Resources to Learn More

Senate Bill 1150
Women live an average of 7 years longer than men, meaning they’re more likely to be impacted.

SB 1150: Click on this link to read the introduced bill.

2012 Joint Letter to Regulators about this problem: HERA and CRC first raised the alarm about this problem in 2012.  Read their in-depth analysis as well as the stories of 11 survivors impacted by this problem:

When she called, Wells transferred her from department to department—to the estates department, and then to bankruptcy, for no apparent reason. The Single Point of Contact at Wells sent an acknowledgment letter of some sort to the family, and Mrs. Macdula kept calling her but never received a return call. When she finally reached a live human, that person refused to talk to Mrs. Macdula because she did not have an authorization from her dead husband.

In a 2014 survey of California housing counselors, 87% of respondents said the “widows issue” is still a problem. In the spring of 2014, CRC and HERA released an in-depth report based on a survey of housing counselors across the state.  The report also included declarations from 11 homeowners about the struggles they endured to keep their homes. While there were a number of troubling trends in the report, 87% of respondents said they felt that the “widows and orphans” problem still exists, despite federal guidelines released by various agencies in 2013.  The “widows and orphans” problem refers to the fact that many widows, orphans, and others who inherit or have an ownership interest in property have faced foreclosure upon the death of a loved one because they were not listed on the loan, and the servicer would not work with them so that they could keep the family home.

Here’s what housing counselors and nonprofit attorneys said when asked about the “widows” problem in this survey:

“The servicer keeps insisting that the widow or widower does not live there because the deceased borrower does not live in the property, so they say that it is not owner occupied and that they don’t qualify for the HAMP.”

“I haven’t received any help and neither has the surviving spouse.”

“The representatives on the phone have no idea of this.”

“I still feel there is a problem with this because not all agents of these servicing companies are aware of the changes [and] it therefore causes us to escalate to supervisors etc. so we can finally get the right people that are aware of the changes. Servicers need to do a better job about training their staff.”

“At least we can point to the GSE guidance as a starting place, and now the CFPB rule to help give us a leg up. But what’s happening to all of the widows and orphans without representation? Servicers have not changed their practices and will not unless there is auditing and enforcement.”

Federal guidance to mortgage servicers on assisting widowed homeowners and other heirs:  Based on the survey cited above, the number of homeowners who are still contacting HERA, CRC, housing counselors, nonprofit attorneys, and other agencies, we believe most staff at mortgage servicers remain unaware of this guidance.  We also believe it has not been a priority for servicers to train their staff on how to assist homeowners caught in this predicament.

A) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau bulletin (July 2014)

B) Fannie Mae Lender Letter LL-2013-04 Transfer of Ownership and Mortgage Assumptions (February 2013).

C) Freddie Mac Bulletin, Number 2013-3, Mortgage Assumptions and Modifications for Non-Borrowers (February 15, 2013).

D) Making Home Affordable Program, Supplemental Directive 13-06, Making Home Affordable Program, Administrative Clarifications (August 2013).

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