Action 9 investigates foreclosures that could force surviving spouses from homes



BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - A new wave of foreclosures threatens hundreds of Central Florida families who could be kicked out of their homes after a spouse dies.    

A Palm Bay widow is just one victim who blames a reverse mortgage and its hidden risks. 

Action 9's Todd Ulrich discovered how the very loan that was supposed to keep families in their homes is now forcing many out.

After her husband died, Cynthia Harris discovered the reverse mortgage, that had been a cash lifeline to keep their Palm Bay home, was now a costly trap. 

“I definitely fear being kicked out of my own home. They’re taking my home," said Harris.

The lender, One West, is foreclosing because Cynthia's name is not on the deed. 

When Cynthia and her husband got the reverse mortgage to tap their home's equity she was 57 years old.  She said the lender told her that to qualify she had to sign a Quit Claim Deed and take her name off of the property.

“They said they would put me on the mortgage once I turned 62, to secure my position in the home,” said Harris.

It’s a sales tactic many consumer groups now condemn. 

They say aggressive lenders had pressured seniors to take their names off deeds without telling them what happened when their older spouses died.

AARP officials said thousands of widows like Harris are just finding out they could lose their homes.

“I think they went back on their word. They haven't done anything to help me keep the home,” said Harris.

It had been a reverse mortgage guarantee. As long as you were living in the home, you couldn't lose the house.  Now Cynthia and others claim that promise was a lie.

AARP won a federal lawsuit to stop one widow's foreclosure and it's filed a class action to challenge other lenders. 

Real estate attorney Karen Wonsetler said these homeowners have been put through a risky sales process that is not fair. 

“The safeguards in this process have been overridden by these aggressive tactics, and yes, you can then lose the one and only asset the family has,” said Wonsetler.

Florida's attorney general has 14 complaints against One West and Financial Freedom that had been involved in the mortgage that Cynthia Harris’ husband signed.  

“I'm already thinking about what I need to pack up and throw away,” said Harris.

A representative for One West told Ulrich that it is reviewing the mortgage that had been in Harris’ husband’s name.

Harris has hired an attorney and is hoping the AARP class action lawsuit can help widows like her.