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Ex-owner says she can pay mortgage

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

One week after pleading her case in magistrate’s court, Anna Wilson said she’s leaving her future in God’s hands.

She is between home ownership and eviction after she failed to meet the requirements of a forbearance in lieu of foreclosure agreement she signed in July. Habitat for Humanity now holds the deed to her home, and they’re asking her to leave so another Habitat family can move in.

“If God wants me to move out, I’ll move. I just pray and hope it don’t come to that,” Wilson said.

Habitat says they’re following their policies.

“They’ve been more than fair,” said Rebecca Sparrow, a former Habitat worker who mentored Wilson when she moved into her home in 1998.

Sparrow came to magistrate’s court hearing last week to hear Wilson’s side of the story.

“I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt,” she said.

After the hearing, Sparrow was concerned about Wilson since she had no legal representation, but when she and another former Habitat mentor, Emily Bailey, found a lawyer willing to do pro bono work, Sparrow learned that there is nothing she can do for Wilson.

“Basically the attorney found out what we already knew. What we can do now is make the transition into some other housing easier for her. That’s the goal.”

Wilson, 63, and her daughter, Brittany, believe they have another chance to change Habitat’s mind.

At the magistrate’s court hearing, Habitat’s attorney, David Gundling, invited Wilson to the Habitat board meeting on Dec. 17 to state her case.

Brittany said her cousin, Celeste Dennison, called her later that day to tell her the meeting would be to set an eviction date, not to debate the forbearance agreement. Annette Perrault, executive director of Habitat, had called her and asked Dennison to convey the information to Wilson.

Dennison could not be reached for comment because she is on a cruise.

“The board will not reverse the deed in lieu of foreclosure,” Perrault said.

Magistrate Dan Furr said he would make his decision once the Habitat board informs him of its decision, but he won’t announce it until after Christmas.

“We’ve been in Habitat since 1998,” Brittany said.

As a child, she remembers sweeping up sawdust while volunteers worked on the three-bedroom, two-bath home.

“We’ve been in this house for quite a while,” she said. “My mom was paying her house mortgage and stuff, and you know it hasn’t been easy. We do the best we can to make things meet.”

She said if Habitat gives them another chance, her mom will transfer money from her Social Security check to Habitat each month.

“I got enough money to pay for my home,” Wilson said.

Anna and Brittany said their cousin and Anna’s son, Jerome Wilson, will tell the Habitat board members their side of the story at the board meeting, even if the meeting is only to set an eviction date.

“I feel like she’s picking on this house,” Brittany said of Perrault.

Both Wilsons said they never saw letters Habitat sent to them, and never heard about the financial planning classes Habitat wanted Anna to attend.

“I was told that Ms. Annette said that she was having this problem with us for three to five years. That’s not true,” Brittany said.

Her mother said she didn’t understand what she was signing in July when Habitat presented her with the option to sign a forbearance in lieu of foreclosure agreement or foreclose. Anna had not paid her mortgage since March but was willing to pay it in September, and continue paying it, she said, but Habitat returned her money.

Since September, she said she’s put aside her monthly mortgage payments to give to Habitat if she can get her deed back.

She paid about $2,000 in July and owed the nonprofit about $200 more the next month.

Anna said she thought the $2,200 covered her August mortgage as well, so she didn’t pay it. That’s the reason why, she said, Habitat returned her mortgage payment in September.

“I want to ask her to give me another chance,” Anna said. “I don’t want Mrs. Annette to think I want to live in a home for nothing.”

Habitat officials maintain they are following policy.

The policy states that mortgage payments are due on the 1st and 15th of each month. A $25 late fee is assessed after the 15th.

On the 20th, Habitat sends a letter to homeowners reminding them they are in arrears, and after 45 days without a payment, a meeting with Perrault and the controller is scheduled to discuss the issue.

If a homeowner signs a repayment plan, late fees are waived. If the owner does not, late fees are reinstated.

When a homeowner doesn’t start paying their mortgage after 60 days, Habitat requires them to attend a six-week financial responsibility course.

After 90 days, when the homeowner hasn’t tried to begin repayments, the sheriff serves them a letter. Another repayment plan is assigned to the homeowner, and he or she can sign a forbearance agreement in lieu of foreclosure.

After signing the forbearance agreement, the Habitat affiliate owns the property.

Habitat policy asks homeowners to notify them as soon as they have a financial problem.

It states: “Habitat fully understands that unplanned life circumstances, such as a prolonged illness or loss of a job, may prevent homeowners from making their monthly mortgage payments.”

At the hearing last week, Gundling referred to the policy when he said, “as a legal matter, there’s not much that can be done.”

“I would submit to the court that Habitat didn’t have any other choice.”

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