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BUSINESS
September 14, 2008 | Mary Umberger, Chicago Tribune
Are homeowners in denial? Are they stubbornly -- maybe irrationally -- clinging to the belief that other people's homes may be losing value, but theirs isn't? How else, one wonders, to explain sellers who cling fast to pre-housing slump notions in this wacko market? Or are they getting it -- to the point where they understand we're in a brave new world of pricing? I guess that depends on who's asking the question. Zillow.com is in the "They're in denial" camp: It recently surveyed homeowners about how much their properties are worth.
ARTICLES BY DATE
BUSINESS
April 6, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our manager refuses owner requests for documents, causing our association to be sued several times a year. Each time she comes to court as a defendant, she brings her so-called evidence and answers, "Your honor, see Exhibit X. " She overloads on exhibits, most of which are contrived for the purpose of that hearing. Her main strategy includes putting on big exhibit head notes supposedly explaining what each exhibit consists of, but when the exhibits are scrutinized and read, they have little or nothing to do with what is head-noted.
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BUSINESS
January 10, 2013 | By Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times
What mortgage meltdown? While millions of Americans have suffered the angst of lost homes, equity and pride, nearly a third of the nation's homeowners have no mortgage at all, according to an estimate released Thursday by real estate website Zillow. The free-and-clear class includes, predictably, retirees who have chipped away at their debts for decades, but also a surprisingly high percentage of young people and those who live in relatively affordable regions. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, only 20.7% of homeowners owned their properties outright, reflecting the region's pricey real estate.
BUSINESS
April 5, 2014 | By Tim Logan
The real estate market has long worked on a simple system: If you want to buy a new house, sell the old one and use the equity for a down payment. But the last few years of low ownership costs and rising rents have some move-up buyers trying a new approach: Buy the new house. Keep the old one. And rent it out. Real estate firm Redfin recently asked 1,900 prospective home buyers nationwide what they planned to do with their old house when they bought a new one. As you'd expect, the majority said they would sell.
BUSINESS
July 10, 2012 | By Marc Lifsher
SACRAMENTO -- Homeowners who default on refinanced mortgages won't be liable for debts that exceed the market value of their lost properties. Late Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law legislation to close a legal loophole that could make defaulting borrowers responsible for paying back money they took out of previously more valuable homes when they refinanced their loans. The lingering debt, said the author of the bill, Sen. Ellen M. Corbett (D-San Leandro) adds a second punishment to people who already have lost their biggest possession.
OPINION
October 27, 2012
Re "Faces of subprime lending's legacy," Business, Oct. 23 In February, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development said that the states would be using much of the $25 billion in settlement money from the nation's largest mortgage servicers to provide "immediate relief to homeowners. " Gov. Jerry Brown used California's share of the settlement money - about $410 million - to help close the state's budget deficit. Those facing foreclosure should file a class-action suit against the governor to require that all of the $410 million go toward providing immediate relief to homeowners.
BUSINESS
January 31, 2012 | By David Lazarus
    Is Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage company, betting against homeowners? The Treasury Department has launched an investigation into that very question. The probe comes after a report from ProPublica and NPR showing that Freddie has invested billions of dollars betting that U.S. homeowners won't be able to refinance their mortgages at today's lower rates. In essence, Freddie has been hedging its risk by purchasing what's known as "inverse floater" securities -- an investment in homeowners' interest payments.
BUSINESS
September 2, 2013 | By Walter Hamilton
Despite working 18-hour days, including part time as a waitress at a strip club, Hope Arnold was on the verge of losing her Silver Lake home. Then she discovered Airbnb, a website that links vacationers seeking an alternative to hotels and homeowners with rooms to rent. Billing her place as an "artsy and rustic 1927 treehouse," she started renting out her master bedroom, while she slept in the den. It paid off. Arnold has made $39,000 on Airbnb in the last 12 months, and the site now accounts for as much as 70% of her monthly income.
BUSINESS
September 28, 2013 | By Lauren Beale
Flexible spaces, tech-savvy features and outdoor-oriented living are popular with well-to-do U.S. homeowners, a pair of recent surveys show. Among the 300 wealthy consumers polled, open floor plans, full automation/wiring and swimming pools topped the list of important amenities, a study by Coldwell Banker Previews International and the Luxury Institute found. Lower priorities for households earning at least $250,000 annually were staff quarters, tennis/sports courts and catering kitchens.
BUSINESS
August 8, 2012 | By E. Scott Reckard
Citigroup Inc. is testing a program that would allow distressed homeowners to sign over title to their property and stay on as renters paying less than they did on their mortgages. The effort is similar to a larger ongoing Bank of America pilot offering up to 2,500 customers the option of avoiding foreclosure by trading their mortgages for leases. Citigroup's offer is to be extended to about 500 borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth and who are 120 days or more past due on their home loans.
