Archive for September, 2012

Washington State Supreme Court: MERS Can Be Sued for Foreclosure Fraud

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

The Washington State Supreme Court has handed down a landmark ruling that could impact Florida foreclosure cases.childrensunset.jpg

Our had been watching the case closely, as it was expected to set a precedent with regard to what recourse homeowners had against the entities that wrongfully removed them from their home.

The justices ruled that consumers may take legal action and further seek damages from the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, also known as MERS. This is the company that was established by the country’s major banks to track property records.

However, MERS does not have – and has never had – the authority to foreclose on properties. However, that did not stop it from foreclosing on literally millions of properties throughout the U.S.

Now, they can be sued for fraud.

While the ruling is technically only applicable in Washington State, it sets the tone for similar actions in other states.

Essentially, any consumer whose home foreclosure was facilitated by MERS can sue the company for fraud.

What previously foreclosed homeowners must prove is that they were damaged by a MERS foreclosure. The threshold for this should not be difficult. Consider the following hypothetical: MERS forecloses on a home. The person or family is forced to vacate that home, causing them harm. Because MERS can’t legally foreclose on a home, they can be held responsible for that harm.

Consumer law attorneys have noted that the MERS business model is one that inherently lends itself to this illegal action. As such, it needs to change.

Financial institutions

established MERS back in the 1990s as a way to help them fast-track the whole process of packaging loans into bonds that could be transferred from one investor to another.

The problem arose when MERS, which did not hold the actual title of ownership, was used by banks to foreclose properties on its behalf. Instead of recording the transfer of property with the local recorder, it was simply charted in MERS on behalf of the bank. This allowed the bank to save both time and money. But when it came time to foreclose on these properties, it became an issue trying to figure out who owned what. So MERS simply filed on the bank’s behalf. But without the deed in hand, they did not have the right to do so, the court ruled.

This was done more than a million times over in the wake of the housing bubble burst.

What the Washington court essentially ruled was that MERS did not meet the criteria for a beneficiary of those loans. As such, it was not allowed to foreclose on behalf of a lender.

What’s more, the Washington Court found that MERS’s robosigning actions violated the state’s consumer protection act. However, consumers there will have to file individual cases for alleged violations.

A similar case is currently being weighed in Oregon. This past summer, the Oregon Court of Appeals determined that lenders were not allowed to use MERS as a way to get around the state law that requires every single mortgage sale to be recorded in the county office before initiating an out-of-court foreclosure.

Other cases are pending.

A spokeswoman for MERS was quoted by saying that she expects the company to prevail with regard to future legal challenges.

However, this ruling does not make that statement appear promising.

In fact, the Washington case makes any consumer foreclosed upon by MERS in the last 15 years eligible for legal recourse.

We will be closely monitoring how these cases progress.

If you think you may have been a victim of a wrongful foreclosure, we are here to help.

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Five Crucial Strategies to Buying Individual Health Insurance

Friday, September 28th, 2012

With very few exceptions, part of the American employment benefit package is receiving health care coverage. Due to the exorbitant rapid increase in premiums during the past two or three decades, employers are passing on more and more of the cost to employees. Ultimately, if the cost gets too high, making American industry uncompetitive on the global front, the entire cost of health care coverage may be passed on to the employee.

If that should happen to you or if you’re currently in a position of fending for yourself when it comes to individual health insurance, then here are some tips you should

consider:

As with Anything, Pay Attention to Details

Are you healthy? Do you rarely go to the doctor? If you answered yes to both questions, a high deductible, no co-pay plan may be the best for you. Generally, these policies are easier to get and have a much lower premium; however, every time you go to the doctor, which may be seldom, you will pay more. You will receive the insurance discount from the doctor’s full fee; however, you’ll continue to pay until you reach your deductible, which can be high, perhaps as high as $5,000.

So, if you go to the doctor only once or twice a year, you will pay only about 75 percent of the full fee, but you’ll save substantially on premiums.

Use an Independent Broker

If you use an agent employed by a carrier, then the only products they’ll have is from their company. On the other hand, an independent broker will shop around for you and get the best deal that fits your needs. Sales people at individual companies may not always give you candid advice when comparing their policy with another company’s.

Family Members can Apply as Individuals

This is a good tactic to use if someone in your family has a serious medical condition that is expensive to insure. By getting individual policies for everyone in the family, that one person can be insured on their own without causing an otherwise outrageous premium for the rest of the family.

Fill Out Medical History with Caution, but Be Honest

I love to talk. The best advice is to simply answer the questions on the insurance forms or when being interviewed by the insurance underwriter. Then shut up. Be sure not to leave anything out; that could invalidate your policy once it’s issued.

Get into a Group

If you belong to a professional organization or even a faith-based organization, inquire about their benefits. They may have group health insurance for their members. If you’re married and your spouse works, perhaps you can be insured by their plan. If you run a small business, in some states all it takes is having two employees (that would include you,) in order to qualify for a group plan.

Getting insurance isn’t always easy, but it is a necessity. Without insurance, you could be bankrupt; all it takes is one major health issue. As a matter of fact, 75 percent of bankruptcies in America are due to a medical expense. So be wise and get insured.

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