Tag Archives: foreclosures

Litigating against your lender

8 Dec

“The Fed’s study found that only 3 percent of seriously delinquent borrowers – those more than 60 days behind – had their loans modified to lower monthly payments . . . The servicers are making assumptions that are much too anti-modification, The servicers have the authority’’ to help borrowers, “they just don’t want to use it.’’ www.thestopforeclosureplan.com
The Boston Globe “Lenders Avoid Redoing Loans, Fed Concludes” July 7, 2009.
LITIGATING AGAINST YOUR LENDER
The state and federal government may structure a mortgage modification program as voluntary on the part of the lender, but may provide incentives for the lender to participate. A mandatory mortgage modification program requires the lender to modify mortgages meeting the criteria with respect to the borrower, the property, and the loan payment history.
www.thestopforeclosureplan.com

1.If you feel you were taken advantage of or not told the whole truth when you received your loan and want to consider legal action against your lender, call us.
1.Did you know that in some cases the lender is forced to eliminate your debt completely and give you back the title to your home?
2.If you received your loan based on any of the following you may have possible claims against your lender:
1.Stated Income
2.Inflated Appraisal
3.If you were sold on taking cash out of your home
4.If you were sold on using your home’s equity to pay off your credit cards or auto loans
5.If you refinanced more than one time in the course of a 3 year period
6.If you were charged high fees
7.If you were sold on getting a negative amortization loan, or adjustable rate loan
8.If your loan had a prepayment penalty
9.If you feel your interest rate is higher than it should be
10.If your initial closing costs looked different at signing than you were lead to believe
11.If you know more than one person in your same position that closed a loan with the same lender or mortgage broker
12.If you feel you were given an inferior loan because of your race
13.If you feel that your lender is over aggressive in their collections actions
14.If there is more than 3 people in your neighborhood that are facing foreclosure
15.If you only speak Spanish and all your disclosures were given to you in English

Predatory lending is a term used to describe unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices of some lenders during the loan origination process. There are no legal definitions in the United States for predatory lending, though there are laws against many of the specific practices commonly identified as predatory, and various federal agencies use the term as a catch-all term for many specific illegal activities in the loan industry. Predatory lending is not to be confused with predatory mortgage servicing (predatory servicing) which is used to describe the unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices of lenders and servicing agents during the loan or mortgage servicing process, post origination.

One less contentious definition of the term is the practice of a lender deceptively convincing borrowers to agree to unfair and abusive loan terms, or systematically violating those terms in ways that make it difficult for the borrower to defend against. Other types of lending sometimes also referred to as predatory include payday loans, credit cards or other forms of consumer debt, and overdraft loans, when the interest rates are considered unreasonably high. Although predatory lenders are most likely to target the less educated, racial minorities and the elderly, victims of predatory lending are represented across all demographics.

Predatory lending typically occurs on loans backed by some kind of collateral, such as a car or house, so that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can repossess or foreclose and profit by selling the repossessed or foreclosed property. Lenders may be accused of tricking a borrower into believing that an interest rate is lower than it actually is, or that the borrower’s ability to pay is greater than it actually is. The lender, or others as agents of the lender, may well profit from repossession or foreclosure upon the collateral.

Abusive or unfair lending practices www.thestopforeclosureplan.com
There are many lending practices which have been called abusive and labeled with the term “predatory lending.” There is a great deal of dispute between lenders and consumer groups as to what exactly constitutes “unfair” or “predatory” practices, but the following are sometimes cited.

