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"Little-known horror of the U.S. housing bust:" the zombie title

You pay your mortgage in a timely manner for years and then start having some difficulties. Perhaps you lose your job, or a family member incurs a health problem that results in unexpected expenses. You start slipping behind on house payments as a result and eventually receive a foreclosure judgment from your lender and notification that your home is to be sold at auction pursuant to a sheriff's sale.

So, given that formality and inevitability, you call it quits and decide to leave, logically assuming that, legally, the house in now under the bank's control following your departure. You move on.

And then, if your case is similar to that of a growing number of other people across the country, you run into this dilemma without even knowing it: The bank ultimately determines after notifying you of your home's order of sale that it does not want to complete the foreclosure process. Instead, it makes a court filing to dismiss the judgment and sale.

Many Americans say that, after they leave their homes, they never receive follow-up notification of their lender's changed stance.

The resulting detriment to them can be both stunning and draconian, to the extent that media writers have coined a new term to express the repercussions: the "zombie title," a tag meant to accurately depict an obligation that simply hangs on and never lets go.

Many persons find that they are being pursued for debts they simply never contemplated following departure from their homes, owing to what one judge calls the "thousands of foreclosures in limbo" owing to banks' altered conduct.

Demands for payment encompass things like clean-up for a vacated home's deteriorated condition; back taxes; utility bills; and, of course, continuing mortgage costs.

Housing court judges, attorneys and other professionals say that the problem -- people leaving their homes preceding an imminent foreclosure only to discover later that the bank changed its position, leaving them on the hook for mounting costs and fees - potentially affects many thousands of people.

And they say the problem is growing.

Source: Reuters, "Special report: The latest foreclosure horror: the zombie title," Michelle Conlin, Jan. 10, 2013

  • We invite readers to visit our Florida Foreclosure Laws page for information about our firm and the many ways it can help distressed Florida homeowners.

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