Audit reveals $1 million revenue loss in Williamson County, possible foreclosure for homeowners

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 25, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 28 at 12:14 PM

WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- Williamson County homeowners could face unexpected foreclosure and those looking to buy or sell a home could face hidden headaches.

That was the warning Friday night from the Williamson County Clerk's Office after an audit turned up some serious red flags.

After hearing of similar problems around the country, Williamson County hired DK Consultants out of San Antonio to conduct a property records audit. What they found is nearly $1 million that has been lost because of errors in the national electronic registry, meaning homeowners or people looking to buy are at risk.

"As a clerk, our duty is to maintain good records for our citizens," said County Clerk Nancy Rister.

However, in Rister's 14 years with the county, she said she's never dealt with anything like this.

"Many homeowners will never experience a problem, there will be some that will. There will be some that will be foreclosed upon and they've been making all their payments," she said.

Rister said the county discovered, through a property records audit, that ownership documents in the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) are now in question.

"They've not recorded millions and millions of documents," she said.

Rister estimates that over 60,000 documents have not been recorded since 2003 in Williamson County alone.

"When you sat at your closing and you signed off on that deed, and you signed that deed of trust because you took a mortgage and the original lender, you signed the note on that too. And then before you even probably left or got the keys to that house and moved in, that note had been sold," Rister explained. "And you got a notice 'send your mortgage payment to this company now instead of this bank' and that happens over and over again. They didn't record all of those different assignments to all those different mortgage companies that they've now sold it to."

In a statement release Friday, MERS wrote:

"There is no merit to the allegations from the Williamson County Clerk's Office. All MERS mortgages are registered in the local land records and all recording fees are properly paid by the lender at the time of recording. Our business model is straightforward and transparent, and MERS' role is clearly spelled out in the contract between the borrower and the lender."

But Rister said someone has to be held accountable for this massive error.

"As a clerk there's not a lot that I could do." Rister said. "This is something that goes to a higher level - prosecutors, the AG's office."

DK Consultants will present the 160-page report on Tuesday morning at the Williamson County Commissioner's court meeting.

Rister advises all homeowners to look up their own records online.

Check your mortgage (Courtesy: Austin Amerian Statesman) 

To find out if MERS is tracking your loan, call your mortgage servicer. Or you can do an online search for your deed of trust at http://deed.co.travis.tx.us. On the left of that Web page, click on ‘Search Official Public Records.' List your name under ‘Grantor,' and for document type, click ‘deed of trust.'

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir suggests that if your loan is in the MERS registry, you should get in touch with MERS and collect as much information as possible about who owns the loan. That information could help if you have to hire an attorney.

For Williamson County:  click here and you will be directed to the Williamson County Clerk public records page where you can find public access.

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