Ruby Brown discusses her battle to save home
MINNEAPOLIS - Ruby Brown won her five-year battle to hang onto her home, with the help from new allies that made her case into a cause.
The foreclosure protest movement known as Occupy Homes MN went to bat for Ruby, posting her case on several social media sites.
"She was part of what we've called the Minnesota Five, which is five Bank of America homeowners, all facing unjust foreclosures," Anthony Newby of Occupy Homes MN told KARE.
"We grouped them all together, pitched the bank on this idea that they need to fix all of them, that we're all in the same boat."
Brown learned this week she had gained a reprieve from the Bank of America, which has agreed to newly modified loan terms that she can afford.
"I thank God for this," Brown told KARE. "And I also thank Occupy Homes Minnesota. We're talking about young people, some of whom don't even own homes, who were willing to stand and to really do something or try to do something!"
Brown has owned the north Minneapolis duplex for 17 years, and lives on the first floor while her sister's family lives on second. The career hair stylist, grandmother of 16 and church deacon, said the house has become a haven of sorts for her extended family.
"We have our Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers here, and this is where people come to stay when they've run into hard times and are trying to get back on their feet again," Brown explained.
She first experienced trouble in 2007, when her adjustable rate mortgage became too expensive. She was in the middle of modifying her loan with Countrywide when that company was absorbed by Bank of America.
That loan modification program still was not affordable over the long run, and she spent months going back and forth with loan servicing staff members who would tell her that key documents had been misplaced or omitted from previous requests.
She thought the problem had been solved in 2009 when she enrolled in the U.S. government's foreclosure assistance program known as Making Home Affordable.
"I was working in the system, and I excited to get going again," Brown recalled.
But after she had made 12 payments to the Bank of America under the new terms, she received notice from the bank that she had never really been disqualified from the program. The letter said she was responsible for paying what she originally owed in a lump sum.
"You know you grant me a modification, I qualified for a modification, and now you're saying I no longer qualify, you're demanded all this money?" Ruby said.
"If I could give you this money, this thousands of dollars, then I wouldn't have needed the program in the first place!"
The person on the other end of the line said she'd been disqualified from the Making Home Affordable program because she was also enrolled in the Affordable Modification Home Retention Program.
That was a surprise to Betty, who concedes the application programs were at times confusing. But rather than dropping her from one program, the bank dropped her from both.
"What we're doing again is leveraging public support and saying, regardless of what that technical glitch is, if you can afford to pay your mortgage you have a legitimate reason to stay," Newby remarked.
"She can now afford the home and afford to make payments and she'll be a community member probably lifelong, and that's really the goal of this movement."
Bank of America spokesperson Kelly Sapp told KARE, "Once we were made aware of Mrs. Brown's situation, we quickly escalated the issue and are pleased today that she has a resolution."
Sapp said Bank of American has modified 12,000 mortgages in Minnesota since the housing crisis began, and met with hundreds of borrowers at mortgage outreach events in the Twin Cities.
"I can tell you that foreclosure is always our last resort," Sapp added.
For those facing the prospect of foreclosure there are many resources available, listed in the links to this article.
One important tip from the Minnesota Department of Commerce is to never pay money upfront to a foreclosure relief group. Most are nonprofits that will work with homeowners for free.
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