San Francisco

New Buyer of San Francisco Condo Tells 81-Year-Old Resident to Leave

The resident, who says she's lived in the condo for 30 years, says she was pressured to take out a loan against her home which led to the condo being sold at a foreclosure auction

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An 81-year-old San Francisco resident has been told she needs to vacate her home.

As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, on April 20, a note was posted to the door of Rosemarie Benter's condo on Page Street telling her she had three days to vacate the premises.

Benter said she bought her home decades ago, but a loan she took out to pay her property taxes led to a chain of issues, ending in her home being sold in a foreclosure auction. Benter told NBC Bay Area that she's not moving out without a fight.

An 81-year-old San Francisco woman has been told she needs to vacate the home she's lived in for more than three decades. Kris Sanchez reports.

"Yeah, I’m a tough old bird,” Benter said on Sunday.

Benter said she has lived in the Victorian home in San Francisco's Upper Haight for more than three decades. She explained that she first got to own the home as part of a "tenancy in common" joint ownership agreement, and then she was able to maintain ownership when the unit was subdivided into condos.

Benter said she had taken out a reverse mortgage on her property back in 2007.

Presently, Benter said she is dealing with a host of health issues, including arthritis and the impacts of a recent stroke. In July 2021, Benter said she looked for help paying for her health expenses and property taxes. Benter said she was put in touch with a broker who pressured her into signing papers to use her home to take out a loan.

Originally, Benter said she was told that the loan would be $8,000, but the loan turned out to be more than $9,000 and then ballooned to more than $13,000 including interest and fees.

"Repeatedly I was told 'No, no, no, nobody’s gonna throw you out over an eight thousand dollar note,'" Benter said.

Then in February of 2023, Benter said, "There was this knock on my door, I believe it was around 11 a.m., and the man said ‘Hi I am here to repossess your home.'" 

"And I said, 'What do you mean?'" Benter recalled, "He said, 'Unless you have thirteen thousand dollars to pay off this debt you had, it's going to be sold in 29 minutes.'” 

Benter said her home was sold to the highest bidder at a foreclosure auction.

An 81-year-old San Francisco resident has been told she needs to vacate her home. Ian Cull reports.

An attorney for the buyer released a statement to NBC Bay Area on Monday.

"My client's intention is to live at this property, however, if Ms. Benter wants to buy it back, my client is willing to negotiate," attorney Joanna Kozubal said.

Darren Orr, an attorney with the nonprofit Legal Assistance to the Elderly in San Francisco, is now representing Benter. Orr explained that Benter contacted the nonprofit after the foreclosure sale, and his team has been trying to undo the foreclosure, which they say is based on a "completely unconscionable and predatory loan."

Benter said she was surprised to find the eviction notice on her door on Friday. She 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 notice states that "Eugene Gardner has purchased the property at a trustee's sale and title to the property has been duly perfected." The notice is signed by Kozubal.

Benter said seeing the notice sent her into a panic, "I thought 'This is it, Monday morning they’re gonna show up with a sheriff and a truck and get me out of here.'” 

But Orr explained that the scenario Benter imagined was unlikely to happen on Monday, there are several other procedural steps that would need to happen before Benter could be officially evicted.

“Legally, we would anticipate that [Gardner] is going to file an eviction an 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," Orr said.

On Monday, Orr said Benter will file a suit against the broker and lender she worked with as well as the new buyer. He said this suit will ask the court to find Benter as the lawful owner of the condo and to seek damages for the harm caused to her. 

"Ms. Benter is taking action to try to undo that sale and void that unconscionable loan, and we are hopeful that justice will prevail," Orr said.

Benter said she is still holding out hope that she can still live out the rest of her life in her home.

If that isn't possible, she has no idea what she will do.

"I can’t live on the street and I can’t afford anything," she emphasized.

The home is in Supervisor Dean Preston's district. He said his office is also willing to go to bat for Benter, and he's been talking with nonprofits about the situation.

"The idea that a homeowner would lose their home for under $10,000 and then be faced with a notice to get out of their home on three days notice is completely unacceptable," Preston said.

NBC Bay Area's Ian Cull contributed to this report.

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