•Unjustified risk-based pricing. This is the practice of charging more (in the form of higher interest rates and fees) for extending credit to borrowers identified by the lender as posing a greater credit risk. The lending industry argues that risk-based pricing is a legitimate practice; since a greater percentage of loans made to less creditworthy borrowers can be expected to go into default, higher prices are necessary to obtain the same yield on the portfolio as a whole. Some consumer groups argue that higher prices paid by more vulnerable consumers cannot always be justified by increased credit risk.
•Single-premium credit insurance. This is the purchase of insurance which will pay off the loan in case the homebuyer dies. It is more expensive than other forms of insurance because it does not involve any medical checkups, but customers almost always are not shown their choices, because usually the lender is not licensed to sell other forms of insurance. In addition, this insurance is usually financed into the loan which causes the loan to be more expensive, but at the same time encourages people to buy the insurance because they do not have to pay up front.
•Failure to present the loan price as negotiable. Many lenders will negotiate the price structure of the loan with borrowers. In some situations, borrowers can even negotiate an outright reduction in the interest rate or other charges on the loan. Consumer advocates argue that borrowers, especially unsophisticated borrowers, are not aware of their ability to negotiate and might even be under the mistaken impression that the lender is placing the borrower’s interests above its own. Thus, many borrowers do not take advantage of their ability to negotiate.
•Failure to clearly and accurately disclose terms and conditions, particularly in cases where an unsophisticated borrower is involved. Mortgage loans are complex transactions involving multiple parties and dozens of pages of legal documents. In the most egregious of predatory cases, lenders or brokers have been known to not only mislead borrowers, but actually alter documents after they have been signed.
•Short-term loans with disproportionally high fees, such as payday loans, credit card late fees, checking account overdraft fees, and Tax Refund Anticipation Loans, where the fee paid for advancing the money for a short period of time works out to an annual interest rate significantly in excess of the market rate for high-risk loans. The originators of such loans dispute that the fees are interest.
•Servicing agent and securitization abuses. The mortgage servicing agent is the entity that receives the mortgage payment, maintains the payment records, provides borrowers with account statements, imposes late charges when the payment is late, and pursues delinquent borrowers. A securitization is a financial transaction in which assets, especially debt instruments, are pooled and securities representing interests in the pool are issued. Most loans are subject to being bundled and sold, and the rights to act as servicing agent sold, without the consent of the borrower. A federal statute requires notice to the borrower of a change in servicing agent, but does not protect the borrower from being held delinquent on the note for payments made to the servicing agent who fails to forward the payments to the owner of the note, especially if that servicing agent goes bankrupt, and borrowers who have made all payments on time can find themselves being foreclosed on and becoming unsecured creditors of the servicing agent. Foreclosures can sometimes be conducted without proper notice to the borrower. In some states (see Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 746), there is no defense against eviction, forcing the borrower to move and incur the expense of hiring a lawyer and finding another place to live while litigating the claim of the “new owner” to own the house, especially after it is resold one or more times. When the debtor demands that the current claimed note owner produce the original note with his signature on it, the note owner typically is unable or unwilling to do so, and tries to establish his claim with an affidavit that it is the owner, without proving it is the “holder in due course”, the traditional standard for a debt claim, and the courts often allow them to do that. In the meantime, the note continues to be traded, its physical whereabouts difficult to discover.
Consumers believe that they are protected by consumer protection laws, when their lender is really operating wholly outside the laws. Refer to 16 U.S.C. 1601 and 12 C.F.R. 226.

Underlying issues
There are many underlying issues in the predatory lending debate:

