Good Sources for Legal Help

Unless you are a legal professional, you may not recognize the nuances of the law, some of which could work against you (and some of which could work for you).  Depending on the case, attorney involvement can avoid or reduce adverse effects of a problem, and may cause a situation to be less costly.  Furthermore, good legal advice may be more readily available than you realize and less expensive than you anticipated. Sources of competent legal advice may include: Legal Aid. Visit the Legal Aid office for your area. Even if you do not qualify for their help, they have information pamphlets which may be useful.  You can find out more online at http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/stjohns.html Contact an Attorney. An initial consultation is sometimes free of charge or at a low fee, depending on the matter. Online Media. Forums such as this website offer dialogue opportunities where you can write in general questions. Remember not to share personal information in an open forum, and be sure you are communicating with a qualified legal professional. “Land Title Talk” Radio Show is on each first and third Friday from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. on 102.1 FM WFOY or online at www.1240News.com. This is the […] Read More

Everything in Home Foreclosure

On the radio show my brother, Stephen, likes to ask me what is going on my world:  Everything.  Home loan originators have done things badly and home loan servicers have done things badly…resulting in Everything that can go wrong for a homeowner often goes much much worse. Examples include a homeowner making payments on a permanent loan modification, and then those payments not being accepted by a new loan servicer.  In another case, two banks were foreclosing on the same mortgage, while the homeowner had receipts showing she had made all the payments.  For numerous other homeowners, lenders lose information faster than they slough skin cells.  (Not all lenders and loan servicers are this way, but some are.) On the other side, homeowners may not have Everything, but they do have choices when it comes to home foreclosure.  It depends on where they are in the process, what their situation is, and what their goals are as far as which strategy will bring them the best benefit.  Some of the strategies include: Refinance Forbearance Short Sale Mortgage Modification Reverse Mortgage Hardest Hit Fund (And sometimes) Bankruptcy A Foreclosure Defense can help homeowners find the time to pursue an alternative to […] Read More

Differences of Decorum in Court & On Air

You can get away with certain things on a radio show that you cannot do in court.  Wardrobe is not an issue, and you are not going to get fined if your cell phone rings during a broadcast.  Furthermore, a dog eating crackers can stay in the sound booth as long as the chewing is not too loud. Generally you would not find a dog eating crackers in the courtroom, but at local radio station 102.1 FM WFOY (aka 1240News.com), Teddy the Wheaten Terrier is the station mascot.  He joined my brother, Stephen, and me at our last broadcast of “Land Title Talk,” though Teddy did not have any legal questions or comments.  Courtroom decorum is less casual. Courtroom decorum takes over where your mother left off, and creates an environment where tough situations can be debated without distraction.  You cannot wear shorts, tee shirts, or flip-flops, but what you get is an atmosphere where attorneys can be serious, trying to get a good and proper resolution for their clients. Sometimes you need that serious atmosphere to move forward through a difficult legal problem, but if you are looking for a more casual approach, “Land Title Talk” will broadcast live […] Read More

The Big Bad Bank, The IRS, & Home Loan Forgiveness

Once upon a time, the Big Bad Bank huffed and it puffed and it threatened to foreclose on the home loan of Mr. Bacon.  Now Mr. Bacon had owned his house for 30 years and he really did not want to lose it, so when the Big Bad Bank offered him a payout he could handle, he took it.  The question is, does that $40,000 forgiveness go to the IRS? That is a very good question for the person who does your taxes.  Yes, a good deal for Mr. Bacon with the Big Bad Bank could have tax consequences with Internal Revenue Service.  Generally, if your lender forgives more than $600 of debt, they are required to tell the IRS.  It depends on your circumstances whether or not forgiveness from the bank is your best benefit. While “forgiveness” seems like a good thing with the lender, it may give you a loss with the IRS.  This question recently came up on the radio show I am on with my brother called, ‘Land Title Talk,’ which airs this morning at 8:00 am on 102.1 FM WFOY.  Listen and call in with your legal or real estate-related question.  Contact information is given […] Read More

Low Cost Legal Resources

The Sixth Amendment gives you a Constitutional right to an attorney in a criminal defense.  But what if you are poor, elderly, disabled, and your landlord has locked you out?  Or you are facing home foreclosure and do not know what to do?  There are good legal resources in St. Johns County which may be able to help you in a civil matter at little or no cost to you.  These include the following resources: St. Johns Housing Partnership (SJHP) SJHP is non-profit agency whose services are offered to the public regardless of income.  They work with borrowers living in million dollar homes as well as those eligible for Legal Aid.  Their HUD certified counselors are sensitive to what their clients are going through, and they are knowledgeable and experienced negotiating with lenders on a loan modification that works for everybody.  SJHP does a background check on their clients without waiting for the bank to do one.  They get good results because they do the homework ahead of time.  There is no way to predict how long a mortgage modification will take, but you have a better chance to a permanent solution with SJHP. To learn more about St. Johns […] Read More

