In 1991, my mother Susie Johnson, now 78 years old, moved into her house in Orange, NJ. She instantly fell in love with the home and the neighborhood, frequently hosting barbeques and spending her days sitting on her front porch talking to neighbors.
In 1996, after she had been renting the home for five years, a representative of Homeside Lending knocked on her door, and asked her if she would be interested in purchasing the house. All her life, my mother had talked about wanting to accomplish two goals- going to college and owning her own home. She had already achieved the first goal, and now here was her opportunity to fulfill the second. She took out a mortgage with Homeside Lending and bought the house for $65,000, claiming her own piece of the “American Dream.”
My mother took pride in her home, faithfully paying her mortgage on time every month, and investing her own money to fix it up. Then suddenly, in February 2003, she received a notice from Washington Mutual Bank, returning her payment for that month and notifying her that she was in default, claiming she had not paid since October 2002. This was the first time she had received anything from Washington Mutual, who had apparently taken over her mortgage from Homeside and was now the servicer of her loan. At their instruction, my mother sent in copies of the missing payment receipts to Washington Mutual, attempting to reconcile the situation. Despite this, Washington Mutual filed for foreclosure claiming she was delinquent on her loan, even though until that time she had never missed a payment.
Her attempts to fight them in court failed, as the judge disregarded most of the evidence and granted them the right to evict anyway. In the meantime, John Stolarenko, the former president of Eastwood Mortgage Bankers who signed my mothers original loan documents, was convicted of mortgage fraud and served 10 months in prison. JP Morgan Chase took over the loan, and picked up where Washington Mutual left off, pushing forward with their attempts to evict my mother and take her home.
Over the years, I have watched my mother’s health deteriorate as the stress of the foreclosure has taken it’s toll. She has lost weight, and now suffers from anxiety and depression. Instead of sitting on the porch or hosting barbeques, she has become reclusive, afraid of answering the door for fear that it will be the sheriffs there to put her out on the street. We’ve watched as our community has been devastated by the housing crisis, while banks like JP Morgan Chase cash in on their crimes.
On January 1, my mother will be 79 years old. It’s time for JP Morgan Chase to do the right thing and give her home back to her for good so she can reclaim her dignity and go back to living her life in peace.