Sticking It to Lenders Via 'Homemade Mortgage Modification'

The Times champions financial irresponsibility on the front page in David Streitfeld's Tuesday profile from St. Petersburg, Fla. of people engaged in what he facetiously termed "homemade mortgage modification" i.e., refusing to pay what they owe the bank in home loans. "Owners Stop Paying Mortgage...And Stop Fretting About It."

The Times certainly made the "free rent" approach sound liberating, and the featured couple certainly neither exhibited nor was encouraged to show any sense of shame for bringing "their payments all the way down to zero." And the story didn't prove any sense that the taxpayers may eventually be the one repaying the loan while the couple hits the Hard Rock Casino.

For Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras, foreclosure is becoming a way of life - something they did not want but are in no hurry to get out of.

Foreclosure has allowed them to stabilize the family business. Go to Outback occasionally for a steak. Take their gas-guzzling airboat out for the weekend. Visit the Hard Rock Casino.

"Instead of the house dragging us down, it's become a life raft," said Mr. Pemberton, who stopped paying the mortgage on their house here last summer. "It's really been a blessing."

A growing number of the people whose homes are in foreclosure are refusing to slink away in shame. They are fashioning a sort of homemade mortgage modification, one that brings their payments all the way down to zero. They use the money they save to get back on their feet or just get by.

This type of modification does not beg for a lender's permission but is delivered as an ultimatum: Force me out if you can. Any moral qualms are overshadowed by a conviction that the banks created the crisis by snookering homeowners with loans that got them in over their heads.

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