When the Cat’s Away, The Mice Could Take Adverse Possession

When the cat’s away, the mice will play Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, and ZZ Top!  The same thing could happen in Adverse Possession. My brother, Stephen, and I host a radio show twice a month.  Our music taste is not always the same, so when Stephen is away, I get to play hard rock transition music on the show.  It is actual, open, notorious, and possibly hostile (depending on your music preference)—some of the same traits required for Adverse Possession in land ownership. Adverse Possession is also known as Squatters’ Rights or Land Piracy. “A Hooker ON Every Corner” is one mnemonic for remembering the elements of Adverse Possession where the claimant has to establish Actual, Hostile, Open, Notorious, Exclusive, Continuous occupation of the property. In Florida, it only takes seven years for someone to gain Adverse Possession of real estate.  In some states, it takes 20 years of open, hostile, notorious use by Common Law with no stipulation regarding property taxes.  However, Florida passed a Statutory Law on Adverse Possession, reducing the number of years to seven and requiring that the person trying to take possession pay the property taxes. Like hard rock, Adverse Possession is not necessarily a bad […] Read More

How Long to Live in Foreclosed Home?

What is the life sentence on Foreclosure Avenue?  Say you are a homeowner who has not made mortgage payments in a while, and say you have been served notice of foreclosure, how long do you have to live in your house?  Say you are a tenant, how long do you have to live in your leased space once you receive a foreclosure notice?  These questions recently came up on the radio show ‘Land Title Talk.’ The key to foreclosure is that you are the owner of your home until the Certificate of Title is issued by the Clerk of Courts. Unlike Georgia, Florida homeowners remain homeowners throughout the foreclosure process, even through the foreclosure sale at the courthouse steps.  Usually about ten days after the foreclosure sale ownership transfers when the Clerk of Courts issues a Certificate of Sale. If you are NOT the homeowner, but a tenant in the home, you may have some rights.  Provided you have a bona fide lease, you may be able to finish the term of the lease or have 90 days. ‘Land Title Talk’ airs on the first and third Thursdays of each month from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. on 1240 News WFOY […] Read More

Decorum in Court (And Other Places)

You cannot chew cough drops while on a radio show. I learned that the last time I was on “Land Title Talk” on WFOY and Kris Phillips kept turning off my microphone. Of course there are words you are not supposed to say on air, and terms that get automatically censored on community blogs. Similarly, courtroom etiquette dictates certain appearance and behavior. Courtroom decorum takes over where your mother left off, and creates an environment where tough situations can be debated without the distraction. During a hearing or trial, attorneys are serious, trying to get to a good and proper resolution for their clients, but it is business; it is not personal. They can have a knock down drag out hearing, but it is just work, and at the end of it, opposing counsels can walk out together in pleasant conversation. I enjoy the high level of professionalism of the lawyers in St. Johns County—the ones with whom I work through Legal Aid and those I oppose.   Read More

Good, Free Resources Regarding Foreclosure

Eddie Van Halen played the guitar on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and he did it for free.  Sometimes you get what you pay for…and sometimes you get a whole lot more.  If you need solutions to home foreclosure more than a guitar solo, then good, free, local resources include the following: St. Johns Housing Partnership (SJHP) SJHP is non-profit agency whose services are offered to the public regardless of income.  They work with borrowers living in million dollar homes as well as those eligible for Legal Aid.  Their HUD certified counselors are sensitive to what their clients are going through, and they are knowledgeable and experienced negotiating with lenders on a loan modification that works for everybody.  SJHP does a background check on their clients without waiting for the bank to do one.  They get good results because they do the homework ahead of time.  There is no way to predict how long a mortgage modification will take, but you have a better chance to a permanent solution with SJHP. To learn more about St. Johns Housing Partnership, contact them at (904) 819-1266 (www.sjhp.org ). Mortgage modification is a very good idea in concept.  SJHP may be able to make […] Read More

Reverse Mortgage Reminder & Updates

Reverse Mortgages are not right for everyone.  There are positives and negatives, but sometimes they are the best solution to help an older person live more comfortably—able to afford medicine, food, and basic living expenses.  However, there are changes coming to the program, and coming fast. The FHA’s Reverse Mortgage (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, or HECM) is for homeowners 62 or older who have paid off or paid down the mortgage on their primary residence.  The program allows them to withdraw funds from the equity in their home in a fixed monthly amount or a line of credit or a combination of both. I recently spoke with Jerry Hanley of Security One Lending.  We discussed Reverse Mortgages on the radio show, “Land Title Talk,” last week.  He said changes are coming soon to Reverse Mortgages—there is a reduction in the amount of the loan starting October 1st, and come January 1st, the FHA will be looking very hard at insurance. Reminder:  Even if you have a Reverse Mortgage, you have to keep paying your Taxes and Insurance.  The great thing about a Reverse Mortgage is that you are going to get your money, but one of the negatives is that […] Read More