GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — Cynthia Balterman isn't giving up.
She's still fighting to keep her home in Golden Gate Estates, even though it already sold at a foreclosure auction June 27. Balterman filed an objection to the sale in Collier Circuit Court, which is keeping the sale from closing.
"This is my home. My daughter is in my home. It means more than just walls, drywall and carpet. This has been our life. So I'm not giving up," she said.
One of her arguments is that the winning bidder at the foreclosure auction, Tarp Properties, doesn't have the proper business tax receipts — or licenses — to do business in Collier or Lee counties.
She also argues the price paid by Tarp Properties is "grossly inadequate," and that Wells Fargo Bank maliciously strung out her loan modifications and then suddenly ended negotiations, giving her little time to fight the foreclosure before there was a summary judgment against her.
"The certificate of title was not issued and I'm hoping this can help me," Balterman said. "I guess it's going to be in the court's hands."
A hearing on Balterman's objections is scheduled for Aug. 21.
The foreclosure sale came after a last-ditch effort to convince Wells Fargo to modify her mortgage. Her pleas to save her home, made through emails to bank executives, a YouTube video and a 6- by 12-foot sign in her driveway didn't change the lender's mind.
Balterman was rejected for a loan modification for a third time the day before the foreclosure auction after her persistent cries for help caught the eye of the media and Wells Fargo. Her 2,556-square-foot, four-bedroom home off Fifth Avenue Southwest sold for $241,900 after several investors competed for it.
"We worked extensively with Ms. Balterman, since 2010 to try and help her find ways to remain in her home. Wells Fargo set up a single point of contact and made numerous attempts to contact Ms. Balterman pertaining to the required modification documentation. However, on average, it took two months to receive the documentation," said Veronica Clemons, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, in an email.
"Unfortunately, she did not qualify for a modification. We notified her of the failure to qualify and the reasons why on two occasions prior to the foreclosure sale," she said.
Balterman said her problem isn't really with Tarp Properties, but Wells Fargo.
"Tarp Properties was not unkind to me at all, or anything like that. But the whole object of my focus was to stop this sale legally so that my bank would have to wake up and say, 'OK, she's not going away,'" she said.
Tarp Properties doesn't have tax receipts in Lee or Collier counties, tax collector records show. A related company, Frey & Son Homes, a general contractor in Bonita Springs, has one in Lee.
The two companies share the same address, but Tarp Properties is incorporated as a separate company in Florida. It's a limited liability company and it owns several properties in Collier County that it has purchased at foreclosure sales.
"I can tell you that Tarp Properties has all of the necessary legal documents to operate in the state of Florida," said Ric Bonasera, a general manager at Frey & Son Homes, in an email. "We are looking for this to be resolved in the near future and have taken the necessary steps to have this resolved quickly."
A company with a license in Lee can do business in Collier, said Carolyn Francis, an office manager for Collier's business tax receipts department. However, Tarp doesn't show up in a local business tax search on tax collector websites in Lee or Collier.
If Tarp Properties is purchasing properties in Lee County, rehabbing them and reselling them, the company should have a business tax receipt in the county, said Tom Jendrysik, an assistant manager for Lee's business tax receipts department.
"According to the state, if you are a business and you are charging someone to do something or you are collecting funds – whether you make a profit or not it doesn't matter – you're supposed to have one," he said. "They are required to have one."
Balterman is represented by Ricardo & Wasylik law firm in Dade City. She said the attorneys contacted her after seeing news coverage about her foreclosure.
Even at this stage of the case, there are many arguments that can be made, depending on the facts of the case, that might carry the day and reverse a sale, said Mike Wasylik, a partner in the firm.
"We often have people come to us after the sale has taken place, after the judgment has taken place, and in many cases we are successful in getting those vacated," he said. "It's difficult, but we do it often enough that we know it's possible."
He said the arguments in Balterman's case about the buyer not having the proper business licenses are more unusual. A more common argument is that the foreclosure lawsuit wasn't properly served, which didn't happen in this case.
Questions about the reasonableness of the price paid at the auction are often used to challenge foreclosure sales, too.
"That's very common and in cases where the objection is upheld that is often the basis for it," Wasylik said.
If a bank misleads a customer about the potential for a loan modification that could also be grounds to unwind a foreclosure sale, he said.
"There is a lot of resistance," Wasylik said. "Judges loathe to overturn these things. They like finality. Banks fight tooth-and-nail to stop them from getting overturned. They have a strong interest in fighting these."
__ Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden