COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Linda Donna sits in her Commerce City home, looking out front her living room window. “This is my sanctuary,” she said with a smile on her face. “This is where you close the door; all the madness is outside and it doesn’t have to be brought in here.”
The former telecommunications specialist claimed she lost her job because of her age. “It was a forced retirement,” she said. The economy and the lack of job opportunities made it difficult for Donna, 61, to find work. “But I still had to maintain properties; I was using my savings.”
Donna is one of the many in Colorado who faced foreclosure during the height of the housing crisis. According to data by the Colorado Division of Housing, more than 160,000 homeowners had foreclosure filing against them between the years of 2008 to 2011.
As part of the foreclosure process, Donna was charged $125 for a posing on her front door. The posting, which is required under Colorado law, gives homeowners a chance to cure the debt to the bank by giving them counseling.
Donna, along with two other homeowners, have filed suit against the state’s biggest foreclosure law firms claiming the $125 posting fee was inflated. In the lawsuit, her attorney claims the fee should have been $25. “If you can’t pay the primary, how do you pay all these fees?” she asked FOX31 Denver Investigative Reporter Tak Landrock.
The office of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is also investigating the foreclosure law firms. His office is trying to find out if the Aronowitz Law firm , as well as the Castle Law Group, which normally compete for business, conspired to raise the foreclosure posting fees.
In legal filings by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, an email from Stacey Aronowitz, of Aronowitz and Ford to Caren Castle, of Castle Law, there is a quote from Aronowitz stating, “I just wanted our offices to try and get on the same page on what we are charging for all of this.” The email was a question about the posting fees.
“These are people, who are already harmed, hurt and are in bad situations because they are starting to face foreclosures. They are financially on the edge and eventually they are going to have to pay for the costs of those postings,” said Colorado Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino.
He introduced legislation requiring the postings on front doors of those whose homes are going into foreclosure. The law gives homeowners an option on curing the debt within 90 days so they wouldn’t lose their homes. The bill, which passed legislation and signed by the governor, never stated how much a law firm should charge for the posting.
“The free market usually gets it right, but having people who are colluding and fixing a price, then it is time to step in,” said Ferrandino.
Donna’s Attorney, Jordan Factor, wants a judge to approve class action lawsuit against the foreclosure law firms to get consumer their money back for what he calls bogus inflated fees.
“When all the competitors get together and decide to set a price at an artificially high level, the consumer is badly damaged and we have laws against that,” said Factor. He told FOX31 Denver that he wants others to contact his office to see if they can take legal action against those foreclosure law firms.
But those posting fees may have been approved by the government agencies that backed many of the loans consumers took out.
Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac give foreclosure law firms guidelines for acceptable costs and will only reimburse lawyers, “actual, reasonable and necessary fees,” according to an industry insider who wanted to stay anonymous for this report.
“A lot of people in my situation are not going to be able to fight back and save their homes and are going to give up,” said Donna. She saved her homes from foreclosure after dipping into her savings account.
The law firms at the center of the Colorado Attorney General’s investigation and the lawsuit by Donna and two others are not commenting. FOX31 Denver tried several times, but was told by both that they wouldn’t provide a statement or comment for this story.
A judge could decide by summer if a class action lawsuit is warranted against the Aronowitz and a decision in the Castle case may not happen until 2015.AlertMe