My husband is a sergeant in the Army National Guard and his unit was deployed for a year at the beginning of the war in Iraq (mid-March). Under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, all of our loans are capped at a 6% interest rate until his deployment ends. It's up to the soldier's to send a letter and not required, but helpful, a copy of his orders to the companies that you have loans with, alerting them of your active duty status and their obligation under the law to lower your interest rate.
The company must then immediately comply and if they feel that the deployment does not pose a hardship, then they can dispute the lowered interest rate. If it is found that it is not a hardship on the military homeowner, then they can reject the claim. That rarely happens, since our Army, God Bless them, doesn't pay it's soldiers very well.
Aurora Loan Services is only one of five companies we have loans with, all others being credit card accounts. Our account had just recently been sold to Aurora Loan Services by Fifth Third Bank. The first company to comply to the SSCRA (Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act) was Sears. What a relief to actually be making head way on our account, instead of our payments going towards the original 23.99% interest rate (that's a whole other rip-off). After sending a certified, return-receipt letter and a fax to Mr. Robert Lee at Aurora Loan Services (in charge of the SCCRA dept.) and receiving a return receipt that they had received the letter and deployment orders on April 8th, 2003 I waited patiently for our rate to change.
Checking my account status on-line and calling the customer service department. A month later, they still had not complied with the law. All the while, I am making full payments at the higher interest rate. Each time I called customer service, I was put on hold for 15 minutes, or more. When I would get a hold of a real person, they would transfer my call to the "proper department" who would then put me on hold and then "accidentally" hang up on me. This happened three times. That's very frustrating for anyone, especially for this mom, who's only time to make business calls is while her active and sometimes loud one year old baby is sleeping.
One afternoon, I spent an hour waiting on hold and briefly speaking with a rep. before being transferred and eventually hung up on. When I finally talked to someone in a customer service department (I hadn't even gotten to the SSCRA dept. yet), I was told that Mr. Robert Lee, "the guy that handles our SSCRA accounts" wasn't available, but he would call me right back or on Monday (it was Friday). I was starting to feel like they were trying to get rid of me or discourage me from pursuing my husband's right as a self-sacrificing soldier to receive some financial relief.
One customer service rep. even went as far as to tell me that because of the SSCRA, they are keeping my loan documents in "the vault" and she couldn't tell me what my new payment would be without going into "the vault". The whole reason I called her was to find out how much money to send them at my new interest rate. She told me that "they have to accept a payment from me if I send it". I have no idea what that means. She was cryptic and rude.
The next time I called, I found a sympathetic ear with a lady who's son is a Marine in Kuwait. She said I had to give them time and not to lose hope and to call back in 2 weeks. I did, and nothing changed. So in early May I sent another certified letter, return-receipt stating that they were in non-compliance with the SSCRA and that they should call me immediately and also update my account appropriately. Also under the SSCRA, they must pro-rate your interest rate to the 6% to the day of deployment, in this case March 26th. So every day that passes by, they are owing me money or a credit to our loan, but I have a sneaky suspicion I will have to fight tooth and nail for that.
That is if I ever get to talk to Mr. Robert Lee, SSCRA department guy. I just checked my account on-line this evening, hoping that they would have changed the interest rate by now and it's still at 8.5%. On top of that frustration, they still hadn't credited our account a payment made to our loan on March 29th to Fifth Third Bank just before the account was transferred to them. I had to call Fifth Third Bank and ask them to update my account, since when I called Aurora Loan Services, they said they couldn't help me. On top of all this, I am being charged interest and late fees for that payment. Fifth Third Bank had the right to hold my payment for 23 days before transferring it to the new company. I have some complaints about them, too.
Meanwhile, to keep my account current, I'm sending payments of $1,074 every month, much higher than if my interest rate was at 6%. Also under the SSCRA, I only have to pay the interest on my loans, not the principle. So what's this poor Army wife to do? My husband can't help me from where he is (currently in the states, still), otherwise I would ask him to tell his Commander and get some help from the Army lawyers.
I'm wondering if they think that if they stall long enough, now that the war if over, that the Army will send some of their soldiers home and then they won't have to comply. My husband is deployed for a year, his new mission is Homeland Security, and he's not coming home until next June. Or maybe the SSCRA dept. guy is so busy that he really is just that far behind - but couldn't they just call me and tell me that? Or tell me that when I call them? If someone reads this and has an idea or knows more about the SSCRA and my rights, please pass it my way.
Anonymous for safety reasons
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Aurora Loan Service