For Bernard W.H. Jennings, the course of his professional career was determined by a deep personal loss. He was in graduate school finishing work on his master’s degree in public administration at Florida A&M University and his mother was faced with a foreclosure on her property.
“She had this obligation to pay the bank and it was very stressful for her,” Jennings recalls. “She actually suffered hemorrhage and passed away one morning. She was a very young woman — only 52 — and it was because of the stress on her that this happened. After leaving school, I decided I wanted to help people in similar situations because I couldn’t help my mom at the time.”
Jennings, who holds certification from both the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a champion of foreclosure rights. Through his loss mitigation company, IKJ Government Affairs Consulting, he tries to work out agreements between homeowners and lenders that stop foreclosure proceedings permanently, enabling property owners to remain in their homes and protect their credit history. Through detailed financial analyses on the property in question, he has been able to stave off what would have been catastrophic losses for families in financial peril.
He claims that many people who wait for something conditionally to relieve them of their troubles often are left much worse off than they would have been if they’d come to him sooner, incurring further debt and unnecessary lawyer fees.
“I think attorneys are great people – they’re just trying to help out – but a lot of them have been unscrupulous for a lot of the people who have come to me, who have given these attorneys money and would have lost their house,” he says. “There’s no defense for foreclosure, and attorneys advertise foreclosure defense. There’s only one thing you can do with a foreclosure; come to an agreement with your lender.”
Jennings” former clients, now in good standing with their lender thanks to his efforts, are happy to sing his praise. Esther St. Paul, who cares for her diabetic father, was facing a bank lawsuit and foreclosure. The stress, she claims, led to her father having his leg amputated. When she sought Jennings’ help, however, she says everything changed.
“The situation was severely stressful and we didn’t know what to do,” she says. “You constantly watch the mailbox, hating when the mailman comes to your home. Honestly, I didn’t see how I could come out of the situation. I put my faith in Bernard and when I received that modification it was a blessing.”
Sylma Ivette Schoenlank, a self-employed single mother, was a month away from selling her house due to foreclosure when Rep. Frederica Wilson referred her to Jennings. After deflecting the initial foreclosure, he led negotiations that resulted in more than $100,000 slashed from her loan balance and a cut of more than $1,000 off the monthly payments.
“He was just a really cool, down-to-earth, loving and caring guy,” she says. “He said, ‘Don’t lose any sleep over this, we’re going to get this done.’ He really held my hand through the whole thing and I really needed that.”
A husband and father of two, it is this human element and caring approach that has forged lifelong bonds between Jennings and the people he has helped.
“When I see a mother or a couple before me and they’re having a problem and I’m able to tell them, ‘Listen, I’m looking at the formula and you qualify!’ I feel the sense of, ‘Yes! Another one I can help.’ They’ve gone through this for so long, they come to me and in such a short time I help them; they’re just overjoyed and they become friends.”
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