Lender makes good on some tax bills

September 21, 2007|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

More than 65 homeowners in Baltimore City and Frederick County who were facing the possibility of having to pay their property tax bill twice can breathe easy.

Both jurisdictions received certified checks yesterday from American Home Mortgage Investment Corp., whose original checks bounced. It paid all of the $63,500 owed on 55 properties in the city. In Frederick County, it paid for 11 of the 12 affected homeowners - almost all of the $60,000 owed.

Baltimore County said it has not received certified payment for 21 properties for which American Home Mortgage sent bad checks in late July. Taxes are due by month's end.

It's not clear what caused the problem. American Home, which filed for bankruptcy protection Aug. 6, has not responded to requests for comment. Escrow payments made by homeowners - which lenders forward on to pay taxes, insurance and similar fees - are protected from creditors by state law.

"I think we need an explanation," said Lori L. Decker, director of treasury for Frederick County, who is concerned about repeat problems in December when the next semiannual payment is due.

It's possible that the Maryland loans were among those caught up in a dispute with Freddie Mac, which last month fired American Home as the servicer for about 4,500 of its loans.

Freddie Mac said it seized the escrow funds but could not make the payments because American Home Mortgage did not transfer the loan files. As part of an agreement announced Wednesday, the mortgage-financing giant wired $2.4 million to American Home so it could handle the payments.

Parkville resident Rob Carlson is still waiting for the company to do so for his taxes.

"They have never given me a detailed answer," said Carlson, a software developer. "It's always been, `We're going to deal with it, we're going to pay the fees, don't worry about it.'"

jamie.smith.hopkins @baltsun.com

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