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Homeowners fight to end mortgage liens for those receiving public assistance

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Albany/HV: Homeowners fight to end mortgage liens for those receiving public assistance
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The Empire Justice Center in Albany is calling attention to a practice it says is hurting low income families. As Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports, it's costing homeowners.

STATEWIDE -- As some New Yorkers face tough financial times and seek public assistance, social service districts have sought to recover funds paid to homeowners by taking a mortgage lien against their property.

It's a legal option for the government, but some advocates say it needs to change.

"Without any communication from the local social services districts, not only did they not know how much they owed, but they didn't know how much to make payments," said Kristin Brown Lilley, Vice President for Policy and Government Relations for the Empire Justice Center.

Advocates at the Empire Justice Center in Albany on Wednesday called for an end to the practice of mortgage liens on those receiving public assistance. They hope to see it reformed so homeowners can be aware of what they owe.

Brown Lilley said, "It would say how much you accrued in the previous year so that each you'd be able to look at what debt had come in, what had been credited to your account."

The Empire Justice Center pointed to the plight of Selkirk resident Laurie Schaible. Albany County claimed she owed $42,000 on a mortgage lien from more than 20 years ago.

"We discovered there were tens of thousands of dollars that were incorrect," said Schaible.

After working with lawyers at the organization, they discovered Albany County was overcharging her by more than half.

"We located duplicate charges that were not credited to my account and duplicate charges that were not credited," explained Schaible.

She said her case shows the process needs to changed for those who find themselves in financial trouble.

"Families in need find it difficult to request social services to being with, requiring a family to sign over the mortgage on their home is unfair and unjust," said Schaible. "Why should they give up what little assets they may have learned and have been able to hang on to for so many years because at one point they needed assistance."

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