Q: I have read many of your articles in the paper and I thought you might be interested in my friend’s story. He has been trying since July to get a reduction on his mortgage from his lender. This March, he was refused any modification or any kind of reduction on his loan. But he did have to resubmit documents to the bank some nineteen times.
He was originally told that would qualify under the Obama Loan Modification Plan using the 31 percent rule. But then the bank said he did not qualify.
My friend was recently in a car accident and has not missed a mortgage payment at any time. After being declined by the bank they sent him a letter saying that since he does not have enough income to keep up the mortgage, he should talk to them about foreclosure and other options. Remember that he never missed a mortgage payment.
He also got a letter from Fannie Mae with the same kind of language. It seems that his bank never had any intention of ever helping him, but rather, they just kept him stringing him along hoping he would stop making his payments and have him go into foreclosure.
The amazing thing is that the banks give you the impression that you can’t be foreclosed on while the bank reviews your file and you are in a trial loan modification. Then the bank turns around and tells you to stop making your payments. But if you stop making your payments, you will be foreclosed on and trash your credit.
Any advice you have for my friend would be appreciated.
A: After two years or hearing about loan modification issues, your letter left me shaking my head. So, let me start by encouraging your friend to file a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which regulates the big box banks. The website is www.helpwithmybank.gov.
Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement that lenders help keep homeowners from foreclosure. The loan modification programs are entirely voluntary. And, while whoever owns the loan might have an interest in helping your friend keep it, the servicers seem to make way more money when a property goes into foreclosure or when the loan is in default, than when the homeowner is current on his loan.
Each party has different financial interests, and often times the homeowner doesn’t win.
If your friend files the complaint, have him send me a copy of the case number and complete contact information. But, as his friend, you should help him envision a future where if his income or resources fail, he will have a Plan B in place. This Plan B will likely entail moving out of the property – even if he has never been late on his mortgage.
There are quite a number of homeowners who are able to keep up with their mortgage payments by using their savings or other income that may not be counted by the banks as reliable income.
These homeowners are at a disadvantage. They don’t show enough of the kind of income that the banks look for to qualify for the loan modifications and yet they have enough money to keep current on their loans. They might be stretched to the limit but have few options available to them in the loan modification programs.
The real question for your friend is whether the bank did anything wrong in dealing with him. The letter your friend received was probably a computer-generated letter. The person who reviewed his file saw that his income numbers did not meet a certain threshold and they probably checked off a box indicating that your friend was having “loan troubles” without even reviewing the payment details on his account.
That individual’s actions triggered a form letter to your friend telling him of his options and probably assuming that he had stopped paying on his loan. The whole process is outrageous simply because it relies on faulty information and poor customer service.
To all the big banks out there, hear this: No one should have to submit paperwork 19 times! (And for those bankers who believe these folks aren’t telling the truth about exactly how many times they have submitted paperwork, I am happy to show the paperwork trail I’ve been sent by countless readers over the past few years.)
Unfortunately, the loan modification program has helped only a fraction of those who are in desperate straits. And, time is running out. As banks work out their foreclosure problems and continue to foreclose on homeowners who are delinquent, whether or not they do qualify for a loan modification, millions of additional homeowners could find themselves looking for another place to live.