Lurking in the shadows of a mortgage industry disaster that has global stock markets skittering is what Manhattan elder law attorney Daniel G. Fish calls a critical “hidden issue,” one that has New York City officials and lawyers at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius searching for strategies to help retirees hang on to homes they own free and clear — or so they may think.

Speculators in the shark-infested waters of the real estate world smell the blood of new prey: the elderly who long ago paid off mortgages on houses now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and who fall behind on likewise increasing property tax payments, facing the prospect of losing title and equity to someone who can cover as little as a few thousand dollars of debt.

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