I've Told People for Years that Reverse Mortgages are Evil. I Made a Bit of a Mistake....

Real Estate Agent with Bill Cherry, Realtor 0124242

I've told people for years that Reverse Mortgages are evil.  I made a bit of a mistake....it's HUD that's evil...! Very Evil!

Caught in a reverse (mortgage) nightmare: HUD policy draws scrutiny, lawsuit

February 01, 2013 01:30PM
By Kenneth R. Harney


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a birthday gift for 91-year-old widow Jeanette Ogle that should cause any senior to think twice before signing up for a government-insured reverse mortgage.

Later this month, on Ogle’s 92nd birthday, her home in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., is scheduled for foreclosure — not because she did something wrong.

Instead, she is expected to lose her house because during a refinancing in 2007, only her husband’s name was included on the reverse mortgage documents prepared by a loan broker.

This was despite the fact that both her husband’s and her names were clearly listed as co-borrowers in the documents for the mortgage being refinanced, Ogle says, and the longtime married couple wanted no change in that status.

But under a controversial policy that is drawing national scrutiny and at least one major lawsuit, HUD — the agency that runs the reverse mortgage program — insists that when a spouse dies, and the surviving spouse’s name is not on the loan documents, the full mortgage balance becomes due and payable.

If a relative or the surviving spouse cannot purchase the house and pay off the debt, the loan may be subject to a foreclosure sale.

Ogle, whose husband, John, died in 2010, says she cannot imagine why she is facing foreclosure.

“We did everything we were supposed to do,” she says. “I signed every piece of paper, we followed the rules.”

Jeanette and John assumed that the loan they initially took out in 2004 would allow them to do what advertisements for reverse mortgages consistently promise: stay in their home indefinitely, with some extra money for living expenses.

But it’s not turning out that way.

“I just don’t understand why they are doing this to me,” she said in an interview. “I don’t want to lose my home.”

HUD’s reverse mortgage program, run through the Federal Housing Administration, has been big business, and promoted on television by pitchmen such as Hollywood’s Robert Wagner and former Sen. Fred Thompson.

There were 582,000 loans outstanding nationwide as of November 2011, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which issued a critical evaluation of the program last year.

Reverse mortgages are restricted to seniors 62 years or older.

The program allows homeowners to tap into equity and pull out money for use in their retirement years.

As long as they pay their property taxes and hazard insurance, generally they don’t have to repay any of the money until they move out, die or sell the house.

HUD’s policy on surviving spouses has been challenged in a federal lawsuit filed by AARP, the seniors advocacy group.

On behalf of two widows and one widower threatened with foreclosure, AARP charged that HUD disregarded clear statutory language that allows surviving spouses to remain in their homes even if their name is not on the documents.

In an appellate court ruling last month, U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence H. Silberman said that the court was “somewhat puzzled as to how HUD can justify a regulation that seems contrary to the governing statute.”

HUD had no comment on that ruling, which sent the case back to a lower court, and refused to discuss Ogle’s pending foreclosure.

So did Ogle’s loan servicer, Reverse Mortgage Solutions, of Spring, Texas, which initiated the foreclosure action.

Fannie Mae said the foreclosure would have to proceed because the mortgage is FHA-insured and that agency’s rules effectively require it, given the absence of Ogle’s name on the documents.

Andrew Wilson, a Fannie Mae spokesman, says the company has a document purportedly signed by the Ogles acknowledging that their refinanced mortgage lists only John Ogle as the borrower.

Jeanette Ogle says she has no recollection of signing anything of the sort.

“Why would we?” she asked in an interview. Wilson says that whatever the facts, Fannie Mae is “sympathetic” toward Ogle’s plight, and will seek to delay any post-foreclosure eviction.

Jean Constantine-Davis, AARP’s senior attorney on the surviving spouse suit, called Ogle’s circumstances “pretty horrible,” and said HUD’s “current regulation has been devastating on surviving spouses.”

AARP’s suit alleged that there are “hundreds” of elderly victims of the policy.

Ogle’s son, Robert, has asked the Arizona state attorney general’s office to intervene and investigate how his mother’s name was left off the mortgage.

But in the meantime, the clock is ticking toward Jeanette Ogle’s foreclosure.

And her 92nd birthday.

Kenneth R. Harney is a syndicated real estate columnist.



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Than Maynard
Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma - Purcell, OK
Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862

That is pretty amazing. Hope she gets it worked out, but comon snse and government are like oil and water.

Feb 14, 2013 10:31 PM #1
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Bill - I see the problem in this instance being laid at the feet of the mortgage broker, who originated it.  On one of our local radio shows it was disclosed that some lenders intentionally left off a younger spouse, in order to boost monthly amounts given homeowners on these mortgages.  What a shame! 

On the positive side, I have known far more people who have been helped by reverse mortgages than harmed by them.  They aren't for everyone, but for some it can make a difference between having a comfortable retirement, or one that is subsistance at best.

Feb 19, 2013 08:46 AM #2
Maggie O'Connell
Reno, NV
Reverse Mortgage Purchase Specialist

It was very unfortunate that people deeded off title so the other spouse got the reverse mortgage in their name only.  Today, there are safeguards in place that protects both spouses.  I remember a time when I was approached by a couple who wanted a reverse mortgage, but one spouse was too young.  I recommended they wait until he turned 62.  A few years later (after the housing downturn) I got a call from this couple who had done the reverse mortgage at that earlier time with another lender.  That lender told them to refinance when he turned 62, but by then the value had dropped considerbly and they could not finance.  It was very sad... but homeowners need to take responsibility also.  They didn't take my advice and warning, they called around until they found someone to do what they wanted.

Apr 16, 2014 11:14 AM #3
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Los Angeles CA

Sometimes, it is the only solution.... especially to avoid a foreclosure. Also, if a homeowner needs help with manging their delinquent property expenses. There expenses include property taxes and homeowner's insurance, as well as up to 12 months of additional assistance for future property expenses. 

Dec 30, 2017 07:29 PM #4
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