County searches for solutions to save homeowners from foreclosure

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE News and photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 29 at 7:56 PM

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas -- Williamson County conducted a property loan audit that revealed some major red flags. The county clerk said 60,000 home ownership deeds and documents have not been filed properly in the clerk's office, and that could mean possible foreclosure for some homeowners.

It was a full house Tuesday inside Williamson County Commissioners Court. Homeowners filled the room asking why they could lose their home.

"It's the American dream," said Williamson County homeowner Kevin Bierwirth. "What people want, I mean, everyone wants a house to feel free."

Bierwirth is also a real estate agent.

"I always believed that if you can't pay, you can't stay,"  he said.

Bierwirth said he fell behind on his payments, and when he began looking for help he claimed the loan documents were in shambles.

"You either walk away, which I was not about to do because I am trying," he said. "Don't take my house. It's not that I don't pay, it's not that I can't pay."

Bierwirth is one of the millions of homeowners in Texas whose home loan went through the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, also known as MERS. Williamson County officials said the electronic registry failed to file the proper documents with the county clerk's office in Texas and across the country.

"This process may result and effect the property owners ability to refinance, to sell their property and to obtain title insurance," said County Clerk Nancy Rister.

Rister said MERS used robosigning and, she claims, even asked notaries to fraudulently sign documents.

"Which now cloud the titles of millions of unsuspecting American homes," she said.

"You don't know who really owns your note," Bierwirth explained.

But there's not much the average homeowner can do to fix this problem, so now the county is taking it upon themselves to find solutions.

"We need to sit down with our county attorney and see if we can get a game plan," said Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis. "Possibly join forces with some of these other counties and hopefully the AG -- Attorney General Greg Abbott -- can get involved."

So far five Texas counties have filed suit. Williamson County and Travis County are looking into it, but Gattis said Williamson County doesn't have the resources to conquer this alone, and it might take a class action lawsuit.

"It's a much bigger problem than Williamson County or Travis County or any one county by itself," Gattis said.

In the meantime homeowners like Bierwirth will continue the fight on their own to keep their house.

"It can devastate your life," he said.

So what can you do at home? The County Clerk says don't panic.

Check your property records online and check the MERS website; theoretically every time your property changes hands, it should be recorded electronically.

If something doesn't look right, contact your lender, but whatever you do, don't stop paying your mortgage. There is also a property fraud alert system that will alert you every time a document is filed in your name.

Rister said to sign up using every possible variation of your name - first, middle, last and initials.

How to check your mortgage:

For Travis County go to : http://deed.co.travis.tx.us

For Williamson County go to: http://www.wilco.org/CountyDepartments/CountyClerk/tabid/230/language/en-US/Default.aspx

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."

To sign up for the property fraud alert system visit: http://pfa.uslandrecords.com

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