Why is My Home Being Photographed?

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Assuming your last name isn’t Kardashian and you’re not a member of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, having your house photographed every day probably isn’t something you’re accustomed to. If you’ve recently felt like you’re being hounded by the paparazzi, there’s probably a very simply explanation.

Anytime you fall behind on their mortgage payments (even if only one or two payments have been missed), your mortgage lender or bank may start the process of filing for foreclosure. This is possible even if you haven’t caught wind of the news yet. While your lender is required to notify any homeowner on whom they plan to foreclose, you may not have gotten the notice yet if it’s very early in the process.

If you’re aware that you have indeed missed some mortgage loan payments, or if you have already received the foreclosure notice in the mail – you have the answer to why your home is being photographed.

When mortgagees start missing payments, lenders start losing money. As soon as one of their loans goes into default, lenders know that a foreclosure may be their only way to recoup any money out of the situation.

Lenders also know that some people are so fearful of the potential embarrassment of being forced out of their home that they voluntarily move out prematurely. In reality, homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments are allowed to continue living in the home until the very end of the foreclosure process. In New Jersey, foreclosure timelines are still remarkably long because there are so many foreclosures clogging up the court system.

Although you have the right to remain in your home until it has been sold at Sheriff’s Sale (if you choose to go forward with foreclosure), your lender is acutely aware of the fact that you may abandon the home before then. Many people also leave their foreclosed homes prematurely due to divorce or other life circumstances that have changed. If your home is left vacant, your lender lawfully has the right to sell the property at any time.

Because lenders know that they legally have the rights to any vacant home that is in default, they regularly check to see if any of their defaulted mortgage properties have been abandoned. Thus, the photographer that has been giving you the creeps is simply making a photographic record of whether the home is still occupied or not.

Sadly, some mortgage companies will purposely photograph your home when they know you won’t be there. This gives them the ability to paint the picture of an empty home (no cars in the driveway, no lights on, etc). Although it may be clear that the home is still quite lived-in, some unscrupulous lenders will attempt to declare it as unoccupied so that they can attempt to take possession of the property early.

If you’re in a similar situation, your best move is to stay in contact with your lender even though you are in default on your loan. You can do this yourself or with the help of a real estate attorney, but keep record of your communications with your lender either way. A good way to avoid any miscommunication with your lender is to have your attorney draft a letter explaining that you will be living in the home throughout the duration of the foreclosure.

 

Image credit: Philip Male
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