•Judicial practices: Some argue that much of the problem arises from a tendency of the courts to favor lenders, and to shift the burden of proof of compliance with the terms of the debt instrument to the debtor. According to this argument, it should not be the duty of the borrower to make sure his payments are getting to the current note-owner, but to make evidence that all payments were made to the last known agent for collection sufficient to block or reverse repossession or foreclosure, and eviction, and to cancel the debt if the current note owner cannot prove he is the “holder in due course” by producing the actual original debt instrument in court.
http://www.thestopforeclosureplan.com•Risk-based pricing: The basic idea is that borrowers who are thought of as more likely to default on their loans should pay higher interest rates and finance charges to compensate lenders for the increased risk. In essence, high returns motivate lenders to lend to a group they might not otherwise lend to — “subprime” or risky borrowers. Advocates of this system believe that it would be unfair — or a poor business strategy — to raise interest rates globally to accommodate risky borrowers, thus penalizing low-risk borrowers who are unlikely to default. Opponents argue that the practice tends to disproportionately create capital gains for the affluent while oppressing working-class borrowers with modest financial resources. Some people consider risk-based pricing to be unfair in principle. Lenders contend that interest rates are generally set fairly considering the risk that the lender assumes, and that competition between lenders will ensure availability of appropriately-priced loans to high-risk customers. Still others feel that while the rates themselves may be justifiable with respect to the risks, it is irresponsible for lenders to encourage or allow borrowers with credit problems to take out high-priced loans. For all of its pros and cons, risk-based pricing remains a universal practice in bond markets and the insurance industry, and it is implied in the stock market and in many other open-market venues; it is only controversial in the case of consumer loans.
•Competition: Some believe that risk-based pricing is fair but feel that many loans charge prices far above the risk, using the risk as an excuse to overcharge. These criticisms are not levied on all products, but only on those specifically deemed predatory. Proponents counter that competition among lenders should prevent or reduce overcharging.
•Financial education: Many observers feel that competition in the markets served by what critics describe as “predatory lenders” is not affected by price because the targeted consumers are completely uneducated about the time value of money and the concept of Annual percentage rate, a different measure of price than what many are used to.
•Caveat emptor: There is an underlying debate about whether a lender should be allowed to charge whatever it wants for a service, even if it seems to make no attempts at deceiving the consumer about the price. At issue here is the belief that lending is a commodity and that the lending community has an almost fiduciary duty to advise the borrower that funds can be obtained more cheaply. Also at issue are certain financial products which appear to be profitable only due to adverse selection or a lack of knowledge on the part of the customers relative to the lenders. For example, some people allege that credit insurance would not be profitable to lending companies if only those customers who had the right “fit” for the product actually bought it (i.e., only those customers who were not able to get the generally cheaper term life insurance).
•Discrimination: Some organizations feel that many financial institutions continue to engage in racial discrimination. Most do not allege that the loan underwriters themselves discriminate, but rather that there is systemic discrimination. Situations in which a loan broker or other salesman may negotiate the interest rate are likely more ripe for discrimination. Discrimination may occur if, when dealing with racial minorities, loan brokers tend to claim that a person’s credit score is lower than it is, justifying a higher interest rate charged, on the hope that the customer assumes the lender to be correct. This may be based on an internalized bias that a minority group has a lower economic profile. It is also possible that a broker or loan salesman with some control over the interest rate might attempt to charge a higher rate to persons of race which he personally dislikes. For this reason some call for laws requiring interest rates to be set entirely by objective measures.
OCC Advisory Letter AL 2003-2 describes predatory lending as including the following:

•Loan “flipping” – frequent refinancings that result in little or no economic benefit to the borrower and are undertaken with the primary or sole objective of generating additional loan fees, prepayment penalties, and fees from the financing of credit-related products;
•Refinancings of special subsidized mortgages that result in the loss of beneficial loan terms;
•”Packing” of excessive and sometimes “hidden” fees in the amount financed;
•Using loan terms or structures – such as negative amortization – to make it more difficult or impossible for borrowers to reduce or repay their indebtedness;
•Using balloon payments to conceal the true burden of the financing and to force borrowers into costly refinancing transactions or foreclosures;
•Targeting inappropriate or excessively expensive credit products to older borrowers, to persons who are not financially sophisticated or who may be otherwise vulnerable to abusive practices, and to persons who could qualify for mainstream credit products and terms;
•Inadequate disclosure of the true costs, risks and, where necessary, appropriateness to the borrower of loan transactions;
•The offering of single premium credit life insurance; and
•The use of mandatory arbitration clauses.
It should be noted that mortgage applications are usually completed by mortgage brokers, rather than by borrowers themselves, making it difficult to pin down the source of any misrepresentations.

A stated income loan application is where no proof of income is needed. When the broker files the loan, they have to go by whatever income is stated. This opened the doors for borrowers to be approved for loans that they otherwise would not qualify for, or afford.

Although the target for most scammers, lending institutions were often complicit in what amounted to multiparty mortgage fraud. The Oregonian obtained a JP Morgan Chase memo, titled “Zippy Cheats & Tricks.” Zippy was Chase’s in-house automated loan underwriting system, and the memo was a primer on how to get risky mortgage loans approved.

