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Homeowner Advocacy Unit fights to stop foreclosure sale

December 06, 2011

The Homeowner Advocacy Unit in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University filed for a temporary restraining order on Dec. 5 to stop the foreclosure sale of June Geffre’s Phoenix home after Bank of America stopped taking Geffre’s mortgage payments in July 2011.

The bank refused payment because her deceased husband failed to sign a permanent loan modification agreement, which was approved after he died. The foreclosure sale was scheduled for 10 a.m., Dec. 6.

According to the order and the complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, Geffre, 69 of Phoenix, paid the modified mortgage each month for 18 months after her husband, Thomas Geffre, died of complications due to pancreatic cancer. The complaint states that the Geffres were approved for a trial home loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program in summer 2009, and in January 2010, were approved for a permanent modification. However, the approval was granted after Thomas Geffre’s death, but only his name appeared on the modification forms requiring his signature.

June Geffre became the sole owner of the home, signed the modification forms, returned them to Bank of America, and included a copy of her husband’s death certificate.

The complaint alleges that Bank of America refused to accept June Geffe’s signature, insisting that Thomas Geffre’s signature was required in order for the modification agreement to become effective. June Geffre explained to Bank of America representatives on numerous occasions that her husband died, and was unable to sign the documents, the complaint states. She repeatedly sent copies of the death certificate to show proof that he had passed away in November 2009.

“This case is an example of why this clinic is so important,” said Mary Ellen Natale, director of the Homeowner Advocacy Unit. “The bank’s conduct is egregious. Requiring Mrs. Geffre to obtain her deceased husband’s signature in order to keep her home after the bank accepted her payments for more than 18 months following his death is simply outrageous.”

“Here we have an elderly widow willing and able to make the agreed upon payments and the bank would rather take her home and render her homeless,” Natale added. “It makes no sense and it is just wrong.”

In July 2011, Bank of America stopped accepting June Geffre’s payments, demanded that she pay the pre-modification amount plus $20,000 in past due mortgage payments plus penalties, the complaint alleges.

Geffre is seeking to have the loan modification deemed valid and enforceable and have the foreclosure sale cancelled; as well as compensatory and punitive damages awarded.

Student attorneys Alyson Vivattanapa and Jo-Ann Handy worked on this case.

The Homeowner Advocacy Unit opened its doors in August 2011, in response to the foreclosure crisis facing Arizona. Student attorneys participating in this clinic provide legal assistance to clients who have been victims of mortgage fraud or are facing wrongful foreclosure. The unit is made possible through a grant from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.