Q: It has now been seven months that we have been waiting in line attempting to get our mortgage loan modified by our “big box lender,” as you like to call them.
Each time we call to get an update, we get a new deadline of when the bank expects to have a decision. At first we got the runaround with phantom requests for paperwork that we had already submitted. Only after escalating to the State Attorney General of Ohio did the bank acknowledge receipt of our application and proceed with the process.
The Attorney General told us there was little they could do. We contacted our lender a few days later and they told us our loan was being reviewed by the underwriter and that we should follow up in 30 days. We contacted the lender again in September to check the progress and we were told that it was still with the underwriter. At that point we began calling every few days hoping for a real response.
Finally, in early October we were told that we were “provisionally” approved and that we should receive modification paperwork in a few days via FedEx. A couple weeks went by and we contacted our lender again and we were told that there would be a decision by Nov 5th. So we waited another week before calling again, this time on Nov 3rd only to be told that it could be another 30 days before we would hear from anyone.
There have been no requests for additional information and each time we call we are told a different story. We have been trying to keep pace with the payments but with a reduced income since taking a lower-paying job it is difficult.
Worse, on election day, two levies passed in my district which means in a few months my total payment will increase by about $300. We are barely making it now and the additional payment will be beyond my means. We need this modification to keep our home.
We are doing our part, providing any information requested, making monthly payments, even sacrificing staying current on other bills to ensure we stay current. And yet our lender has taken seven months to tell us nothing. I wonder if the goal is to help us or drive us further in to a hole with delayed payment fees and stall tactics.
If there is anything you can do to assist? I am willing to listen.
A: There’s no question that the big box lenders have provided extremely uneven to horrible customer service at a time when their customers need good service most. It’s so disappointing. Unfortunately, the loan modification programs are voluntary, and the big box lenders have to work with each loan’s individual investors (of which there could be a lot) to get these loans modified. It’s a very complicated process and not done particularly well.
Still, it’s incomprehensible why, three years in, they’re not better at this. One lender’s representative told me his company is receiving 50,000 phone calls a day. It is a lot to manage and the technology and staffing has had to be ramped up significantly since the housing crisis started. None of this is an excuse, in my mind, for poor customer service.
So, here’s what you can do. If you have a national lender (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Sun-Trust and Chase are all national lenders), you can file a complaint with the OCC, which regulates the national banks, including BOA. Here’s the link: http://www.helpwithmybank.gov/complaints/index.html.
If your lender is regulated on a statewide basis, you should file a complaint with either the FDIC or Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). Whether your lender is state-chartered or federally-chartered, you should also contact the department or office that regulates mortgage lenders in your state and file another complaint. The best course of action is to be vocal, but polite, and to keep fastidious notes.
At the very least, when you file a complaint, your lender will know that you’re not getting answers and that their Regulator is aware of the problem and is looking into it. Perhaps this will help. (It does not guarantee you’ll get a modification, only that the Regulator will force the bank to go back and take another look at what’s going on here).
One last item to remember, many homeowners out there were under the belief that their big box lenders were there to help them through the crisis. These owners delivered documentation, waited patiently only to find out that their lender’s help never came. Only a small percentage of people that have applied for loan modifications have received help, the many other homeowners have had their credit histories and credit scores harmed by the process and others, still, have lost their homes.
Good luck, and let me know what happens.