A 95-year-old woman backed by consumer and elderly advocates sued two reverse-mortgage companies for charging allegedly excessive fees after she fell into foreclosure proceedings.
The suit, seeking class-action status, said that Texas-based Nationstar Mortgage LLC and Michigan-based Compu-Link Corp. ordered more than 30 property inspections on the home of Retha Floyd — sometimes as often as two or three times a month, and added fees for the inspections to her mortgage debt.
Floyd, of Washington, D.C. faced foreclosure after she fell behind on less than $2,000 in property taxes and insurance payments, but avoided losing her home after working out a payment plan, the May 3 lawsuit said. As reported by The Eye last week, an increasing number of seniors across the country are facing foreclosure because of troubles paying property charges or complications following a spouse who died.
Officials from Nationstar and Compu-Link could not be reached for comment. The suit also named Nationstar affiliate Champion Mortgage, one of the companies mentioned in The Eye story.
Federally insured reverse mortgages were created in 1989 to help elders “age in place.” The loans typically provide cash payments to seniors as a way to realize value from the equity in their homes, and become payable when the borrower dies or moves. But arrears on property charges can also trigger foreclosures.
After Floyd fell into danger of foreclosure in 2012, the companies ordered multiple inspections on her home to allegedly protect their interest, her lawsuit said. The fees for the inspections – some of them “drive-by” looks lasting only a few seconds -- eroded her equity in the home, according to the lawsuit. “
Defendants use automated software to order and/or conduct repeated, unreasonable, and unnecessary ‘property inspections’ with the effect of maximizing fee income and cheating borrowers who can least afford it,’’ the suit said.
The suit was filed on Floyd’s behalf in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Legal Counsel for the Elderly, an affiliate of the senior advocacy group AARP; the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center; and the Washington-based law firm Tycko & Zavareei LLP.
National Consumer Law Center attorney Charles Delbaum said Wednesday that there are likely thousands of other “defenseless seniors” being hit with similar charges.