United States legislation combating predatory lending
Many laws at both the Federal and state government level are aimed at preventing predatory lending. Although not specifically anti-predatory in nature, the Federal Truth in Lending Act requires certain disclosures of APR and loan terms. Also, in 1994 section 32 of the Truth in Lending Act, entitled the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, was created. This law is devoted to identifying certain high-cost, potentially predatory mortgage loans and reining in their terms.www.thestopforeclosureplan.com

Twenty-five states have passed anti-predatory lending laws. Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina are among those states considered to have the strongest laws. Other states with predatory lending laws include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. These laws usually describe one or more classes of “high-cost” or “covered” loans, which are defined by the fees charged to the borrower at origination or the APR. While lenders are not prohibited from making “high-cost” or “covered” loans, a number of additional restrictions are placed on these loans, and the penalties for noncompliance can be substantial.
http://www.thestopforeclosureplan.com

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SB 94 and its interferance with the practice

5 Sep

CA SB 94 on Lawyers & Loan Modifications Passes Assembly… 62-10

The California Assembly has passed Senate Bill 94, a bill that seeks to protect homeowners from loan modification scammers, but could end up having the unintended consequence of eliminating a homeowner’s ability to retain an attorney to help them save their home from foreclosure.

The bill, which has an “urgency clause” attached to it, now must pass the State Senate, and if passed, could be signed by the Governor on October 11th, and go into effect immediately thereafter.

SB 94’s author is California State Senator Ron Calderon, the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with the bigger picture. Sen. Calderon, while acknowledging that fee-for-service providers can provide valuable services to homeowners at risk of foreclosure, authored SB 94 to ensure that providers of these services are not compensated until the contracted services have been performed.

SB 94 prevents companies, individuals… and even attorneys… from receiving fees or any other form of compensation until after the contracted services have been rendered. The bill will now go to the Democratic controlled Senate where it is expected to pass.

Supporters of the bill say that the state is literally teeming with con artists who take advantage of homeowners desperate to save their homes from foreclosure by charging hefty fees up front and then failing to deliver anything of value in return. They say that by making it illegal to charge up front fees, they will be protecting consumers from being scammed.

While there’s no question that there have been some unscrupulous people that have taken advantage of homeowners in distress, the number of these scammers is unclear. Now that we’ve learned that lenders and servicers have only modified an average of 9% of qualified mortgages under the Obama plan, it’s hard to tell which companies were scamming and which were made to look like scams by the servicers and lenders who failed to live up to their agreement with the federal government.

In fact, ever since it’s come to light that mortgage servicers have been sued hundreds of times, that they continue to violate the HAMP provisions, that they foreclose when they’re not supposed to, charge up front fees for modifications, require homeowners to sign waivers, and so much more, who can be sure who the scammers really are. Bank of America, for example, got the worst grade of any bank on the President’s report card listing, modifying only 4% of the eligible mortgages since the plan began. We’ve given B of A something like $200 billion and they still claim that they’re having a hard time answering the phones over there, so who’s scamming who?

To make matters worse, and in the spirit of Y2K, the media has fanned the flames of irrationality with stories of people losing their homes as a result of someone failing to get their loan modified. The stories go something like this:

We gave them 1,000. They told us to stop making our mortgage payment. They promised us a principal reduction. We didn’t hear from them for months. And then we lost our house.

I am so sure. Can that even happen? I own a house or two. Walk me through how that happened again, because I absolutely guarantee you… no way could those things happen to me and I end up losing my house over it. Not a chance in the world. I’m not saying I couldn’t lose a house, but it sure as heck would take a damn sight more than that to make it happen.

Depending on how you read the language in the bill, it may prevent licensed California attorneys from requiring a retainer in advance of services being rendered, and this could essentially eliminate a homeowner’s ability to hire a lawyer to help save their home.

