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Michigan Sheriff Halts Foreclosure Sales

In recent months, 300 to 400 foreclosed homes come up for sale each week in Michigan's Wayne County. And as of Monday, that will no longer be the case. "Today I will be stopping all mortgage foreclosure sales in Wayne County, beginning with the sale that was scheduled for this Wednesday," said Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans in a statement earlier this week. While some experts question Evans' authority to enact such a measure, the sheriff argued that he has the power and obligation, under the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- which according to Evans, trumps state law -- to halt foreclosure sales until "efforts to modify the mortgages of homes covered by TARP have been exhausted." Because once a foreclosure sale is complete, homeowners lose their rights to the property. Tricia Raymond, a foreclosure expert and buyer's agent in Troy, Mich., told the Detroit Free Press that she doubted the effectiveness of the sheriff's proposal given the high unemployment rate in Michigan. "It's one thing to work something out with someone, but if they don't have a job there's not anything to work out," Raymond said. Nonetheless, Evans said "I cannot in clear conscious allow any more families to lose their homes through foreclosure sale until I'm satisfied they have been afforded every option they are entitled to under the law to avoid foreclosure." He's additionally concerned that the large number of vacant homes in Wayne County will become a public safety issue. Studies show that vacant homes are often the target of theft, drug dealing and much more. In his statement Monday, Evans said his office will work with lenders and homeowners to make sure homeowners are provided every viable option to avoid foreclosure, as he believes "very few homeowners have been able to avail themselves" of options that are now available. He urged all other Michigan sheriffs  to join in implementing a moratorium on foreclosure sales, as well. Although sheriffs in two other neighboring counties, Oakland and Macomb, told the Detroit Free Press they appreciated Evans' position, both said they would not change how their counties manage foreclosures without new guidelines from the state. What is perhaps odd about the latest foreclosure brouhaha is the fact that a foreclosure sale in the state prompts a six-month redemption period under Michigan law, during which a homeowner can reclaim the home by making up payments to the lender. If the homeowner doesn't make the payments, the bank can repossess the home. However, the lenders must have a sheriff's sale to begin the redemption period. "I think he's just trying to get votes," John Graham, a realtor with Keller Williams, told the Detroit free press of Evans decision to halt foreclosure sales. Evans is set to run for Detroit mayor. Write to Kelly Curran at kelly.curran@housingwire.com. Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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