ESTATE


Fannie Mae seeks foreclosure freeze only in S.C.
2009/05/07, 2:20 pm
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Mortgage-backer Fannie Mae said it singled out South Carolina for an unusual court-ordered freeze on home foreclosure sales because the state gives local judges the authority to dismiss delayed cases, which other states do not.

Fannie Mae isn’t seeking a similar temporary freeze in other states, said Brian Faith, spokesman for the mortgage company.

“In South Carolina, judges have the discretion to cancel an ongoing foreclosure process if there is a significant delay between the foreclosure judgment date and the actual foreclosure sale,” Faith said in a statement.

If masters-in-equity — the special county judges that usually handle foreclosures in South Carolina — were to dismiss delayed cases, “the process begins anew, which leads to higher costs and losses,” Faith said.

“The court ruling effectively addresses this situation,” he said.

Fannie Mae suspended its foreclosure proceedings in late 2008 and during the first of quarter of 2009 while it reviewed cases for potential workout strategies, Faith said. In some cases, that created significant delays.

At Fannie Mae’s request, the S.C. Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order late Monday afternoon on foreclosure sales for some homes. It targets properties that could be eligible for a mortgage modification program that President Barack Obama’s administration is rolling out. The program offers more affordable mortgage payments to homeowners whose loans are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and who meet certain other criteria.

Fannie Mae did not want homeowners potentially eligible for the program to lose their homes in foreclosure before they had a chance to participate. The mortgage company estimates that more than 1,000 homes in South Carolina were headed to foreclosure sales this week. It filed the petition for a temporary restraining order on Friday.

Obama announced the Home Affordable Modification Program in February, but details were not outlined until April 6.

Masters-in-equity say they are still sorting through the implications of the S.C. Supreme Court order, which requires lenders seeking foreclosure to submit affidavits by May 15 stating whether loans in default are eligible for the modification program.

Homes not eligible will continue in the foreclosure process, according to the restraining order.

Published May 7, 2009

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