Supporters, on the other hand, respond that homeowners will still be able to hire attorneys, but that the attorneys will now have to wait until after services have been rendered before being paid for their services. They say that attorneys, just like real estate agents and mortgage brokers, will now only be able to receive compensation after services have been rendered.

But, assuming they’re talking about at the end of the transaction, there are key differences. Real estate agents and mortgage brokers are paid OUT OF ESCROW at the end of a transaction. They don’t send clients a bill for their services after the property is sold.

Homeowners at risk of foreclosure are having trouble paying their bills and for the most part, their credit ratings have suffered as a result. If an attorney were to represent a homeowner seeking a loan modification, and then bill for his or her services after the loan was modified, the attorney would be nothing more than an unsecured creditor of a homeowner who’s only marginally credit worthy at best. If the homeowner didn’t pay the bill, the attorney would have no recourse other than to sue the homeowner in Small Claims Court where they would likely receive small payments over time if lucky.

Extending unsecured credit to homeowners that are already struggling to pay their bills, and then having to sue them in order to collect simply isn’t a business model that attorneys, or anyone else for that matter, are likely to embrace. In fact, the more than 50 California attorneys involved in loan modifications that I contacted to ask about this issue all confirmed that they would not represent homeowners on that basis.

One attorney, who asked not to be identified, said: “Getting a lender or servicer to agree to a loan modification takes months, sometimes six or nine months. If I worked on behalf of homeowners for six or nine months and then didn’t get paid by a number of them, it wouldn’t be very long before I’d have to close my doors. No lawyer is going to do that kind of work without any security and anyone who thinks they will, simply isn’t familiar with what’s involved.”

“I don’t think there’s any question that SB 94 will make it almost impossible for a homeowner to obtain legal representation related to loan modifications,” explained another attorney who also asked not to be identified. ”The banks have fought lawyers helping clients through the loan modification process every step of the way, so I’m not surprised they’ve pushed for this legislation to pass.”

Proponents of the legislation recite the all too familiar mantra about there being so many scammers out there that the state has no choice but to move to shut down any one offering to help homeowners secure loan modifications that charges a fee for the services. They point out that consumers can just call their banks directly, or that there are nonprofit organizations throughout the state that can help homeowners with loan modifications.

While the latter is certainly true, it’s only further evidence that there exists a group of people in positions of influence that are unfamiliar , or at the very least not adequately familiar with obtaining a loan modification through a nonprofit organization, and they’ve certainly never tried calling a bank directly.

The fact that there are nonprofit housing counselors available, and the degree to which they may or may not be able to assist a given homeowner, is irrelevant. Homeowners are well aware of the nonprofit options available. They are also aware that they can call their banks directly. From the President of the United States and and U.S. Attorney General to the community newspapers found in every small town in America, homeowners have heard the fairy tales about about these options, and they’ve tried them… over and over again, often times for many months. When they didn’t get the desired results, they hired a firm to help them.

Yet, even the State Bar of California is supporting SB 94, and even AB 764, a California Assembly variation on the theme, and one even more draconian because of its requirement that attorneys only be allowed to bill a client after a successful loan modification has been obtained. That means that an attorney would have to guarantee a homeowner that he or she would obtain a modification agreement from a lender or servicer or not get paid for trying. Absurd on so many levels. Frankly, if AB 764 passes, would the last one out of California please turn off the lights and bring the flag.

As of late July, the California State Bar said it was investigating 391 complaints against 141 attorneys, as opposed to nine investigations related to loan modifications in 2008. The Bar hasn’t read anywhere all of the complaints its received, but you don’t have to be a statistician to figure out that there’s more to the complaints that meets the eye. So far the State Bar has taken action against three attorneys and the Attorney General another four… so, let’s see… carry the 3… that’s 7 lawyers. Two or three more and they could have a softball team.

At the federal level they’re still reporting the same numbers they were last spring. Closed 11… sent 71 letters… blah, blah, blah… we’ve got a country of 300 million and at least 5 million are in trouble on their mortgage. The simple fact is, they’re going to have to come up with some serious numbers before I’m going to be scared of bumping into a scammer on every corner.

