• Do Not Get Tricked Into Paying For Mortgage Help

    Despite the fact that they had only owned their condo for two months, Joyce Thompson and her husband, Paul English, received what the Chicago Tribune described  as an “official-looking letter with the words ‘foreclosure sale pending’ on the envelope” with the letter including the address of their condo and an auction date. The Tribune reported on November 15, 2011, that while the letter from a company called Expert Legal Helpers warned “your home will be sold and you will be evicted from your property,” it also stated “we will have authorization to postpone the sale of your property once we are contacted.”

    When Thompson called the company, she told the Tribune that it “sounded like a boiler room – lots of people talking in the background.” She listened to a salesman’s pitch for a few minutes before hanging up, telling the Tribune she suspected it was a scam.

    Deceptive letters such as the one Thompson and English received are becoming commonplace as more and more con artists seek to take advantage of the millions of Americans needing foreclosure help . The Tribune noted that market researcher RealtyTrac found foreclosure filings rose in the third quarter, with 1 in every 213 properties nationwide facing default notice, auction or bank repossession.

    The Tribune also noted that the Federal Trade Commission enacted a rule that forbids companies from charging up-front fees for mortgage assistance, called the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule. Homeowners facing legitimate foreclosure need to know that our Chicago bankruptcy lawyer can not only provide a free initial consultation, but also help you keep your home through a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Supply of Affordable Apartments Not Keeping Up with Demand

    The rent on the South Shore apartment Veeda Pryor has been living in since March used to be $700 a month, but the landlord reduced the price to $650 after the apartment was burglarized. The Chicago Tribune reported on November 15, 2011, that Pryor is now searching for what would be the fifth apartment she and her family have lived in since 2009. The college graduate, substitute teacher and mother of two teens told the Tribune that while living in one apartment with a monthly rent of $550, she had to use the oven for heat because the space heater supplied by the landlord short-circuited the apartment’s lights.

    According to the Tribune, nearly 483,000 renters in Cook County needed affordable housing in 2009, but less than 303,000 rental units were considered affordable. According to a report from DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies, another 44,000 affordable apartments will be needed by 2020 because of various demographic and economic changes shaping the market.

    While the DePaul report was based on the most recent census data and foreclosure and rent statistics, what the Tribune called a “potentially dire situation” is not just the result of neighborhoods crippled by the number of residents needing foreclosure help . Instead, rents are rising as household incomes are falling. While that problem has led file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy , the Tribune said the emerging trends makes younger renters even more at risk. Median rents increased 14 percent in the city and 13 percent in Cook County’s suburbs between 2005 and 2010 while income declined 25 percent between 2000 and 2009 among renters younger than 25.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Not For Profit, But Is NHS For Fraud?

    Michael Henderson told the website Rebel Pundit that he initially went to the Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) eight years ago because the local non-profit was “featured in a number of publications as leaders in foreclosure prevention” and had been recommended by the office of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. According to the story published on November 3, 2011, Henderson is claiming that after turning to NHS for foreclosure help , he was “the victim of the very predatory lending tactics that NHS publicly claims to help protect homeowners from.”

    Among Henderson’s charges:

    • Henderson claims that NHS inflated his income, adding rental income even though the property was a single-family residence that was gutted at the time of the loan, making it impossible to have any renters. According to Pundit, NHS put the inflated income figure on all of his loan documents. While Henderson says he was making just over $50,000 annually at the time of the loan, the income listed on his application was $5,232.12 per month, or $82,785.44 yearly. The application claimed he would receive $1,650 in monthly rent.
    • Pundit said the recorded mortgage has an inaccurate legal description which adds about 1600 square feet to the lot. That extra land includes three additional empty lots the city now owns.
    • Henderson claims that he has been unable to receive one mortgage statement or escrow analysis for the past eight years. Payoffs would routinely take months to prepare even though competitive banks can often complete them in real time.
    • According to Pundit, Henderson also charges that he was allowed to make a payment of $185.83 for four consecutive years without once being penalized as late, even though the payment amount would be a negative rate on a $352,000 loan. $185.83 happened to be the exact amount of the monthly taxes and insurance payment when the loan closed.

    The article also said that an analysis of the closing documents Henderson provided revealed numerous predatory and fraudulent entries. According to Pundit, Henderson was charged more than 4 percent in closing costs, even though the organization claims to be a non-profit.

    It is unfortunate that there remains so many predatory lenders, but homeowners hoping to avoid to foreclosure should know that our Chicago bankruptcy attorney can help you stay in your house and get control of your debt through a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • Will Metra Fare Increase Derail Your Budget?

