Waiting Seven Years for Two Answers


WHEN Zella Mae Green of Georgia filed for bankruptcy to save her home from foreclosure in 2004, she and her lawyer wanted to know two things: Did she actually owe any back payments on her mortgage? And, if so, to whom?

It didn’t seem like a lot to ask. But until last week, those questions had been unanswered for seven years.

Mortgages are complicated to begin with, of course. But when homeowners fall behind on their payments, the situation becomes far more complicated. Recurring fees and charges muddle the accounting. That banks routinely transfer the notes underlying a property can make things cloudier still.

But how Ms. Green’s case became her personal version of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the endless lawsuit at the center of the Charles Dickens novel “Bleak House,” is a story for our times. The conflicting claims made over the years by employees and representatives of Wells Fargo, which says it holds the note on her property, are enough to make your head spin.

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