The Law Office of R. Spencer Lauterbach is a full service general practice law firm. Mr. Lauterbach and his staff service individuals, families and business owners. The Law Office of R. Spencer Lauterbach provides “boutique” quality service to all clients, with a commitment to giving individual attention at a reasonable fee.

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Will Homeowners Forgive Congress?

Despite the fact that many homeowners in 2014 are barely making ends meet, Congress decided not to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (the “Act”), which was passed in 2007, to help struggling homeowners. The Act held that homeowners would not be taxed for mortgage debt that was forgiven by lenders whether as a result of a loan modification or in connection with a foreclosure.

For example, prior to 2007 (and now the current law in 2014), if a homeowner owed $300,000 on their mortgage but the property was sold for only $250,000 in a foreclosure sale, then the IRS would treat that $50,000 of loan forgiveness as taxable income. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (in effect from December 20, 2007 until December 31, 2013) said that the IRS would not treat that $50,000 in loan forgiveness as income to the homeowner if the loan was on their principal residence.

The ramifications of this decision not to extend the Act for struggling homeowners will have negative consequences. Common sense would suggest that this decision will not help the real estate market, which is already slowly recovering in many parts of the country. If homeowners facing foreclosure are hit with a tax bill, they will have even less money to spend to fuel the economy. Congress should consider extending the Act for at least another year.

A Review of Mortgage Servicer Ocwen Finds Indication of Non-Compliance with Servicing Reforms

The New York State Department of Financial Service announced that its review of Ocwen’s mortgage servicing practices found indications of non-compliance with servicing reforms.

The Department issued a release that “in some instances, the company failed to demonstrate that it had it sent out required 90-day notices before commencing foreclosure proceedings, or even that it had standing to bring foreclosure actions.” The examination also found that Ocwen sometimes failed to provide a single point of contact for borrowers, pursued foreclosure actions on borrowers seeking modifications, failed to conduct an independent review of loan modification denials, and failed to ensure that loan information was accurate and up to date. Ironically Ocwen was the first mortgage servicer to agree to the Department’s new mortgage servicing reforms in 2011. The examination resulted after the Department received complaints about Ocwen. The Department is now requesting that Ocwen hire an independent monitor to review its operations and identify and report on corrective action.

The Law Firm of R. Spencer Lauterbach is here to protect homeowners facing the risk of losing their homes. Mr. Lauterbach’s firm provides a thorough review for its clients’ foreclosure and home modification cases, and has successfully defended homeowners against unfair and illegal practices by mortgage servicers. Mr. Lauterbach is a member of the New York Bar, practicing in Rockland and Orange Counties as well as all three boroughs in New York City. Call our office at (845) 639-1699 for legal assistance.

Latest Foreclosure Rates and Homeowner Relief After Hurricane Sandy

The most recent U.S. Foreclosure Market Report from Realty Trac reported that there are vast disparities in foreclosure activity throughout the nation. Despite a national downward trend in foreclosures, several states, including New York, experienced significant monthly increases in foreclosures. Specifically, for the month of October 2012, New York experienced a 17% increase. Other states with October increases in foreclosure activity include Nevada (54%), Tennessee (52%), Minnesota (28%), and North Carolina (26%). Florida had the country’s highest foreclosure rate over the past two consecutive months (September and October 2012). Darren Blomquist, VP at Realty Trac anticipates that “the foreclosure moratorium being put into effect as a result of the storm” in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut “will likely extend the already lengthy time to foreclose in these states, further prolonging a fundamentally sound housing recovery.”

Super Storm Sandy: Homeowner Relief

It’s important for homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy to know that banks are offering relief in such forms as a 90-day mortgage forbearance and mortgage fee waivers.

In fact, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac have announced that federal assistance programs are available to homeowners in places declared disaster arrears by President Obama. In some cases, mortgage payment could be delayed for up to one year.

Banks such as Chase and Wells Fargo may waive fees and assist homeowners regarding overdraft fees and mortgages. Chase approved that mortgage customers in New York affected by Hurricane Sandy can obtain a 90-day moratorium on making mortgage payments. The bank advises customers to call (888) 356-0023. Wells Fargo customers may call (800) 869-3557.

If you have any questions regarding mortgage assistance with your own home in New York, you may call the Law Office of R. Spencer Lauterbach at (845) 639-1699. Mr. Lauterbach offers homeowners legal strategies and remedies in real estate matters, including home foreclosures, loan modifications.

Housing Recovery under the Obama Administration Reelection

With the reelection of President Obama, there will be a continuance of federal programs such as the Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP) which, combined with a 4.6% increase in national housing prices annually in October, gives hope of further recovery in the housing market.

Despite the 4.6 percent increase, home prices are still 37.6 percent below their peak, according to Clear Capital. Clear Capital explains that this means a house bought for $200,000 in 2006 would be worth somewhere in the range of $124,000 today.

As we continue to monitor housing recovery progress on the national level, the Law Office of R. Spencer Lauterbach is here to assist New York homeowners on all matters related to foreclosures, mortgage modifications and short sales. Please call R. Spencer Lauterbach at (845) 639-1699 for a free phone consultation.