Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service for the public good. Family Keeps Home

Thanks to a team effort, an injured Annapolis police officer and his family were able to ward off foreclosure and stay in their home.
The good news for Carl and Roline was that they had a new and capable recruit in the legal battle they were fighting to keep from losing their Grasonville home to foreclosure: MVLS volunteer Jim Persels, principal of the consumer rights firm Persels & Associates, LLC. The not-so-good news was that Mr. Persels was enlisted to the cause late on a Friday afternoon in mid-March, and the foreclosure was scheduled for 10 o’clock Monday morning.

The family’s problems began when Carl, a police officer in Annapolis, was injured on the job, and his workman’s compensation check didn’t provide enough to cover the mortgage payments on their four-bedroom house. They had sought help from Maryland Rural Development Corporation counselor Elaine Hill, and Ms. Hill and the family filed as many as ten separate requests for loan modification with their mortgage company. All were ignored.“This went on for months,” says Roline. “I was really, really worried.”

It was Ms. Hill who steered Carl and Roline toward MVLS. Then with the clock ticking toward foreclosure, the mortgage holder unexpectedly placed a temporary moratorium on foreclosures. This decision bought the family valuable time.

Mr. Persels asked for a postponement on the foreclosure until a decision was reached on the loan modification requests. The mortgage company turned down his request, and the foreclosure was rescheduled for April. Mr. Persels says the company denied ever receiving the loan modification requests, even though they were sent certified mail and someone at the company had signed for them. “It was obvious that they were playing games,” he says. Shortly afterward Mr. Persels began working with Diane Cipollone and Anthony DePastina, attorneys with Civil Justice, a Maryland nonprofit organization and MVLS partner, that provides training and mentoring to pro bono attorneys who help low-income people facing foreclosure. They began planning their defense against the foreclosure, and submitted a written request for loan modification through a federal program called the Home Affordable Modification Program (a verbal request had been denied). Finally, their luck turned. “Within days of the second foreclosure,” says Mr. Persels, “their application was conditionally approved.” Carl and Roline, the attorneys, and the mortgage company worked out an agreement that would reduce the family’s monthly payments by more than a $1,000; with Carl working again full time, that amount is manageable.

Carl, Roline, their 12-year-old daughter, and their 10-year-old quadruplets were able to stay in the home they’ve lived in for nine years.“It was a big relief,” says Mrs. Bouie. “I am so thankful.”

“This was not the Bouies’ fault,” says Mr. Persels, who has taken on several cases for MVLS. “The system was just crushing them. Helping people with problems like these is by far the most rewarding part of law practice.”