Are Defaulting Homeowners “Victims”?
On my ride into work this morning, a radio host was interviewing the director of the New Jersey animal shelter where the recently famous forty-four pound cat “Prince Chunk” is now living. When the host inquired as to how the fat cat happened to arrive at the shelter, she was told that the cat’s owner was a victim of foreclosure and had to abandon the monstrous feline.
A common dictionary definition of “victim” is “one that is subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment.” The key phrase in this definition is “subjected to” which suggests that it is the actions of others, not the “victim”, that is causing the hardship. In the case of mortgage foreclosure, that is normally not the case. Defaulting homeowners are not victims.
Of course, there are some readers who are thinking that it is the foreclosing lender that is causing the hardship, making the homeowner the victim of this oppression. My response is: What else is the lender supposed to do? Say “never mind” – keep the house and our money? Please. That is analagous to saying that folks who rent cars from Hertz or Avis should not have to return them at the end of the rental period (or pay anymore rent) because the renters cannot afford to buy a car of their own.
Other readers are thinking that defaulting homeowners who have medical problems or lose their jobs are indeed victims. My tough love responses? First, disabling medical problems can be anticipated and that’s why you should have disability insurance. Job loss can also be anticipated and that is why everyone should have an emergency fund. Some might think that it is hard to find enough surplus cash in the budget to build an adequate emergency fund. If that is true, then the homeowner has bought too much home. Homeowners who fail to protect their homes and families with these basic financial planning steps can quickly end up in foreclosure. If so, they are not truly victims – they are economic statistics, caused by their own reckless money behavior.
As for the owner of Prince Chunk – if you were so broke, how did that cat get so fat?