Homeowner Handed "Free" House

By Greg Cergol
|  Saturday, May 8, 2010  |  Updated 9:27 AM EDT
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Homeowner Handed "Free" House

Gittens' house.

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Corliss Gittens of Lakeview turned 48 Friday.

Her birthday gift came courtesy of a Nassau County judge.

"It's the best present I ever received," said the smiling Gittens.

New York Supreme Court justice John Galasso handed the receptionist her home, free and clear of any mortgages or liens. The court decision was ten years in the making.

Back in 2000, Gittens bought her childhood home from her parents.  She used a $144,000 loan from a local lending company to close on the house.

But when Gittens tried to make her mortgage payments, the lender wouldn't cash her checks.  At one point, she even sent some via certified mail.  But the money was never accepted.

Gittens grew so frustrated she contacted the lender's customer service department.

"The manager got on the phone and said, lady, you must be calling the wrong bank because you don't have an account here," said Gittens.

Apparently, all records of her mortgage had vanished.

"That mortgage is in a black hole," said Gittens' lawyer Fred Brewington of Hempstead.

"It has gone into deep, deep black space.  It's gone."

What happened is unclear. Gittens' original lender went out of business and its assets were bought and sold several times.  JP Morgan Chase, said Gittens, is the company that now should be holding her mortgage.

But when Brewington originated a court action to have Gittens declared the sole owner of her home, no bank representative showed up to contest the case.

So, the house her late parents bought in 1961 is now hers, free and clear.

"I think my mom and dad are looking down on me, making sure nothing happens to their house," said Gittens.

As for how she planned to celebrate her birthday, Gittens said she would enjoy a quiet dinner in her birthday "present" -- enjoying the kind of ending that every homeowner dreams about.

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