more than 2,500 people have signed her petition to Reverse Mortgage Solutions, demanding that the family be kept in their home. Many of these supporters will join her to ensure that she continues to have a home and that she has an opportunity to shine a light on what she believes is an instances of mortgage fraud.

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