Larry Jametsky lost his home in SeaTac through a “foreclosure rescue” scam. He and his family were homeless for years while his case made its way through the courts.
But last February, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously that his case should be reexamined. Two months later, Jametsky got his house back.
In 2008, Jametsky signed what he thought was a loan, but he’d actually sold his house for a fraction of its value. What he thought were loan payments were in fact rent payments.
The new owner evicted him along with his fiancée Christina Stewart and their son Lawrence, but they stayed nearby. "Luckily I had an RV and we were living in an RV on another property,” Jamesky said.
Stewart added, “That wasn’t horrible; it was when we moved into the homesteading house and it didn’t have water.”
What Stewart calls the “homesteading” house had been abandoned for years. They were able to get electricity but not running water, so she collected rainwater in garbage cans.
“I was using the rainwater to flush my toilet. Sometimes I would boil it and use it for my dishes and clean my floors, and that was hard.”
They frequently walked by and looked in on their former home while their case made its way through the courts. The State Supreme Court ruled that Jametsky should benefit from consumer protection laws governing distressed properties. They sent his case back to King County Superior Court for trial.
Not long after that decision, Jametsky and the owner of the house, Rodney Olsen, reached a settlement agreement. The terms are confidential, and Olsen’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Jametsky moved home.
“Thank the Lord that things worked out the way they did, it was really hard being homeless at the time Lawrence was 2,” he said.
His son is now 4. He has a jungle gym in the yard and a cupboard full of toys. Things aren’t exactly easy for them. Jametsky is undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Stewart said when they were first able to move back in, they had no furniture to move.
“We didn’t even have a bed,” she said. “That mattress from the RV, we just dragged it and we were laying on that.” But these days the house looks more comfortable, down to the Christmas tree and stockings in the living room.
Jametsky said “the system” stood up for him, and he’s grateful. Jametsky’s lawyer, David Leen, said this case is part of a larger effort by the state's high court.
“The State Supreme Court has issued five major opinions in the last two years dealing with foreclosure issues and almost uniformly ruled in favor of homeowner protections over lender rights,” he said.
On the flip side, the Washington Bankers Association has argued in court filings that allowing homeowners more grounds to sue for wrongful foreclosure increases the costs and delays for everyone involved.
Leen said he was able to take Jametsky’s case thanks to the national mortgage settlement with major banks. Washington received $40 million to provide relief for homeowners and Leen’s Northwest Consumer Law Center received a grant to fund its legal work.
The money from the mortgage settlement is running out, Leen said, but he hopes to seek other funding. He recommended having an attorney review any major real estate deal. Lawyers are obligated to do some “pro bono” work, he said, and reading over a contract should usually take a short amount of time.