Felicia El Hassan had already lost one house.
During turbulent times decades earlier in communist Cuba, she’d been forced to surrender property before fleeing to America.
The 86-year-old woman thought those days were far behind her after living quietly for nearly 20 years in a modest house in Opa-locka, a working-class neighborhood in northern Miami-Dade.
But that peace of mind ended when a process server appeared on her doorstep with court papers informing her of a foreclosure lawsuit by Liberty Home Equity Solutions Inc., formerly Genworth Financial Home Equity Access Inc. The complaint’s sole basis was the lender’s claim that El Hassan violated a key covenant of reverse mortgages by moving out, thereby defaulting on the loan.
“The allegation is basically debunked,” El Hassan’s lawyer, Ricky Corona, said. “Not only was she living there, but … they served it at her house.”
This, defense attorneys say, is a new strategy by lenders and plaintiffs lawyers: sue to foreclose on government-guaranteed home loans under various defaults, then fast-track these suits by filing motions for orders to show cause. These motions shift the burden of proof to the borrower, requiring them to appear in court and explain why a judge shouldn’t grant final judgment against them.