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KY: Nationwide Foreclosure Probe Amid Home Ownership Attitude Shifts

October 14, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Some mortgage lenders have stopped foreclosures in states like Kentucky, under mounting concerns about banks' mishandling of foreclosure documents. Now, a multi-state investigation is being launched to uncover the truth.

Don McNay, a financial advisor and "Huffington Post" columnist, says allegations that some mortgage providers used questionable paperwork and practices to evict delinquent borrowers may give struggling homeowners an excuse to stop payments.

"Foreclosure is a legal process, and you have to follow all the legal steps. But there are people who can rationalize and justify in their minds, 'I shouldn't have to pay this because they didn't treat me properly, and they didn't follow the law.'"

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, is joining attorneys general across the nation and bank and mortgage regulators to investigate whether lenders wrongfully handled foreclosure paperwork.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that an increasing number of Americans - 36 percent - believe it makes sense to walk away from a from a house note, under certain circumstances.

McNay contends the current system makes it smart for cash-strapped homeowners to do the wrong thing.

"The morally correct thing is to pay your bills. But the economically correct thing is to stick it to your lenders any way you can. If you pay your mortgage, even if you're suffering unemployment or economic hardship, you're going to be worse off long-term than your neighbor who doesn't pay the mortgage."

Charla Jackson Peter, communications director for the Kentucky Housing Corporation, says Kentucky is not experiencing the level of upside-down loans prevalent in states like Ohio, Florida, Nevada and California. She notes that attitudes about home ownership have changed, with many people choosing to focus instead on reducing other debts, like credit cards.

"Excessive spending, unplanned medical bills, job loss, taking a pay reduction in order just to keep a job - it creates a lot of stress for our Kentucky families."

Jackson Peter suggests that homeowners facing foreclosure get free advice about alternatives by visiting www.protectmykyhome.org. The full Pew survey is available at www.pewsocialtrends.org.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY