Advice from Strangers . . .

leo-cullum-i-was-just-going-to-say-well-i-don-t-make-the-rules-but-of-course-new-yorker-cartoonI recently met with a woman  who told me she hasn’t been sleeping.

She’s been having nightmares where people from her mortgage company come to her house and move her stuff out.  She calls out “Stop” but either no sound comes out, or they can’t hear her, or they ignore her.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she’s having these dreams because reps from her mortgage lender have been calling because she’s a few months behind.

Which . . ., well, okay, they’re just trying to get a payment. Fine, understandable. Everyone wants to get paid. If it stopped at ‘when can we expect your payment?‘ it would be acceptable. In moderation.

But they don’t, they try to induce any kind of payment they can get out of her by advising that if they move to foreclose she’ll have to move out of her house in 30 to 60 days. That’s basically it – ‘Okay, don’t pay, we file, you’re out of the house before the the new season of Homeland starts.’

There’s pretty much zero truth behind that threat as it applies to foreclosures in Connecticut.  Since most every homeowner behind on the mortgage is stressed out, the bank’s threat/misrepresentation is very powerful.  Nightmare inducing, in fact.

There may well come a time in any unresolved foreclosure when the homeowner is 30-60 days from having to vacate the property.  That time is nowhere near being two months behind on payments.

One of the most satisfying parts about my job is counseling homeowners on just how long a foreclosure can take.  I get to tell them about due process and how long they still have to live in their homes. It’s always months and months longer than they think before meeting with me.

Then I get to hear  how well they are sleeping.

That’s me, Sarah Poriss, Attorney at Law & Sleep Specialist.


Thirty Years

antonio-de-pereda-thirty-years-war-HThirty years is a pretty long time. Few, if anything, lasts thirty years. Not even the Thirty Years War really lasted thirty years. Not continuously, at least.

images (2)It’s not all that easy to think back thirty years.  Ferris Bueller’s day off was thirty years ago last month. There are a great many diehard baseball fans that couldn’t tell you that the Kansas City Royals defeated the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. Especially since the Royals promptly disappeared from view until last year.

In the last thirty years we’ve had five Presidents; been in Michael-Douglas-on-Telephonethree wars; through three ‘official’ recessions;  eight stock market crashes; countless bull and bear markets; seen cell phones go from the Gordon Gekko size of a small briefcase to smart phones; there have been technological advances that were only foreseen by science fiction.

Thirty Years.  That’s the average life span of a Fortune 500 company. Actually, absent Coca Cola and a few others, almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 list turns over every thirty years or so (Remember Compaq computers?)

The average marriage in the United States lasts roughly 14 years. Regardless, more than 60% of marriages end in 21 or so years by divorce or death of a spouse.  The average worker changes jobs about every five years.

Thirty years of perfect health – physical and mental -would be an outlier of epic proportions.

And yet thirty years is overwhelmingly the term for most mortgages in the U.S..

When I meet with a new client it’s important that they know what this means. That no one can control – maybe even influence all that much – events over a 30 year span. Certainly not their health, career, market forces, recessions, corporate mergers/bankruptcies/relocations/relevance;  marriage; children; aging/ailing parents; severe weather; and a hundred other things.

Thirty years is a long time to pay for a house, a lot can and will happen,  a lot of it is not within the homeowners’ control.

What is in their control, is how to handle the foreclosure. Hopefully, with my help.


Old Debts (or not) and Enormous Profit …

Last Monday a friend of mine received a phone call on his cell phone from an unidentified Rhode Island number. He went to college in Providence, has friends there, answered.

Script from a ‘collection’ company a few dozen times removed from the debt.

This is what he got – “Hi, Mr. Loman, this is an attempt to collect a debt, anything – yada, yada, yada … can you confirm the last four digits of your social?”


“Is it ‘5555’?”


“Okay, well, I have an account here from Verizon, you owe twelve hundred dollars.”

“I’ve never had a Verizon account.”

“Well, sure, but it could also be from -”

“Could be?”

“From any one of the following companies now part of Verizon …” the guy then read off a very long list of companies, a list that pretty much summed up the telephone industry of the 21st Century.

“No,” my friend answered.

“No? Whattaya mean, no?”

“I don’t owe anything to anyone on that list.”

“Says here you do.”

“Then it’s wrong.”

“Look, Biff, I have it right here and -”

My friend has a law degree and a long history of dealing with total BS, so it finally hit him to ask, “Wait a second, what’s the date on this supposed debt?”

The guy on the phone fumbled around, Biff could hear papers being shuffled, murmurs of other voices from the boiler room, then, “Yeah, got it here, 2003.”

“You’re calling me about a twelve year old debt?”

“Well, no, see, we just received it -”

“Yeah, well, then it sucks to be you, have a nice day, don’t ever call again.”

Continue reading Old Debts (or not) and Enormous Profit …

Contracts, French Meals, Debt, and Groucho Marx

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” ~ Groucho Marx

Groucho-MarxIf you’re looking for a car, or a student loan, or a credit card, or short term loan and there are investors out there dying for you to take on the debt, you have to wonder why . . . and consider deeply before joining the club.

Look at it this way: You’re walking down the street, hungry, deciding between Five Guys, In and Out Burger, and a couple of decent Chinese food take-out store fronts when the owner of a new French restaurant runs up to you, offers to set you and your friends up with a world famous 7 course meal.

You’re tempted – you’re salivating, in fact – but explain you simply can’t afford it. No sweat, he tells you, 7 courses, a couple bottles of fine wine, all the baggettes you can eat, and a dessert to die for AND you have 90 days to pay the meal off. Continue reading Contracts, French Meals, Debt, and Groucho Marx

P.T. Barnum and Consumer Debt

p t barnum's ill news4-thumb-350x470-17752Most people remember P.T. Barnum for the line – “there’s a sucker born every minute.” Great – if not cynical -line, but Barnum never said it.

I have been thinking of him in a slightly different context lately, however. Over the past two weeks or so I’ve made a series of posts on my Facebook page concerning consumer debt – all of them pretty sobering. Like the New York Times article about car repossessions and military personel.   

I seems that when cars are illegally repossessed by lenders, there is no recourse through the courts. There is a clause in many – many – financial contracts that require all disputes be settled in binding arbitration. Only. Continue reading P.T. Barnum and Consumer Debt