Willie Huguley, 78, has lived on the corner of Cornwall and Thomaston Streets her entire adult life, almost 57 years. Then suddenly two weeks ago someone came by and slapped a foreclosure sign in her front yard.
It was the first notice she received that she was in foreclosure, she said.
It seems Huguley was the victim of a predatory loan scheme enacted by “a couple of window salesmen,” who convinced her a few years ago to sign an adjustable rate mortgage to pay for the window installation.
Huguley’s daughter Shirley said the salesmen were able to get her mother to start talking about her finances and “told her they would be able to help her.”
Sitting in the same living room where Huguley signed the documents, Shirley said, “they tricked her into signing her life away.” Unable to continue because of the tears, Sharon Patterson Stallings, a member of the Northend United chapter of ACORN, picked up where Shirley left off.
Patterson Stallings said she vaguely remembers two men knocking on doors and trying to sell windows in the Blue Hills neighborhood a few years ago. “From their spiel, you could get windows for close to nothing,” she recalled.
“What they did was criminal. They stole the house,” she said.
Huguley doesn’t remember the name of the company that installed the windows and there’s no mention of a window company in court documents.
Court documents show that the adjustable rate mortgage Huguley signed to borrow the money for the window installation was through Encore Credit Corp. The mortgage loan started with an interest rate of 5.9 percent that ballooned to 14.9 percent.
The foreclosure notice against Huguley was first filed on Feb. 27, 2007. But Huguley said she doesn’t ever remember being served by a marshal.
Now more than a year later, Huguley’s debt on the house has escalated from $174,000 to $195,000 and a motion for strict foreclosure was filed by the bank’s attorney, Hunt, Leibert, Jacobson.
Huguley’s husband died in 2000 and following his death she was using the few savings she had along with her social security benefits to pay the mortgage.
Now she’s hoping for a miracle.
A handful of ACORN members, who came to support Huguley Wednesday started off the morning holding hands and praying for a miracle to help her save the home where she raised four children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren.
State Rep. Ken Green, D-Hartford, chairman of the legislature’s Housing Committee, stopped by Huguley’s home Wednesday morning to learn more about her situation. He said it sounds like it could be a consumer protection issue. He said when people sign a home improvement contract where they’re using their home as collateral, it needs to be written in “plain, clear language.”
The question becomes, “Was the consumer made aware of all of the consequences?” Green said. He said a lot of people sign home improvement contracts and end up losing their homes.
As far as the foreclosure crisis goes Green said people have to get help before they fall two months behind on their mortgage payments. He said the Capitol Region Council of Churches has a program where people can receive up to $1,500 if they’re not more than two months behind on their mortgage.
ACORN is also offering help to homeowners. Michelle Whatley, an ACORN member, said, “I urge everyone having trouble with their mortgage to call ACORN at 860-232-2675—it’s happened to so many people, it’s nothing to be ashamed of but the sooner you call the sooner you can get help.”
Whatley said she’s currently working with the bank to modify her own loan. “I’m still fighting. I’m not going to give up,” she said.
Huguley’s situation is much more dire. The foreclosure sign in front of the home says the sale is scheduled for Aug. 16 at noon. But Huguley said she is in negotiations with her lender to postpone the sale date.