A family on the verge of homelessness due to foreclosure asked a Cook County Circuit judge on Tuesday if he would turn down TCF National Bank’s Motion for Order of Possession for their house.
Domynika Pawelczak-Gutierrez, 36, who has lived with her family in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood on the 5300 block of South Major Avenue for eight years, said the bank feels entitled to do business as usual, when the conditions under which she is losing her home are “anything but usual.”
The same week her husband lost his job in 2009, her teenage daughter, Hilary, underwent spinal fusion surgery, which forced her to be bedridden and required home care for roughly two months. Pawelczak-Gutierrez said the family was forced to rely on her income as a server to live and pay for Hilary’s medical expenses.
“We’ve been through a lot — I started using credit cards and getting myself more and more in debt. But we’re just starting to start over,” said Pawelczak-Gutierrez, who added that she filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. “I’m running out of options, I don’t know where we’ll go or what we’ll do if we lose the house.”
The house, which Pawelczak-Gutierrez said is worth $151,000, was foreclosed upon and sold back to TCF at auction in May. She said TCF Bank offered her a 30-year loan modification that added $22,000 to the $238,000 that she already owes on the mortgage, and asked for a $4,000 payment up front. She and her husband rejected the offer, and are now hoping, either by TCF’s or a judge’s decision, that they won't get evicted and the bank will provide a principal reduction on a loan modification.
“I don’t understand why TCF won’t work with us,” Pawelczak-Gutierrez said, moments before she went to court. “We’re in big trouble.”
Cook County Judge Robert Senechalle gave Pawelczak-Gutierrez and her husband, Juan Gutierrez, until September 6 to produce written documentation that details why he should stop the approval of the sale of their home to TCF. Under the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law, Pawelczak-Gutierrez can prevent the sale if she can prove the terms of the sale were unconscionable; TCF Bank conducted the sale fraudulently; proper notice wasn’t given; or “justice was otherwise not done.”
“We want TCF to give us a real modification instead of adding money to the principal. We’re already underwater,” Pawelczak-Gutierrez said. “We want them to really work with us this time, instead of against us, and see us as human beings instead of just another foreclosure number.”
Here's more from Pawelczak-Gutierrez:
According to members of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, which has backed Pawelczak-Gutierrez and her family and sent several supporters with her to court on Tuesday, TCF Bank is trying to “squeeze blood from a stone.”
“These banks are taking families through this confusing and violent process and the families don’t understand everything that is happening to them and their home,” said Simon Swartzman, a member of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction. “The banks are making this process as opaque as possible.”
Swartzman added that TCF is able to “get away with” asking for an increase to Pawelczak-Gutierrez’ principal amount because they want to get reimbursed for the payments that weren’t provided during the foreclosure process.
According to the Woodstock Institute, Garfield Ridge, a South Side neighborhood in Chicago, was home to 453 foreclosure auctions between 2008 and 2012. More than 4 percent of the community’s homes were foreclosed upon during that time, the research and policy organization reports.
In 20 of Chicago's 77 community areas, more than one in 10 mortgageable properties went through the entire foreclosure process during that time, according to the Woodstock Institute.
“It’s amazing to me that, in a foreclosure crisis that was largely caused by banks and mortgage originators that got bailed out, that they can ask for more and more money,” said Steve Serikaku, a member of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction. “Why is the financial industry entitled to earn just as much as they did before the recession, even though everybody else has been severely hurt?”
Serikaku said, by pushing people into foreclosure, big banks are contributing to the decimation of neighborhoods.
“When you create as many empty homes as there are now, and destabilize communities, you’re causing property values to go down and exacerbating the problem,” he said. “How can that be good for the economy?”
Meanwhile, Pawelczak-Gutierrez said that Hilary is going into her senior year at John F. Kennedy High School, and they would like to stay in Garfield Ridge so the 17 year-old can graduate. She added that she plans to speak with a foreclosure counselor to see if TCF Bank violated the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law.
“I don’t really understand everything that’s going on, so I am going to get as much help as I can,” she said. “As long as I’m in the house, I’m going to try to fight back. I won’t leave without a fight.”