A Reverse-Mortgage Nightmare

July 20, 2013
Seattle Times 
mortgage lending news

While not the standard for most reverse mortgages, thousands of these loans pushed through in the 1990s include unreasonable terms that equate with "financial abuse of the elderly," according to a string of lawsuits in California at the tail end of that decade. The issue is again coming to the forefront as borrowers who took out reverse mortgages back then pass away and battles are waged over their estates. In the case of Sarah Hoge, for example, the widow received a reverse mortgage from a OneWest subsidiary in 1997 that included 50-50 shared appreciation with the lender, a $33,000 mandatory annuity tacked on to the loan balance, an additional 2 percent "maturity" fee, and a base interest of 9.95 percent. Although she received $272,911.51 in reverse mortgage payments in the 13 years before she died, Hoge's daughter is fighting the lender's claim to repayment -- which she estimates may be as much as $1.6 million. Her argument is that Financial Freedom Acquisition, the law firm representing the lender unit, cannot prove that it actually owns that mortgage and that the loan terms are "unconscionable and usurious" and a violation of state law. The outcome of the case is far from certain, but what is sure is the need for potential reverse mortgage borrowers -- even with today's more consumer-friendly options -- to consult with family members, who also may be hurt by unfair terms once the borrower passes on.

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