Bank of America Foreclosure Freeze Unlikely to Help Homeowners

The Tennessean ran a story on the decision by Bank of America to freeze all pending foreclosures so BOA can review its documents and records for accuracy.

The root of all this mess is the wholesale practice of buying, assuming, and assigning mortgage debt. Unlike your local bank that keeps its own payment records and the original loan documents in-house, Bank of America may only have a computer printout with a (partial) copy of the relevant loan documents and a third party’s payment history, and there is probably nobody at BOA who can affirm and swear to the amount of the debt, the default, or the existence of the original loan documents.

So, when it came to light that one person was signing 100s of foreclosure authorizations a day without any actual review or knowledge of the status of the loans, BOA had no choice but to stop all foreclosures, lest it risk certain legal attacks on any of its foreclosures pending now or in the near future. Now that the cat is out of the bag, BOA has to deal with this issue head on and, frankly, I think we’ll be surprised at how difficult this problem ends up being for BOA.

Keep in mind, however, that this “freeze” only applies to Bank of America mortgages, and so other lenders have no reason to cease foreclosure activity–on the contrary, they’d have every incentive to foreclose in order to get their inventory off the books (while the BOA foreclosures aren’t flooding the market).

The next few months will most likely not offer any guidance or resolution for borrowers. The foreclosure process will resume at some point, probably in early 2011, without any further issues. Those who don’t take any action, either by seeking modification or default forgiveness, will end up exactly where they are today.

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