When Debra Pickett’s husband, Gregory, passed away in 2011, she was devastated. She says she “didn’t know [her] head from [her] feet,” of that period. Through her grief, Pickett sought to move forward, getting used to life without her husband.
Six months later, Pickett learned that the bank where her husband had previously set up a reverse mortgage on their home was trying to assume ownership of the house now that her husband, the owner, had died.
A reverse mortgage is a home loan for older homeowners that allows them to convert the equity in their homes to cash and requires no monthly mortgage payments, though the borrower remains responsible for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. The bank makes payments to the borrower, and the borrower is not required to pay back the loan until the home is sold or vacated.
Pickett was shocked when she was served with eviction notices.
Pickett, a woman of faith, believes God had a hand in leading her to Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. She remembers going to the courthouse to attempt to sort out the situation herself, after being told by the Veteran’s Administration, which had been handling her husband’s benefits, that there was nothing she could do to remain in her home. Feeling confused, scared and frustrated with her situation, she began to cry.
A courthouse employee handed Pickett a piece of paper with three names written on it and suggested she seek help. Karen Moscowitz, director of consumer protection at LSSP, was one of those names, and she answered Pickett’s call. Pickett didn’t know what to expect on the other end of the line, but she was desperate. She had been trying to find a part-time job to make ends meet.
“When I went to Karen, I didn’t have a penny in my pocket,” Pickett says. “[Karen] said, ‘I don’t know what the outcome will be or how long it will take, but if you would be patient enough, I’ll try to see what the end result will be.’”
Patience was necessary. Over three years, Moscowitz went back and forth with the bank, meeting with Pickett every two months for updates. During that time, Pickett continued to pay taxes and insurance on the home, and the bank continued to charge her for loan repayment.
“She was always professional, always a sweet lady,” Pickett says of Moscowitz. “She’s been a jewel for me.”
In the summer of 2016, Pickett finally received the message she had been praying for – an email from Moscowitz saying that Pickett could remain in her home and that the bank would repay the money it had charged.
“I was ecstatic,” she says.
A few months later, Pickett finds herself sitting in her living room, the television in the kitchen on in the background, surrounded by photos of her and her husband over the years. She is at peace.
She points to the front door.
“When I come in that door, I’m in my sanctuary,” Pickett says. “It is my home. I thank God that I can continue living here.”
Legal Services of Southern Piedmont helps clients like Debra Pickett find stability and safety every day. With your continued support, LSSP can serve those who are vulnerable in our community and need free legal services to remain in their homes, with access to the safety, benefits, healthcare and, ultimately, the justice they are entitled to receive.
Your gift to the Access to Justice Campaign allows more people living on the edge of poverty to find safety and economic stability and to live healthy, productive lives.