Chicago family fights to get back foreclosed home

October 21, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Roberto and Socorro Rios lost their home to foreclosure. Their adult children are in a position to buy the home, but they say the bank won't let them.

Banks worried about fraud or strategic defaults have long prohibited family members from buying out their relatives foreclosed properties. But, if it was clear those relatives intended no fraud and were just trying to keep a family together in the only home they've known, how should that be treated? It's the gray area one family is trying to navigate.

After Sept. 11, Roberto Rios' income dropped 40 percent as his employer, American Airlines, cut back his hours drastically. At the same time, he and his wife were putting two bright daughters through prestigious colleges. Like so many, they tapped their home equity to bridge the financial divide. Now they owe $400,000 on a home worth $209,000.

"We are asking for somebody to give us a hand, to sit down and negotiate with us," said Roberto Rios. "We don't want something for free, we just want them to sit down and negotiate."

Socorro Rios was let go after 32 years from her job and has since lost two others. Their home has been foreclosed upon by Bank of America and they could be evicted next week. But their daughters have a deal in place with US Bank to buy this home at market value.

But Bank of America won't sell it, and now the deed actually resides with Fannie Mae, the federal home insurer.

"It's frustrating. Because how are you not going to trust your daughters to buy the house?" said Roberto Rios. "But, somebody who is walking on the street, they can come over and buy the house. And we are living on this property for 30 years."

The Rios family turned to community organizations for help. At every step, their efforts for a loan modification have been rejected because as a couple they don't make enough money.

The fact their daughters live upstairs is immaterial to the bank, which received federal bailout money

"There should be an appeal process in anything the government has anything to do with," said Bob Vandrosek, South Austin Community Coalition. "There should be an individual decision made in exceptional situations like this. I mean, clearly, there is no intent of fraud."

Chicago's realtors agree -- at the risk of harming their relationship with banks.

"The whole purpose is not about putting somebody in a home, it is about keeping people in homes," said Mabel Guzman, Chicago Association of Realtors president.

In a statement late Thursday, Bank of America said: "A short sale was approved by the investor (Fannie Mae) in December '09. However the contract never closed. Property foreclosure has already occurred."

Bank of America says it will meet with the Rios family next week and bring in the South Austin Coalition and Fannie Mae.

Monday starts Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's five-day moratorium on foreclosures involving Bank of America, who along with other banks has admitted some of their foreclosures haven't been done properly and legally.

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