Client Bulletin: Holiday Safety Tips and Mortgage Advice

J Thomas Black
Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization

Dear Friends and Colleagues:
WE WISH YOU A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON!

Shop ’til you drop? Just be careful You’re probably shopping a lot more during the holiday season, so pay attention to your safety:

- Pick the right time. Shop during daylight hours, when the mall or store won’t be too crowded. Bring a friend or family member with you for added security.

- Don’t overload yourself. Carrying an armful of bags and packages limits your freedom of movement. Combine items in a single bag, and take packages to your car before you can’t carry anymore (and be sure to place them in your trunk, out of sight).

- Give yourself time. Know how long you’re going to spend on shopping, and stop well before you need to get home (or wherever you’re headed next). You’ll be less likely to rush and more likely to be careful.


In November, Mr. Black obtained a settlement from a mortgage company in a suit in Bankruptcy Court that Mr. Black brought against them for violating the bankruptcy automatic stay and for violating mortgage servicing laws. The suit alleged that the company had paid property taxes that were provided for in the clients’ Chapter 13 plan, and then raised the client’ house payments in an attempt to collect the money directly from them.

The mortgage company continues to deny the allegations. As part of the settlement, Mr. Black’s clients will receive a substantial reduction in their mortgage interest rate (a 4.5% fixed rate loan modification); also Carrington will delete all improper fees and charges from the clients’ loan account, and Carrington will pay Mr. Black’s attorney fees.

If your mortgage company is doing this, or is engaging in mortgage servicing abuse, call or email Mr. Black. You may be entitled to money damages or be able to resolve the case with a favorable loan modification.

Unfortunately, mortgage servicing abuse is common, particularly if you have a “subprime” or high risk loan. Abusive servicing occurs when a mortgage company obtains or attempts to obtain unwarranted fees or other costs from borrowers, engages in unfair collection practices, or through its own improper behavior precipitates borrower default or foreclosure.

A wide range of servicing abuses have been documented, including misapplying payments, force-placing insurance for borrowers who have already provided proof of insurance, charging late fees when borrowers are current, engaging in coercive collection practices and falsely claiming amounts due.


J. Thomas Black acquired advanced legal training in November at the Annual Workshop of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) at the beautiful JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ. Mr. Black spent two full days in training sessions on bankruptcy law, litigation and consumer rights issues.

If you consult Mr. Black about your debt problems, you can be assured that he has received some of the best legal training available anywhere. Mr. Black goes far beyond the 15 hours minimum amount of continuing legal education that lawyers must take each year in Texas to maintain their law licenses. Mr. Black is also State Chairman of NACBA for the Southern District of Texas. ■


If you have the law in your favor, pound on the law; if you have the facts in your favor, pound on the facts; if you have neither in your favor, pound on the table.

—Anonymous

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.
—Marie Curie


SAVE $$$$$


Property Taxes Too High? You can help keep them low. Property taxes are due now, and are last payable without penalty on January 31, 2010. If you don’t pay by then, you are socked with stiff penalties. To keep your taxes as low as possible, claim all the “exemptions” that you can legally claim, such as homestead, disabled, and/or over 65. If you need forms to claim these exemptions, go to www.jthomasblack.com and click “Links,” “Consumer Information,” and then “Harris County Appraisal District.”

New Exemption! If you are a 100% disabled veteran, you now qualify for a 100% exemption from property taxes! You must claim it; contact your local Central Appraisal District. It is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009.

Very Important for Everyone: Protest your home’s valuation every year. Only 12% of people do. You can do it yourself, and the forms are on the HCAD website. But I’m busy, so I have a service do it for me. There are several such services, but the one that I use is Patrick O’Connor’s, and his web site is www.cutmytaxes.com . He will protest your taxes, and you only have to pay him if he wins. If he gets a $300 reduction off your tax bill, you only have to pay him 50% or $150. Doesn’t sound like much to save? Have him do it year after year, like I have. It has really made a noticeable difference in my property taxes.


A little humor -

A Texan’s Guide To Life (part two)

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop diggin’.

Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson.

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.

Never miss a good chance to shut up.


Are bill collectors threatening to take your home or garnish your wages? Are they threatening to do anything else that they are not allowed to by law?

Is your mortgage company charging you fees and costs that are not due? Are you just overwhelmed with debt? If any of these situations describes you, contact Mr. Black at 713-772-8037 or send him an email at [email protected]


Notice: Tax Preparation Now Offered
Many of my clients ask us for help with tax return preparation. Beginning this year, we will be offering income tax preparation services for a limited number of clients. If you need your tax return prepared, call 713-772-8037 and ask for Rob Heinly.


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. 24 hours/7 days a week, 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? Go to www.jthomasblack.com , click on ” Current Clients Click Here” on home page, and fill out the Motion to Modify worksheet. Fax to 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.