Looking Ahead…

California’s ALT-A and Option ARM mortgages are just beginning to re-set, causing payments to rise, and with almost half of the mortgages in California already underwater, these homeowners will be unable to refinance and foreclosures will increase as a result. Prime jumbo foreclosure rates are already up a mind blowing 634% as compared with January 2008 levels, according to LPS Applied Analytics.

Clearly, if SB 94 ends up reducing the number of legitimate firms available for homeowners to turn to, everyone involved in its passage is going to be retiring. While many sub-prime borrowers have suffered silently through this horror show of a housing crisis, the ALT-A and Option ARM borrowers are highly unlikely to slip quietly into the night.

There are a couple of things about the latest version of SB 94 that I found interesting:

1. It says that a lawyer can’t collect a fee or any other compensation before serivces have been delivered, but it doesn’t make clear whether attorneys can ask the client to deposit funds in the law firm’s trust account and then bill against thsoe funds as amounts are earned. Funds deposited in a law firm trust account remain the client’s funds, so they’re not a lawyer’s “fees or other compensation”. Those funds are there so that when the fees have been earned, the lawyer doesn’t have to hope his or her bill gets paid. Of course, it also says that an attorney can’t hold any security interest, but money in a trust account a client’s money, the attorney has no lien against it. All of this is a matter of interpretation, of course, so who knows.

2. While there used to be language in both the real estate and lawyer sections that prohibited breaking up services related to a loan modification, in the latest version all of the language related to breaking up services as applied to attorneys has been eliminated. It still applies to real estate licensed firms, but not to attorneys. This may be a good thing, as at least a lawyer could complete sections of the work involved as opposed to having to wait until the very end, which the way the banks have been handling things, could be nine months away.

3. The bill says nothing about the amounts that may be charged for services in connection with a loan modification. So, in the case of an attorney, that would seem to mean that… well, you can put one, two and three together from there.

4. Lawyers are not included in definition of foreclosure consultant. And there is a requirement that new language be inserted in contracts, along the lines of “You don’t have to pay anyone to get a loan modification… blah, blah, blah.” Like that will be news to any homeowner in America. I’ve spoken with hundreds and never ran across one who didn’t try it themselves before calling a lawyer. I realize the Attorney General doesn’t seem to know that, but look… he’s been busy.

Conclusion…

Will SB 94 actually stop con artists from taking advantage of homeowners in distress? Or will it end up only stopping reputable lawyers from helping homeowners, while foreclosures increase and our economy continues its deflationary free fall? Will the California State Bar ever finishing reading the complaints being received, and if they ever do, will they understand what they’ve read. Or is our destiny that the masses won’t understand what’s happening around them until it sucks them under as well.

I surely hope not. But for now, I’m just hoping people can still a hire an attorney next week to help save their homes, because if they can’t… the Bar is going to get a lot more letters from unhappy homeowners.

Don't get HAMP ED out of your home!

5 Sep

By Walter Hackett, Esq.
The federal government has trumpeted its Home Affordable Modification Program or “HAMP” solution as THE solution to runaway foreclosures – few things could be further from the truth. Under HAMP a homeowner will be offered a “workout” that can result in the homeowner being “worked out” of his or her home. Here’s how it works. A participating lender or servicer will send a distressed homeowner a HAMP workout agreement. The agreement consists of an “offer” pursuant to which the homeowner is permitted to remit partial or half of their regular monthly payments for 3 or more months. The required payments are NOT reduced, instead the partial payments are placed into a suspense account. In many cases once enough is gathered to pay the oldest payment due the funds are removed from the suspense account and applied to the mortgage loan. At the end of the trial period the homeowner will be further behind than when they started the “workout” plan.
In California, the agreements clearly specify the acceptance of partial payments by the lender or servicer does NOT cure any default. Further, the fact a homeowner is in the workout program does NOT require the lender or servicer to suspend or postpone any non-judicial foreclosure activity with the possible exception of an actual trustee’s sale. A homeowner could complete the workout plan and be faced with an imminent trustee’s sale. Worse, if a homeowner performs EXACTLY as required by the workout agreement, they are NOT assured a loan modification. Instead the agreement will include vague statements that the homeowner MAY receive an offer to modify his or her loan however there is NO duty on the part of the servicer or lender to modify a loan regardless of the homeowner’s compliance with the agreement.

