Foreclosures Must Protect Elderly From Losing Their Homes

Following established processes is important. There are times, however, when compassion and common sense are just as important as the all-important bureaucracy.

We note the recent case of David Blodgett, a Sheridan man who suffers from severe bipolar depression and faces dual disorders of epilepsy and Asperger’s syndrome. He owned his home in Sheridan for 30 years and religiously paid his taxes until losing his job, which caused him to fall behind on his taxes. Once Blodgett received psychiatric help, he found another job and was able to pay his back taxes — but his property had already been purchased at the county property tax auction. Blodgett and his family appealed to county legislators on July 25 not to approve a quit claim deed that would make the sale final. Their appeal was not upheld by legislators, with John Davis, R-Frewsburg; Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan; Daniel Pavlock, R-Sinclairville, Elisabeth Rankin, R-Jamestown; and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, the only legislators voting in favor of a resolution to amend the quit claim deed resolution to remove Blodgett’s home from the list.

After the legislature meeting, Niebel, County Executive George Borrello and Ernest Laemmerhirt, a developer who bought Blodgett’s home who left thousands of dollars on the table in order to do the right thing for the Blodgett family, came together to forge an agreement that kept Blodgett in his home. Kudos to all three for finding a creative solution to a potentially heart-breaking situation.

Now, it’s time to remember that this isn’t the first time this sort of situation has happened. Two years ago, an elderly Ellery man petitioned the county to circumvent its foreclosure process because he didn’t know his home was in danger. A group stepped up to pay the man’s $2,600 in back taxes. At the time, Scudder suggested the county create a committee to review cases involving at-risk senior citizens who are in the middle of foreclosure. It was a good idea two years ago and it’s a good idea now. Niebel and Scudder should find a way to make such a committee a reality. We understand the importance of following the legal strictures of the foreclosure process. There must be a way, however, to do some digging into the histories of homes on the verge of foreclosure to make sure the elderly or those with mental health issues don’t end up losing their homes unnecessarily.

One way to preserve the integrity of the foreclosure process is to make sure cases like the elderly Ellery man or David Blodgett don’t reach the end stages of foreclosure in the first place.