    Chicago area commuters who have been using the Metra train lines instead of paying the rising costs of gas for driving may soon be reconsidering their options. The Chicago Tribune reported on November 11, 2011, that the board of directors for the commuter rail division of the Illinois Regional Transportation Authority approved fare increases averaging 25 percent, the largest single fare hike in the agency’s history and the biggest jump in nearly four years.

    Metra officials told the Tribune that the increases are necessary to help close an anticipated $53.6 million budget gap in 2012. Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said about 80 percent of 7,000 respondents to an online survey said if given a choice of reduction in service or fare increase, they would take the increase. “People are pretty set in their schedules and they strongly opposed service reductions,” Pardonnet told the Tribune.

    Metra CEO Alex Clifford warned that commuters can expect more increases in the future, but they will be more frequent and smaller. Under the plan which goes into effect Feb. 1, 2012, one-way tickets will increase an average of 15.7 percent across all fare zones, ten-ride tickets will go up an average of 30 percent and monthly passes will increase an average of 29.4 percent.

    For those already struggling through hard times, the additional cost of getting to and from work may lead to additional families seeking foreclosure help . If you are having difficulty paying your mortgage and are concerned that transportation expenses are going to make a bad situation worse, you should speak to our Chicago bankruptcy lawyer about the possible benefits of filing for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Foreclosure ‘Rain Delay’ Coming To an End

    While home foreclosure activity in Illinois rose 9.7 percent in October compared to the previous month, the number was almost 26.2 percent lower than in October of last year when the rate was seventh-highest nationally. Crain’s Chicago Business reported on November 10, 2011, that a report from RealtyTrac Inc. found that Illinois had 12,522 foreclosure-related filings in October, or one for every 423 housing units in the state.

    Crain’s said the state’s numbers mirrored the national figures for people needing foreclosure help , as RealtyTrac found 230,678 foreclosure filings reported in October represented one in every 563 housing units.

    “The October foreclosure numbers continue to show strong signs that foreclosure activity is coming out of the rain delay we’ve been in for the past year as lenders corrected foreclosure paperwork and processing problems,” RealtyTrac CEO James Saccacio said in a statement, according to Crain’s. “However, recent state court rulings and new state laws keep changing the rules of the foreclosure game on the fly, creating more uncertainty in the housing market and threatening to prolong the road to a robust real estate recovery.”

    If the ever-changing rules of foreclosure are leaving you with questions about what options you have, our Chicago bankruptcy lawyer can show you how filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 will help end debt collector harassment and help you get deserved relief today.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Braxton Un-Breaks The Bank

    Nearly 15 years after she sang about the nights being so unkind, six-time Grammy Award-winner Toni Braxton says bankruptcy has “worked out really great” for her. The Wall Street Journal reported on November 9, 2011, that during the premiere episode of her reality television show’s second season, Braxton flew her sisters out to Los Angeles to see her new home after successfully discharging her from a number of debts in her Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. “So I’m starting over, and starting over can be a great thing,” Braxton said during the episode of “Braxton Family Values.”

    Braxton first filed for bankruptcy in 1998 after a dispute over her recording contract, but it was when the singer found herself in need of foreclosure help with her house in the Century City area of Los Angeles in October 2009 that led to Braxton returning to bankruptcy court again in October 2010. In August 2011, Braxton struck a deal to ensure that she would be able to keep her Grammy Awards as well as her Tiffany jewelry and 1995 Porsche 911.

    While you are more than likely nowhere near the $18.3 million in debts that Braxton claimed when filing for her second bankruptcy, the singer’s case can still serve as a reminder of how completing a bankruptcy means test will never leave you in a worse situation than before you filed. Just as her own attorneys found a way to let Braxton hang on to her six Grammys, our Chicago bankruptcy lawyer will work to help you retain your home, car or other items you fear will be taken by creditors. When you are concerned about losing property, those fears are some of the best reasons to file bankruptcy rather than being reasons not to.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Not Many Positives To Be Found In Latest Reports About Negative Equity, Delinquency Rates

    Delinquency rates rose in the June-to-September period for the first time since the last three months of 2009, the Associated Press reported on November 8, 2011. According to a report from TransUnion, 5.88 percent of homeowners missed two or more payments in the third quarter. That first sign of needing foreclosure help was an increase from 5.82 percent in the second quarter of 2011. The AP noted that the rise surprised TransUnion researchers who previously forecast late payments to fall for the quarter.

