In a sad tale that combines predatory lending with the seeming financial abuse of an elder, an 81-year-old woman’s Upper Haight condo was auctioned at a fraction of its value, and the new buyer gave her a three-day notice on Friday. But now she’s suing.
Note: This post has been updated with new developments on 81-year-old Rosemarie Benter’s new lawsuit against the property owner trying to evict her.
It was a month ago when the Chronicle first broke the story about an 81-year-old woman’s condo of 30 years being sold off at half its value, and without even her having knowledge of the sale. The Upper Haight condo’s resident, Rosemarie Benter, had defaulted on a $9,519 loan she took out in 2021 in order to pay her property taxes, the interest had ballooned, and her home was being auctioned off because of it without her even being informed of this in advance.
This was due to the fact that she took out a reverse-mortgage loan in 2007, and when she defaulted on the smaller loan, her home was put up as collateral. According to Benter, a debt collector showed up at her house in February and said, “We’re going to sell your condo, unless you have $13,000,” and “13,000, or it’s going to be sold in 29 minutes.”
The Chronicle then had a chilling update this past Friday, when Benter received a three-day eviction notice. And NBC Bay Area had the additional cruel detail that Benter “said whoever delivered the notice did not call her or ring her doorbell to let her know, Benter only found out about it through a reporter.”
The language of Benter’s eviction notice will be hauntingly familiar to any renter who’s received the dread Three-day Notice to Quit. “Notice is hereby given that Eugene Gardner has purchased the property at a trustee’s sale and title to the property has been duly perfected,” the note on her door read, according to the Chronicle. “Within three days after service of this notice on you, you must vacate the premises and deliver possession of them to the owner or to the undersigned who is authorized to receive the same.”
If the three-day notice was posted Friday, that means today, Monday, is day three. But fortunately, Benter has legal representation through the nonprofit Legal Assistance to the Elderly in San Francisco.
“Legally, we would anticipate that [the property buyer Gardner] is going to file an eviction and unlawful detainer to try and evict Ms. Benter as quickly as possible. We will of course defend Ms. Benter in that lawsuit and we certainly hope to be successful in that," her attorney Darren Orr told NBC Bay Area. That station adds that Orr’s “team has been trying to undo this foreclosure which they say is based on a ‘completely unconscionable and predatory loan.’"
The tenant Benter has a myriad of health issues too, having been a stroke victim and currently suffering from arthritis. According to the Chronicle, she also lost two sons to HIV/AIDS. But since the initial shock of the eviction has worn off, Benter is determined to fight it.
"Yeah, I’m a tough old bird,” she told NBC Bay Area.
Update, 4/24, 12:19 p.m.: She’s tough, alright,. The Chronicle is now reporting that Benter has sued claiming fraud and elder financial abuse. The lawsuit names “Redwood city mortgage adviser Laura Biche and San Carlos real estate broker Michael Bruno,” according to the Chronicle, and alleges a conspiracy of “deceptive, fraudulent and predatory scheme.” The suit claims that Biche “assured (the) plaintiff there was no risk of losing her home in this situation.”
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