CLEVELAND -- Three elderly Cleveland homeowners are taking a bold stand against their mortgage lenders in an effort to save their biggest investments.
George Robinson, Sally Fluker and Anita Gardner are staging a mortgage strike until bank representatives listen to their pleas for a loan modification. Each is current on their mortgage but all are underwater, which means they owe more than their properties are worth. ESOP, a HUD-approved foreclosure prevention counseling agency organized the strike in which the senior citizens are participating.
"Everybody needs to come sit down to the table; we need to work this out," said Gardner.
She’s on the hook for $98,230 on her Lorenzo Avenue home valued at $35,800.
Robinson owes $83,095 on his Easton Avenue house, even though the county says it’s only worth $38,400.
Fluker's been chipping away at a $50,145 mortgage balance, knowing she could only get $11,000 if she sold her home on East 79th Street today.
All told Fox 8 they can’t get their lenders to modify their loans or even listen to what they have to say. That is what led them to participate in the mortgage strike. Instead of sending their payments to their lenders they will be depositing payments into an escrow account instead.
"The idea here is to get their attention,” said ESOP’s Paul Bellamy, “And to have the banks and the servicers and the politicians understand that we can no longer afford to have the debt that's on these neighborhoods, and it's not matched by value."
ESOP began organizing the strike six months ago, asking for volunteers who were in a position to risk losing their homes and their credit standing. They admit the strike is not for everyone. Fluker said she has nothing to lose.
"At my age I'll be too old, by the time I get that house paid for I'll be somewhere sleeping in my grave."
Bellamy credited the elderly trio for engaging in civil disobedience by taking a stand, not only for themselves, but for other property owners who are under water.
"We can't go on this way, we have to help ourselves if we're not going to be helped by our own government," said Bellamy.
Homeowners who want to take a stand but can't afford to take the same risk as Robinson, Gardner and Fluker can make their voices heard by posting an "underwater mortgage" sign in their front yards. The hope is that others across the country will organize their own strike so together— everyone's voice will be heard.