Daniel and Alisa Cianciotto are a South Florida couple, who like many others in Miami, fell behind on their house payment and eventually defaulted on their loan with Aurora Loan Services. Aurora then filed a foreclosure which prompted the Cianciottos to retain a foreclosure defense attorney, John Watson. In February, the Cianciotto’s became aware that Watson also represents a Littleton, Colorado based Aurora in foreclosure suits against homeowners like them.
“I was completely devastated,” Daniel Cianciotto said. ” I felt like I was tricked and scammed. I never would have signed up with him if I knew he had anything to do with representing Aurora. These people are trying to throw me out of my house.” Watson claims that Aurora was not his client, but his brother’s law firm’s, who he shared office space with.
This case has enticed a debate as to whether a conflict of interest exists when a lawyer hired to fight foreclosure is also represented by the homeowners’ lender. Warren Trazenfeld, a Miami lawyer who specializes in attorney malpractice law, says that for the same law firm and its of-counsel lawyers to represent borrowers defending against foreclosures when the same law firm represents lenders foreclosing on the borrowers is “an absolute conflict”.
In fact, a Florida Bar article states that “before forming an ‘of counsel’ relationship, a firm should consider the fact that the ‘of counsel’ lawyer is treated as a firm member for conflict of interest analysis.”
Watson withdrew from the Cianciottos case and returned their $1,000 retainer after they filed a motion for disqualification. Still, the Cianciottos insist that Watson should be investigated, despite having a clean disciplinary record and no complaints related to conflicts of interest.
This case clearly illustrates how challenging the foreclosure legal process can be for homeowners with limited knowledge of the system. Please contact our office today to discuss your rights in a foreclosure, and other pending real estate needs.