    A separate report also showed that 46.2 percent of single-family homeowners in the Chicago metropolitan area in the third quarter had negative equity. According to the AP, a report from Zillow Inc. found an increase from the 32.9 percent of homeowners who owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth a year earlier.

    TransUnion is now forecasting a few quarters of elevated nonpayment rates due to the uncertain economic outlook, although the AP said the company still expects the delinquency rate to resume declining in 2012. The widespread problems that saw an increase in delinquency rates for all but 10 states and the District of Columbia could likely lead to many homeowners considering the benefits of filing for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy .

    “More and more homeowners are likely to struggle,” Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. Housing in TransUnion’s financial services business unit, told the AP. “I’m not sure this is a one-quarter blip.” If you are tired of struggling and want the help of an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer in filing a bankruptcy means test , contact our office today to set up a free consultation.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Almost Half of Chicago Area Underwater

    The percentage of homes in the Chicago area with negative equity rose 9 percent from the second quarter, as more than 46 percent of all single-family homes with a mortgage in the Chicago area were underwater in the third quarter, the Chicago Tribune reported on November 7, 2011. According to a report from the real estate website Zillow, Chicago’s negative equity percentage far exceeds the national rate of the 28.6 percent of homes with mortgages that were underwater at the end of September. The Tribune also noted that 43.4 percent of all homes sold in the Chicago area in the third quarter sold for a loss, compared to 34.4 percent nationally.

    To many homeowners seeking foreclosure help , the numbers might not be too much of a surprise. The Tribune said the report could be an indicator of the demand possible for the Obama administration’s plan to expand its mortgage refinancing program for homeowners unable to take advantage of low mortgage interest rates because of insufficient equity. The Home Affordable Refinance Program could double from the current 894,000 by loosening the lender guidelines for government-backed mortgages and removing the current maximum cap of a 125 percent loan-to-value ratio, according to the Tribune. For those who have been considering a bankruptcy means test to deal with their mortgage problems, HARP reform may not be the silver bullet.

    “There’s no one single overarching policy that’s going to get us out of it,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, told the Tribune. “The housing economy is not going to get back and operate on all cylinders for four or five years.”

    If the lack of equity in your home is just one of the problems causing you to consider filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, contact our Chicago bankruptcy lawyer today to see how our firm can help.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • Record Number of Americans Living in Poverty

    While the Census Bureau reported that there are 46.6 million people, or 15.1 percent of Americans, living poverty in 2010 under the decades-old official measure that considers only food costs and before-tax income, a new formula is trying to provide a fuller picture. The Associated Press reported on November 7, 2011, that a supplemental measure from the Census Bureau shows a record 49.1 million Americans, or 16 percent, lived in poverty in 2010.

    With millions of Americans needing foreclosure help or considering bankruptcy , the new measure takes a variety of expenses into consideration, including food, shelter, clothing and utilities, as well as accounting for different sources of income like food stamps and housing subsidies. According to the AP, Americans 65 or older sustained the largest increases in poverty when broken down by groups under the revised poverty formula, nearly doubling to 15.9 percent. Medical expenses such as rising Medicare premiums, deductibles and expenses for prescription drugs are not accounted for in the official rate.

    The AP noted that economists and anti-poverty experts “continue to differ widely on how best to calculate poverty,” and the Census Bureau acknowledged that its new measure remains a “work in progress.” You do not need to be formally recognized as living in poverty in order to pass the bankruptcy means test , but our Chicago bankruptcy lawyer can show you how filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy could very well be the fresh start you need to get back on your feet.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney

  • The Young and the Homeless

    An increase in the number of people needing foreclosure help combined with a lack of affordable housing and a state unemployment rate higher than the national average has led to an increase in youth homelessness in Chicago, the Chicago News Cooperative reported on November 4, 2011. Chicago Public Schools data for September showed a record high of 10,660 homeless students enrolled in Chicago’s classrooms this fall, a 16 percent increase over last year.

    Chicago is entering the ninth year of a 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, but the Cooperative noted that the initiative overlooked the young homeless people who can be most vulnerable when living on the streets ever since then-Mayor Richard M. Daley started the program in 2003. With most initiatives concentrating on the chronically homeless and people with disabilities, the city is now working on a new strategy for ending homelessness in Chicago without a 10-year deadline. According to the Cooperative, the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness identified two “special populations” for particular attention: youth and ex-offenders.

    If you are facing foreclosure and trying to keep your home so your kids will not end up on the streets, a bankruptcy means test could be your first step toward ending creditor harassment. Our Chicago bankruptcy lawyer can help you set up your own Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 plan that will allow you to keep your home and reestablish credit.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy attorney