A homeowner who fully performs under a HAMP workout is all but guaranteed to have given away thousands of dollars with NO assurance of keeping his or her home or ever seeing anything resembling an offer to modify a mortgage loan.
While it may well be the case the government was making an honest effort to help, the reality is the HAMP program is only guaranteed to help those who need help least – lenders and servicers. If you receive ANY written offer to modify your loan meet with a REAL licensed attorney and ask them to review the agreement to determine what you are REALLY agreeing to, the home you save might be your own.

A ‘Little Judge’ Who Rejects Foreclosures, Brooklyn Style

2 Sep

By Michael Powell – NY Times – 8/30/09

The judge waves you into his chambers in the State Supreme Court building in Brooklyn, past the caveat taped to his wall — “Be sure brain in gear before engaging mouth” — and into his inner office, where foreclosure motions are piled high enough to form a minor Alpine chain.

“I don’t want to put a family on the street unless it’s legitimate,” Justice Arthur M. Schack said.

Every week, the nation’s mightiest banks come to his court seeking to take the homes of New Yorkers who cannot pay their mortgages. And nearly as often, the judge says, they file foreclosure papers speckled with errors.

He plucks out one motion and leafs through: a Deutsche Bank representative signed an affidavit claiming to be the vice president of two different banks. His office was in Kansas City, Mo., but the signature was notarized in Texas. And the bank did not even own the mortgage when it began to foreclose on the homeowner.

The judge’s lips pucker as if he had inhaled a pickle; he rejected this one. “I’m a little guy in Brooklyn who doesn’t belong to their country clubs, what can I tell you?” he says, adding a shrug for punctuation. “I won’t accept their comedy of errors.”

The judge, Arthur M. Schack, 64, fashions himself a judicial Don Quixote, tilting at the phalanxes of bankers, foreclosure facilitators and lawyers who file motions by the bale. While national debate focuses on bank bailouts and federal aid for homeowners that has been slow in coming, the hard reckonings of the foreclosure crisis are being made in courts like his, and Justice Schack’s sympathies are clear. He has tossed out 46 of the 102 foreclosure motions that have come before him in the last two years. And his often scathing decisions, peppered with allusions to the Croesus-like wealth of bank presidents, have attracted the respectful attention of judges and lawyers from Florida to Ohio to California. At recent judicial conferences in Chicago and Arizona, several panelists praised his rulings as a possible national model.

His opinions, too, have been greeted by a cry of affront from a bank official or two, who say this judge stands in the way of what is rightfully theirs. HSBC bank appealed a recent ruling, saying he had set a “dangerous precedent” by acting as “both judge and jury,” throwing out cases even when homeowners had not responded to foreclosure motions. Justice Schack, like a handful of state and federal judges, has taken a magnifying glass to the mortgage industry. In the gilded haste of the past decade, bankers handed out millions of mortgages — with terms good, bad and exotically ugly — then repackaged those loans for sale to investors from Connecticut to Singapore. Sloppiness reigned. So many papers have been lost, signatures misplaced and documents dated inaccurately that it is often not clear which bank owns the mortgage.

Justice Schack’s take is straightforward, and sends a tremor through some bank suites: If a bank cannot prove ownership, it cannot foreclose. “If you are going to take away someone’s house, everything should be legal and correct,” he said. “I’m a strange guy — I don’t want to put a family on the street unless it’s legitimate.”

Justice Schack has small jowls and big black glasses, a thin mustache and not so many hairs combed across his scalp. He has the impish eyes of the high school social studies teacher he once was, aware that something untoward is probably going on at the back of his classroom. He is Brooklyn born and bred, with a master’s degree in history and an office loaded with autographed baseballs and photographs of the Brooklyn Dodgers. His written decisions are a free-associative trip through popular, legal and literary culture, with a sideways glance at the business pages.

