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Rosedale Park widow fights banks

Activists surround Britt home

By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Activists are camped out around a Rosedale Park home, hoping to block the eviction of Jennifer Britt and her family.

They have taken direct action in response to the refusal of government-backed mortgage holder Fannie Mae to negotiate with Britt to modify her loan or help her obtain rights to the deed.

“What we’re fighting for is home loan modifications based on principal reduction and the actual value of the house,” said Tristan Taylor, one of 25 people who were participating in a vigil on the lawn beside Britt’s home on July 20. “We need real solutions that not only keep people in their homes, but make sure that those homes belong to them.”

Since the accidental death of her husband in 2006, unresponsive banks and mortgage holders — including Flagstar Bank, NationStar Mortgage and Fannie Mae — have prevented Britt from claiming ownership of the mortgage, which was in his name.

According to Britt, she received paperwork from Probate Court in 2007 clearing the way for the transfer of her deceased husband’s mortgage to her.

Britt says that despite the fact she had already made a lump sum payment of $26,000 to keep the mortgage out of default, Flagstar Bank has continually ignored her request.

Britt has also made mortgage payments of $1,500 a month from 2006 to 2008, when the payment began to increase for no apparent reason.

Britt was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant in 2008.

That’s when, without the benefit of an attorney, she sought relief in the courts.

“They’re holding me to a mortgage that they said was not mine,” Britt told the Michigan Citizen. “It’s all because I had the nerve to fight for my home, and do it without an attorney — they won’t back down.”

Britt won a stay of eviction in August 2010 after Fannie Mae took her to 36th District Court disputing the ownership of the house.

Judge Cylenthia Miller agreed that Britt’s Probate Court decision allowed her a stake in the home and granted her 90 days to rework an agreement with Flagstar and Fannie Mae.

With the help of a paralegal, Britt also filed a federal lawsuit in November 2010 against Fannie Mae and Flagstar, citing her spousal rights to the deed of the house. An appeal in that case is pending.

“I didn’t have a job so I was doing everything I could to stay in the home,” Britt says.

Southwest Housing Solutions and the Rosedale/Grandmont Association formed a partnership in an attempt to purchase Britt’s home in the hopes of selling it back to her.

Their offer was turned down by Fannie Mae. Attorney Joe McGuire says lawyers at Trott & Trott said Fannie Mae would accept nothing less than the current mortgage balance of $121,000, even though the house is now appraised at $25,000.

McGuire says Fannie Mae has become more aggressive in its eviction policies, as evidenced by their stonewalling of Jennifer Britt.

“It’s them retaliating against her for fighting,” McGuire told the Michigan Citizen. “A lot of it is Fannie Mae cracking down and trying to squash the anti-eviction movement. They don’t want these successes being publicized because it will encourage people to fight back.”

Britt lives in the Rosedale Park home with her daughter, son, mother and uncle.

Recent media coverage of her case and work by foreclosure activists have given Britt hope.

“All I know is that they took my money for two and a half years — I feel like I’ve paid for the house,” says Britt. “If I haven’t, I know doggone well that I’ve paid enough to be able to do a modification.”

In a July 25 press release, Attorney McGuire said that after speaking with Congressman Hansen Clarke, Fannie Mae representatives have committed to delay the eviction pending further negotiations.

Contact Eric T. Campbell at ericcampbell@michigancitizen.com

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