Brookfield Couple, Rescue Horses Face Eviction
Two Brookfield residents are on the edge of losing their modest homestead to foreclosure and eviction next month, the result of a series of financial challenges stretching back more than a decade. The residents, Robert and Hope Krenick, are scheduled to lose their property at auction to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), on March 6, leaving both the Krenicks—and the 11 rescued horses they care for—potentially homeless. According to the Krenicks, the current situation is rooted in a “mind-boggling” array of meetings and paperwork from banks, mediators, and lawyers.
All had seemed well when the Krenicks purchased their home on North Ridge Road in 2006. But the couple began experiencing increasingly harder times when income from Robert’s business as a self-employed farrier dropped precipitously after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Owners of high-end horses began cutting back on luxuries, recalled Bob Krenick.
“Those type of people were the first ones to stop the bleeding,” he said of his clients, who once paid to have their prized equines re-shod on a regular basis. “They were gone. Local doctors, local dentists—[their horses] were gone to auction the next day.”
Bob Krenick is an accomplished farrier and animal lover. (Herald / Dylan Kelley)
“A lot of people had gotten rid of their animals,” said Hope, as she fleshed out the details of their rapidly declining income. “That’s when we started having problems.”
In 2011, facing a range of expenses that included payments on vehicles and the quadrupling cost of feeding their aging herd of rescue horses, the Krenicks realized they could no longer keep up with the $1,600 monthly mortgage payments.
“That’s when we decided to not pay them, so they would have to start the foreclosure,” said Hope, recalling an expectation that their decision could allow them to enter a mortgage modification process.
With any luck, the Krenicks hoped that by modifying their loan, they could extend their repayment schedule, lower their 7.25 percent interest rate, and reduce their principal amount now that their home was considered “upside-down,” a financial term for properties that are valued at less than the total amount owed for them.
It was only after a litany of new case managers, reams of lost paperwork, and re-filed forms, that the Krenicks discovered that their original mortgage had been sold to HSBC investors through PHH—a mortgage servicing corporation that recently agreed to a $45,000,000 settlement involving 49 attorneys general for illegally threatening foreclosures and failing to adequately process borrowers’ applications for mortgage modifications.
Describing an arduous application process as a “con job,” the Krenicks believe PHH and HSBC deliberately slowed their mortgage modification process with the goal of squeezing as much out of the property as possible.
“We just keep sending them stuff and then they say ‘oh, we can’t find this,’” lamented Hope Krenick. “Then they say ‘oh, this is stale now, so you’ll have to send this again.' It just kept going and [we] knew what they were doing.”
Then, disaster struck. Right around the time the Krenicks were finally heading into mediation sessions to negotiate the terms of their mortgage, Bob’s back gave out. After nearly 18 years of bending over horses’ hooves, he had developed a curvature of the spine that would ultimately require two surgeries in 2013 and 2016 to correct, keeping him out of work for months on end.
“That’s when the income really went down,” said Hope, who picked up additional work cleaning houses and working overnight shifts while also completing “horse chores” that her husband could no longer perform.
“I had to do everything,” she said. “Then I had to go to work, then I had to come home and do everything again.”
By the time Bob was fully recovered in the fall of 2016, the Krenicks had entered what would be their final round of mediation with HSBC and PHH, who would communicate only from a separate room through a mediator, said the Krenicks.
Hope recalled the final few moments of the seemingly-indecisive meeting last fall.
“The people at the mediation on the phone said ‘we would be willing to listen again,’” she said. “We kind of left it like we would continue.”
“The next thing I know, I get a letter from their attorney saying that it was done and they had gone through the court,” said Hope who, amidst a busy holiday season, had set the letter aside. “I happened to pull the letter out again and was reading it and was like ‘you do know that this is the end of the end.’”
Now approaching 69 years of age, Bob Krenick finds himself at a loss when it comes to thinking about the future of his home and livelihood.
“What do I do now? Where am I going to go from here?” he asked himself. “That’s what I think about all the time.”
With the date of the auction, March 6, rapidly approaching, Hope Krenick alternates between resolute defiance and bleak resignation when thinking about the prospect of her home and her horses being taken away.
“I’ll still be living there until they toss me out,” she said. “I’ve already told them I have several options—I can handcuff myself to the horse fence, stand there with a shotgun, and tell them to get off the property … I don’t know what to do.”
“Some days I just wish I wouldn’t wake up,” she added softly. “That’d make things a lot easier, but people say ‘if that were true, somebody would still have to take care of your animals.’ That’s what keeps me waking up every day.”
Attorney Grant Rees, who represents HSBC and PHH against the Krenicks, did not respond to requests for comment.