Hawkins County couple worry rent-to-own mobile home will be foreclosed

MOORESBURG, Tenn. (WATE) - For weeks, a couple in Hawkins County feared their home would be sold on the courthouse steps this Friday. They signed a rent-to-own agreement two years ago, but apparently the couple's landlord failed to pay on the loan recently. The landlord claims the home is not going to be foreclosed and that it was all a misunderstanding.

In a rent-to-own agreement, the title to the house remains with the landlord until the tenant couple completes payments on the home. The underlying agreement is identical to a regular lease between a landlord and a tenant. 

The Charles family in Mooresburg has put a lot of money into the home they're trying to buy through the lease-to-own agreement.

"This mobile home might not be a lot to many people, but it's our home. We don't need a big fancy home," said Jeannie Charles.

For years Jeannie Charles and her husband tented the single-wide in Mooresburg. Then in April 2016, they put $5,000 down and started paying $500 a month for a rent-to-own lease to be paid off in 10 years. They signed the contract with Melanie and Jim Stevens of Morristown who own the mortgage on the home.

"We find out that she's seven months behind. My home is up to be foreclosed on February 2, and we have nowhere to go," said Jeannie Charles.

Two weeks ago, a foreclosure notice on the home appeared in the newspaper. Jeannie Charles called the mortgage company.

"They said that $4,226 needed to be paid by February 1. Or, by February 2, they're auctioning my home off," she said.

Jeannie Charles's husband Robin was devastated by the news. He has stage four cancer of the esophagus.

"This, this is where I was wanting to... finish my time out," said Robin Charles.

Since signing the rent-to-own lease, the couple has spent some of their own money making improvements.

"We've redone the inside, put new carpet in. We built a garage. We put an above ground pool in, thinking it's our home. But I guess it's not," said Jeannie Charles.

Mrs. Charles showed her payment book signed monthly by Melanie Stevens.

"Each month she took my payment, every month that she didn't pay hers," she said. "Had no idea [that Melanie Stevens wasn't making mortgage payments.] If that's not criminal what is," said Jeannie Charles.

The trustees' notice of foreclosure appeared January 15. Melanie Stevens sent a text message to Mrs. Charles five days earlier suggesting she shouldn't worry.

"It's not going to be foreclosed on. I am stressed out enough," she said. "She said she didn't (know about the foreclosure.) But how do you know you have not paid for seven months?"

WATE 6 On Your Side called the Stevenses to find out why the home is in foreclosure but didn't get an immediate response. However, Melanie Stevens called the Charles family and told them they had blown the whole situation out of proportion.

"I said everything has been taken care of. You're making a huge mountain out of a molehill. Jeannie, I have taken care of it, yes," said Stevens.

After talking to Jeannie Charles, Stevens sent WATE 6 On Your Side a voicemail and said there is no foreclosure. She said she has sent a certified check to the bank. Jeannie Charles was relieved to know that she and her husband won't be losing their home and that the mortgage payments have been caught up by their landlord. 

The Charleses verified with the mortgage company that the back payments on the loan were caught up by Melanie Stevens. Stevens said she did nothing wrong and that Jeannie Charles should not have contacted WATE 6 On Your Side.

Jeannie Charles said she hopes to never go through the stress of possibly losing her home again as it has taken an emotional toll.

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