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HEYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — “I had faith in the system, but it has disappointed me,” said homeowner Susan Harris, of what is currently being done to save her Heywood County home. She warns others to review important parts of your financial statements.
The concerns Harris raised with News 13’s help desk should serve as a wake-up call to all homeowners. As she unravels how she’s stuck in a fight over her own home, she fears there are others in the same position as her.
Harris faces foreclosure despite never missing a mortgage payment. Her ordeal turned her dream home into a debt home.
What’s even scarier is that it could happen to you.
However, there is one tool to protect homeowners. This will require you to scramble to verify the final paperwork.
Haywood County Home in Harris
“It was a labor of love,” said Harris, working in the garden outside her 1920s home in Heywood County.
“My mother is British and lived in a very old house. You don’t knock them down. You fix them,” she explained.
Since Harris bought the home in 2008, her efforts have seemed like never-ending repairs. The electricity and plumbing had to be redone, she said. Later, when her sick father moved in, she had to renovate and add her second bedroom.
“I took care of him from 2014 until he died of COVID last October,” Harris said.
Her connection to a World War II veteran is forever linked to home.
“His cremated remains were placed in a rose garden I built. I even have an autograph made by a friend. It’s really sad,” Harris said.
Susan’s grief was compounded when she received a foreclosure notice in July 2022.
“At first I thought it was a scam,” recalls Harris. “Rather a nightmare. I always pay my mortgage on time. .”
It turns out that “someone” was the previous owner. It took them 14 years to clear their debts.
“I refinanced the property again in 2013, so the title company signed the closing not once but twice saying my property was free and clear,” Harris said. “This means that two separate title companies have failed to locate this trust lien.”
Title Search Process and Protection for Ownership Title Insurance Veronica Colvard, real estate attorney and partner at Goosmann, Rose, Colvard, and Cramer PA Attorneys at Law, although not working on the Harris case, described the process.
Colvard explained that a property search on the Register of Deeds should find the debt.
“Attorneys review all that information to determine property ownership, liens, judgments and limitations,” Colvard explains.
At that point, when asked if buyers would know if their property was free and clear, or if they had any outstanding loans or mortgages, Colvard said: Title search is really a risk mitigation process. ”
If something is overlooked, attorneys are held accountable, but only for four years, and many firms only keep records for seven years. Colvard says a better protection for homeowners is owner title insurance.
“If the search misses something, if there is an error, if there is a claim, title insurance can cover it and provide protection for them,” says Colvard.
This ensures that the new owner is not responsible for any claims made against the previous owner. Many states, including North Carolina, require lenders or banks to have title insurance. No owner policy required.
This policy is different from other insurance in that it protects you before you own the policy.
“You pay once at the time of purchase and the policy holds for as long as you own the property,” says Colvard.
Still, why would they be eyeing Susan’s house if the debt belongs to the previous owner?
“That’s a question I ask myself over and over again day and night,” Harris replied.
A house used as collateral ties her to bad debt. Bank of America, which issued the previous owner’s line of credit to the home, referred it to a collection agency. The agency filed a foreclosure.
This is where things get tricky.
Susan is confident she paid the owner’s title insurance, but the paperwork (often sent months after the insurance was issued) is missing. The office that handled the closure closed permanently after the lawyer’s death, leaving Susan with a costly legal battle and an uncertain future.
“I trusted the system, but the system let me down. I have an eight-year-old blind German Shepherd. I will have to find her a home. I have three cats,” Harris said.
She warns others to secure the owner’s title insurance and paperwork.
“Nobody obliges me to tell you about it, but I’m telling you now that you need to get it because I don’t want anyone else to see what I’m going through. It’s a nightmare.” said Harris.
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