Medford musician fights eviction from home of 70 years


Joe Lentino, retired trombonist, took a reverse mortgage in 2007 to settle some debts. When he began unemployed, he missed some tax payments on his house. Many seniors in Massachusetts face difficulty in paying their property taxes due to rising home values and fixed incomes; many Massachusetts communities offer tax relief through tax deferral programs in which lets homeowners over age 65 postpone paying taxes until after their houses are sold. The mortgage company refuses to sign-off on Lentino’s tax-deferral request which has left Mr. Lentino in limbo. He is currently waiting to move to Medford’s senior housing. The fate of his house is unresolved. For the complete article, follow our link to the Boston Globe.

Joe Lentino can’t capture the value of his house until he sells it.

By Robert Weisman | Boston Globe.

MEDFORD — The trouble began after Joe Lentino took a reverse mortgage in 2007 to get out from under his debt. Then he lost some gigs playing in jazz bands. And he started missing tax payments on the modest white house where he’s lived for about 70 years.

Now, the 80-year-old trombonist is embroiled in a legal nightmare, scrambling to get into senior housing before a Texas firm can foreclose on his mortgage.

“I want time to sell the house and be able to move,” said Lentino, sitting stoically in his living room amid stacks of papers and documents. “And it’s not that much time.”

While his story is unique, it illustrates the struggles older residents of limited means face in Greater Boston, where local property taxes have escalated steadily in many communities. Seniors on fixed incomes often can’t afford to pay them without tapping the equity in their homes — and that’s not always as straightforward a solution as it seems.

“Many seniors are having trouble meeting their basic financial needs,” said Abigail Walters, a research associate at the Boston College Center for Retirement Research. “We’re a high-cost state, and housing is one of the biggest expenses they face.”

One option for relief is a tax deferral program offered by many Massachusetts cities and towns as an alternative to reverse mortgages. The program, which lets cash-strapped homeowners over 65 postpone paying taxes until after their houses are sold, is key to a bankruptcy plan Lentino’s legal-aid attorney filed in a Boston court. The plan would let the musician use funds freed up by the tax deferral to pay back money he owes the reverse mortgage company over the next five years. He could then stay in his home until an apartment opens up.

But the mortgage holder, Mortgage Assets Management of Austin, Texas, refuses to sign off on Lentino’s tax-deferral request. It purchased Lentino’s loan in 2017 from the original lender, Financial Freedom, which had paid more than $40,000 in back taxes and insurance Lentino owed to protect its financial interest in the property. The current mortgage holder now wants that money back.

Lentino, who has piercing dark eyes and thinning white hair, gets by on Social Security and a small musicians’ union pension. Medford sends him tax bills totaling nearly $5,500 a year, more than half his Social Security income. His home value has also surged. It’s assessed at $556,900, exceeding the more than $350,000 owed to the lender for the reverse mortgage and back taxes. But he can’t capture that value until he sells the house. Read More

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