Confronted with a case in which Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs passed a defaulted mortgage back and forth and lost track of the documents, the judge made reference to the film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the evil banker played by Lionel Barrymore. “Lenders should not lose sight,” Justice Schack wrote in that 2007 case, “that they are dealing with humanity, not with Mr. Potter’s ‘rabble’ and ‘cattle.’ Multibillion-dollar corporations must follow the same rules in the foreclosure actions as the local banks, savings and loan associations or credit unions, or else they have become the Mr. Potters of the 21st century.”

Last year, he chastised Wells Fargo for filing error-filled papers. “The court,” the judge wrote, “reminds Wells Fargo of Cassius’s advice to Brutus in Act 1, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ ”

Then there is a Deutsche Bank case from 2008, the juicy part of which he reads aloud:

“The court wonders if the instant foreclosure action is a corporate ‘Kansas City Shuffle,’ a complex confidence game,” he reads. “In the 2006 film ‘Lucky Number Slevin,’ Mr. Goodkat, a hit man played by Bruce Willis, explains: ‘A Kansas City Shuffle is when everybody looks right, you go left.’ ”The banks’ reaction? Justice Schack shrugs. “They probably curse at me,” he says, “but no one is interested in some little judge.”

Little drama attends the release of his decisions. Beaten-down homeowners rarely show up to contest foreclosure actions, and the judge scrutinizes the banks’ papers in his chambers. But at legal conferences, judges and lawyers have wondered aloud why more judges do not hold banks to tougher standards.

“To the extent that judges examine these papers, they find exactly the same errors that Judge Schack does,” said Katherine M. Porter, a visiting professor at the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and a national expert in consumer credit law. “His rulings are hardly revolutionary; it’s unusual only because we so rarely hold large corporations to the rules.”

Banks and the cottage industry of mortgage service companies and foreclosure lawyers also pay rather close attention. A spokeswoman for OneWest Bank acknowledged that an official, confronted with a ream of foreclosure papers, had mistakenly signed for two different banks — just as the Deutsche Bank official did. Deutsche Bank, which declined to let an attorney speak on the record about any of its cases before Justice Schack, e-mailed a PDF of a three-page pamphlet in which it claimed little responsibility for foreclosures, even though the bank’s name is affixed to tens of thousands of such motions. The bank described itself as simply a trustee for investors.

Justice Schack came to his recent prominence by a circuitous path, having worked for 14 years as public school teacher in Brooklyn. He was a union representative and once walked a picket line with his wife, Dilia, who was a teacher, too. All was well until the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

“Why’d I go to law school?” he said. “Thank Mayor Abe Beame, who froze teacher salaries.”

He was counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association in the 1980s and ’90s, when it was on a long winning streak against team owners. “It was the millionaires versus the billionaires,” he says. “After a while, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘He’s making $4 million, he’s making $5 million, and I’m worth about $1.98.’ ”

So he dived into a judicial race. He was elected to the Civil Court in 1998 and to the Supreme Court for Brooklyn and Staten Island in 2003. His wife is a Democratic district leader; their daughter, Elaine, is a lawyer and their son, Douglas, a police officer.Justice Schack’s duels with the banks started in 2007 as foreclosures spiked sharply. He saw a plague falling on Brooklyn, particularly its working-class black precincts. “Banks had given out loans structured to fail,” he said.

The judge burrowed into property record databases. He found banks without clear title, and a giant foreclosure law firm, Steven J. Baum, representing two sides in a dispute. He noted that Wells Fargo’s chief executive, John G. Stumpf, made more than $11 million in 2007 while the company’s total returns fell 12 percent. “Maybe,” he advised the bank, “counsel should wonder, like the court, if Mr. Stumpf was unjustly enriched at the expense of W.F.’s stockholders.”

He was, how to say it, mildly appalled. “I’m a guy from the streets of Brooklyn who happens to become a judge,” he said. “I see a bank giving a $500,000 mortgage on a building worth $300,000 and the interest rate is 20 percent and I ask questions, what can I tell you?”