HOME RECORDS LOST
Company avoids document fees
February 3, 2013 / The Sunday
Sun - Brianne Tolj
Julie Campbell stood in front of the log cabin exterior of their
Coupland home Thursday morning, glancing over the their house
and seven acres of land.
"It was supposed to be our dream home and it became a
nightmare," Mr. Campbell said.
years of battling banks and searching to locate the
owner of their mortgage loan, Alvie and Julie Campbell's
Coupland home was foreclosed on and sold in
purchased what they were told was a brand new home in
October 2004, but within months after moving in, they
realized the structure of the home -- and their
investment -- was unsound.
A year later the home was deemed
uninhabitable and the Campbells began a long battle with
the home manufacturer (Cavco). Over the course of several
years, they learned that Wells Fargo was no longer the
owner of the mortgage note. It had passed on to
another bank, but no one could tell the Campbells which
That sparked the question they still don't
have an answer for: What bank were they paying?
A partial answer emerged in Tuesday's meeting of
the Williamson County Commissioners Court, when County Clerk Nancy
Rister and Austin-area attorneys revealed that a national company
that tracks mortgage loans avoided county fees for filing mortgage
documents. The result is that homeowners like the Campbells
can't determine who owns the mortgage on their home.
Many Williamson County residents and millions of
people across the country are not trying to figure out what they
can do about it. Some of them have already lost their homes.
The Campbells were foreclosed on in 2010.
the presentation of a property records audit to the county
commissioners Tuesday, numerous residents have been calling to
explain their own conflicts with mortgage lenders, some of which
have led to foreclosure, Ms. Rister said.
Audit, conducted by local attorneys, examined over 1500 mortgage
documents that were filed with Williamson County in the past two
attorneys concluded that the source of the problem is a national
electronic database, Mortgage Electronic Registration System
(MERS), which was created in 1996 by several major banks to track
the sale and transfer of mortgages, the report said. MERS is
owned by MERSCORP Holdings, Inc.
was created by banking corporations as a way to curb the fees they
were paying to record documents with county clerks, said Kate
Berry a reporter for American Banker.
2004 until 2012, Williamson County didn't receive nearly $1
million in potential revenue because MERS avoided paying those
"The banks are so
say that it was recorded
with MERS but no one at the bank went into the MERS system and
of the loans."
and transfer of mortgages occurs frequently, and because the
MERS tracking system is so poor and many of the changes were
not registered with the respective counties, homeowners were
not kept up to date on who actually owned their loan Ms. Berry
"The banks are so sloppy that they would say that it
was recorded with MERS but no one at the bank went into the
MERS systems and registered some of the loans," Ms. Berry
said. "The MERS system itself never actually worked
As a result of loans frequently changing hands and a lack
of record keeping, many homeowners who had continued to send
payments to their mortgage servicers. the middle-man between
the homeowner and the owner of the loan received foreclosure
notices and could not track down the loan owner.
The record keeping in this private MERS database is so poor
that no one knows who owns the note," Ms. Rister said.
violation identified by the audit is robosigning, or signing off
on documents without reading them.
And it was suspicious
signatures on WilCo documents that led Ms. Rister to ask for an
audit, she said.
The banks hired
people to consistently sign foreclosure documents, stating that
the information was correct when sometimes it was not and no
notary was present, Ms. Berry said.
In April 2011, the
U.S. Department of the Treasury warned MERS, among other
companies, about their robosigning practices.
will now decide if it would like to pursue legal action against
MERS in retaliation for the loss of $1 million in unrecorded
The County Attorney's
Office, County Judge Dan Gattis and Ms. Rister will meet Monday to
discuss the possibility of joining lawsuits already filed in
Dallas and San Antonio or filing a lawsuit of their own.
"This will take
years and years to fix," Ms. Rister said.