(WSJ) The House Is Gone but Debt Lives On

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Lehigh Acres, Florida--Joseph Reilly lost his vacation home here last year when he was out of work and stopped paying his mortgage. The bank took the house and sold it. Mr. Reilly thought that was the end of it. In June, he learned otherwise. A phone call informed him of a court judgment against him for $192,576.71. It turned out that at a foreclosure sale, his former house fetched less than a quarter of what Mr. Reilly owed on it. His bank sued him for the rest. The result was a foreclosure hangover that homeowners rarely anticipate but increasingly face: a "deficiency judgment." Until recently, "there was a false sense of calm" among borrowers who went through foreclosure, Mr. Englett says. "That's changing," he adds, as borrowers learn they may be financially on the hook even after the house is gone. In Mr. Reilly's case, "there's not a snowball's chance in hell that we can pay" the deficiency judgment, says the 39-year-old man, who remains unemployed. He says he is going to speak to a lawyer about declaring bankruptcy next week, in an effort to escape the debt.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

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