Kristen Baird Adams, a spokeswoman for the bank, said that it tried to work with the Wellmans but had exhausted all possible remedies. She also said that the bank was pleased that the judge overseeing the case ruled for National City allowing the foreclosure to proceed.
The Wellmans appear to have equity in their home, even after including the bank’s charges. The local tax assessor recently valued the home at around $375,000, which is $30,000 more than the amount the bank said was owed on the mortgage, including late fees, interest and other charges.
In March 2002, National City filed foreclosure papers against the Wellmans. But in subsequent court filings, lawyers for National City acknowledged that it had not been assigned proper ownership of the note at that time.
The lender had taken over the assignment after it filed foreclosure, and when challenged by the Wellmans’ lawyer on its legal standing to sue for foreclosure stated: “The late filing of the assignment does not affect the validity of the mortgage, nor the plaintiff’s interest, and as such, has no effect upon the defendants.”
National City’s spokeswoman said that it viewed the Wellman case as different from those in Judge Boyko’s ruling.
Allegations of questionable fees levied by lenders, like those claimed by the Wellmans against National City, have also begun cropping up in courts nationwide.
In 2003, the Wellmans signed a forbearance agreement with National City. In it they agreed with the bank on the amount it said they owed. But in 2004, Mr. Wellman said he suspected the bank had overcharged him and he asked for an accounting of what he had paid on his loan.
Plugging the bank’s figures into a Quicken program confirmed his fears, he said. A local accountant, Steve Helwagen, scrutinized the bank’s numbers and testified to the court that National City’s accounting was off by $38,612 in its favor. Mr. Wellman stopped paying on the mortgage and hired a lawyer to try to recover those fees from the bank.
Included in the questionable charges, Mr. Helwagen said, were bank attorney fees, foreclosure fees and those covering hazard insurance. “The bank’s records were horrendous, they just jumped all over the place,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
Ms. Baird Adams said that National City Mortgage had done a thorough analysis of the charges on the Wellman loan and found them to be accurate. And Judge Knece found that the Wellmans were bound by the agreement they signed in 2003.
Roy Huffer, a lawyer in Circleville representing the Wellmans, said that both the trial court and appellate court have ignored the Wellmans’ allegations of problems in National City’s charges and its ownership of the note.
Having worked on the Wellman case for more than three years without pay, he said he laughed at a mass mailing last month from the Ohio Supreme Court, sent to all active lawyers in the state, asking them to represent, pro bono, borrowers in foreclosures. “That’s what I have been doing on this case for the past three years,” he said.