In March of 2010, Winifred Harris faced foreclosure on her home. She called Wells Fargo Bank to negotiate a forebearance agreement, which is an agreement to give her time to catch up. Wells Fargo told her she qualified to have her loan modification reconsidered, that they were sending her papers, and that if she did not qualify, they would propose another repayment plan.
As the Sept. 2010 foreclosure sales date approached, Ms. Harris became worried. She called a Wells Fargo representative, who told her that the foreclosure was cancelled, and that the rep would contact Wells Fargo’s attorneys to make sure it was stopped.
Wells Fargo foreclosed on her home anyway! Ms. Harris later testified that had she known they were going to foreclose, she would have filed chapter 13 to stop the foreclosure.
Ms. Harris later filed Chapter 13 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, and her attorney (not our office) filed a lawsuit asking the bankruptcy court to reverse the foreclosure, for breach of the forebearance agreement, and for fraud and estoppel.
On July 11, 2011, the Bankruptcy Court ruled against Ms. Harris on the breach of contract and estoppel claims on summary judgment. The court ruled that under Texas law, to breach a contract, the contract must be enforceable, and a contract involving more than $50,000 must be in writing to be enforceable. There was no written forebearance agreement. And the court also held that estoppel did not apply.
Ms. Harris may yet prevail on her fraud claim, and get her house back or at least damages for the loss of it, but fraud is much more difficult to plead and prove. The Court gave her more time to amend her complaint, saying that it needs more details, such as the phone number called, who she spoke with, the date and time of the call, etc.
Moral to the story: You cannot believe what some bank or mortgage company representative promises you on the phone. Get a written document from them in such a circumstance, a letter or email message would be better than nothing. And always write down the name of the person, the number you called, and the date and time of the call, and what was said. ■
The problem with people who have no vices is that they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.
Elizabeth Taylor, Actress
Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.
Bill Cosby, Comedian
Getting old ain’t for sissies.
Bette Davis, Actress
A LITTLE HUMOR- The Faint Praise edition
A minister was retiring, and after his final sermon he stood at the door of his church to say farewell to his parishioners. One old woman told him, “I’m sure our next pastor won’t be as good as you’ve been.”
The minister was flattered, but tried to be modest. “Oh, I’m sure he’ll be fine. What makes you say that?”
“I’ve been here for the last five pastors,” said the lady, “and each one has been worse than the one before.” ■
$$$$ SAVE MONEY $$$$
If you’re not from this part of the country, like a prospective client that came in to see me a couple of weeks ago, you may not be used to this interminable heat. And the incredibly high electricity bills it can cause.
Anyway, if everyone in the house goes to work or school during the day, buy a “setback” or programmable thermostat- you will thank me for it when you get your next light bill.
They are very affordable, and with one, you can set your house temperature to go up when you leave, and be cool by the time you get home. There are separate settings for weekends; you can program it pretty much however you want.
It really takes your light bill down a notch or two, and it saves strain on the power grid. And it helps keep your AC from working so hard, so perhaps it will last longer, too.
Credit Card Interest Rate Reduction Scams
Voice mail boxes across the nation are being clogged with prerecorded phone calls from companies that claim to be able to negotiate significantly lower interest rates with your credit card issuers if you just pay them a fee first.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says consumers who get these interest rate reduction robocalls should listen to them with extreme skepticism, and delete them. Many are scams.
The FTC says that the companies behind these robocalls can’t do anything for you that you can’t do for yourself — for free. You have just as much clout with your credit card issuer as these companies, and you are just as likely to get turned down for a rate reduction regardless of their promises or supposed efforts to negotiate on your behalf. Indeed, FTC investigators found that people who pay for these services don’t get the touted interest rate reductions, don’t save the promised amounts, don’t pay off their credit card debt three to five times faster, and struggle to get refunds.
Amendments to the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule prohibit companies that sell relief services like these rate reduction scams on the phone from charging a fee before they settle or reduce your debt. Many of these companies have disappeared with their customers’ money, or filed bankruptcy themselves. For more information, go to www.ftc.gov, or make an appointment to meet with Mr. Black or his Associate Attorney Alex Higginbotham.
Call Us If You Need Us. We Also Welcome Referrals —
Debt Collection Defense.
Debt Negotiations and Settlements.
Mortgage Loan Modifications.
Fair Debt Collection Practices.
I.R.S. Collection Defense.
Wills and Trusts.
ARE YOU IN CHAPTER 13 NOW?
Always keep the law office updated with your current address, telephone numbers, and email address. We may need to reach you quickly.
You can check on the status of your Trustee payments, how much you still owe on your case, etc., by going to www.13datacenter.com to set up your user ID and password.
Lose job or overtime? Expenses increase? Want to give up property to lower payments? Call the office for a Motion to Modify worksheet. Complete it and fax it to the office at 713-772-5058. We’ll review it and contact you if a change to your plan is possible.
J. Thomas Black was licensed as an attorney in Texas by the Texas Supreme Court in May, 1982. Mr. Black is Board Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.