BUSINESS
March 30, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: I'm the president of our homeowner association mainly because no one else wants the job. We live in a prestigious area of Los Angeles and have fewer than 30 units. Because nobody wants to be on our board we hired a management company. They're not a California company. Their head office is out of state, and we've never seen or been to their California place of business and do not know where it is or that they even have a California office. A management representative came and picked up our files and documents, including owners' personal information and accounts, and gave us their P.O. box number.
BUSINESS
March 23, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our association board allows the manager to control all the homeowners association notices that owners are supposed to get. The manager picks and chooses who will receive notice of meetings, elections and other important issues. Sometimes she puts these vital notices in a locked glass case, way at the other end of our huge complex, takes a picture of them as proof the notices were put up, then orders the security guards to remove those same notices from the case after the snapshot.
BUSINESS
March 16, 2014 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - The economy may be growing at a frustratingly slow pace, but one piece of it is booming: American homeowners' equity holdings - the market value of their houses minus their mortgage debts - soared by nearly $2.1 trillion last year to $10 trillion. Big numbers, you say, and hard to grasp. But look at it this way: Thanks to rising prices and equity levels, about 4 million owners around the country last year were able to climb out of the financial tar pit of the housing bust - negative equity.
NATIONAL
March 12, 2014 | By Joseph Tanfani
POMONA, N.J. - His state wrecked and reeling from Superstorm Sandy, Chris Christie made himself the face of New Jersey's comeback effort with a take-charge tour de force that became a cornerstone of an expected run for president. But the made-for-campaign-ads story of resurrection is now riddled with failures: poor performance by contractors, accusations of insider deals and increasing frustration from homeowners still waiting for recovery funds. In the aftermath of the George Washington Bridge scandal, Gov. Christie and top members of his administration also face questions about whether he and his aides used disaster relief funds to reward friends and punish enemies.
BUSINESS
March 9, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our board is very lax when it comes to financials. We don't get timely information, and the information we do get from management and our treasurer is so sparse that owners and the board alike don't have any idea where our association stands. Is there some kind of format that financial statements must follow? Answer: Civil Code section 5305 pertains to standards used for preparation of review of the association's financial statement. It states that unless the governing documents impose more stringent standards, a review of the association's financial statement shall be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles by a licensee of the California Board of Accountancy for any fiscal year in which the gross income to the association exceeds $75,000.
BUSINESS
March 2, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Is our homeowner association's board obligated to disclose legal actions to titleholders? Does the board have a duty to disclose the costs of legal fees incurred for such legal actions, or do we owners just sit back and wait to be slammed with several thousand dollars' worth of special assessments months or years later to cover those fees? Our pro forma annual report is sparse, so how can owners protect themselves from something like this? Answer: Owners should never sit back and wait to be slammed with assessments.
BUSINESS
October 29, 2013 | By Michael Hiltzik
David Dayen spots  a new blow for underwater homeowners that thus far has flown under the radar: the coming expiration of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, scheduled for Dec. 31. The act is a mouthful, but it's been a crucial factor in helping countless families get out from under bad mortgages. Simply put, the act relieves homeowners from having to pay taxes on any loan forgiveness they receive in a mortgage restructuring. (The maximum exemption is $2 million for a couple.)
BUSINESS
September 26, 2010 | By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our homeowners association's secretary has been on the board for several years. All the minutes bear his name but each signature differs substantially from the one before it. Some of the minutes are initialed. He said he intentionally refuses to sign anything for fear of being sued. Apparently he thinks if someone else signs for him, or if they sign and initial his signature, he is home free because he can always deny it's his signature. It's not clear who is initialing or who signed the documents.
BUSINESS
February 27, 2014 | By E. Scott Reckard
Seven people were arrested Wednesday in what authorities say was a mortgage modification scam that defrauded more than 1,550 distressed Inland Empire homeowners from 2007 to early 2010. In a news release , the California attorney general's office said the victims were illegally charged upfront fees and assured falsely that lawyers would work to lower their loan payments with a money-back guarantee. The 24-count complaint , filed Monday in San Bernardino County Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga, accuses the defendants of grand theft, conspiracy and tax evasion.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
February 15, 2014 | Steve Lopez
If somehow you missed the news that California is drier than a stale tortilla, the Amber Alert signs have come to the rescue with highway bulletins like this one: "Serious drought, help save water. " This is helpful to a point, I suppose, and I like the creative use of highway signs heretofore reserved largely for safety warnings or child abductions. If Caltrans would consider pushing the boundaries even further, I'd spring for a sign that says: "Hey, Brian D'Arcy, where's our $40 million?"
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