Make us your home page

Digging in: A man fights to stay in his home

ST. PETERSBURG — J. Thomas Wood is showing just how tough it can for a lender to foreclose, even on a homeowner who hasn't made a payment in more than three years.

In 2006, when his condo in Bayway Isles was valued at $261,000, Wood refinanced for $180,000. It didn't seem to matter to Countryside Home Loans that he was in bankruptcy at the time.

"I wondered why they'd give us a loan in the first place," said Wood, a retired art teacher.

Now, investors in the package of mortgages that included Wood's want the condo. Wood has kept the foreclosure at bay with several challenges right out of the "stay in your home" playbook. He argues that:

• He wasn't told he was getting an adjustable rate loan when he refinanced, even though he defaulted on the payments before the rate rose.

• He wasn't appropriately notified of the foreclosure lawsuit. The bill from the process server says the first attempt was made the day before the case was filed. The process server also indicated the home was unoccupied — though Wood was living there — and that it was a mobile home, instead of a sixth-floor condo unit.

• It's unclear who owns his loan. An admitted Bank of America robo-signer put her signature on the document that assigned Wood's mortgage from MERS, the mortgage industry's electronic database, to Bank of New York, trustee for the investors. All Wood knows for sure is that he got the loan from Countrywide, that Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America in 2008 and that Bank of America is supposed to be collecting his payments.

"It bothers me that I can't go into the bank and discuss it with them," said Wood, who made his last mortgage payment in August 2007.

In the daisy-chain of modern mortgage financing, the Bank of America branch on the corner doesn't communicate with Bank of America's mortgage servicer in Plano, Texas which is supposedly carrying out the orders of investors represented by a trustee at the Bank of New York through a law firm in Tampa.

The upshot: With so many parties involved, an easy resolution is impossible when the borrower defaults. Cases drag on in the court. And savvy homeowners can use the confusion to their advantage, living rent-free.

In December, Wood attended court-ordered mediation, but the parties were unable to agree on a loan modification. With fees and charges, he now owes $228,745 and counting.

The next move: Wood's lawyer will challenge the court's routine use of retired judges to handle the backlog of foreclosure cases, saying to do so violates his client's constitutional rights.

J. Thomas Wood, retired teacher, artist

Loan Amount, $180,000

Foreclosure action filed: 6/3/08

Status: Foreclosure pending

Digging in: A man fights to stay in his home 03/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 11:40am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Memorial Day sales not enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay malls


    TAMPA — Memorial Day sales at Tampa Bay area malls were not enough to compete with the beach and backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.

    Memorial Day sales weren't enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay area malls over the long weekend. 
  2. Austin software company acquires second Tampa business


    Austin, Tex.-based Asure Software acquired Tampa's Compass HRM Inc. late last week for $6 million. Compass focuses on HR and payroll.

    [Company photo]
  3. Hackers hide cyberattacks in social media posts


    SAN FRANCISCO — It took only one attempt for Russian hackers to make their way into the computer of a Pentagon official. But the attack didn't come through an email or a file buried within a seemingly innocuous document.

    Jay Kaplan and Mark Kuhr, former NSA employees and co-founders of Synack, a cybersecurity company, in their office in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2013. While last year's hacking of senior Democratic Party officials raised awareness of the damage caused if just a handful of employees click on the wrong emails, few people realize that a message on Twitter or Facebook could give an attacker similar access to their system. 
[New York Times file photo]
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]