This is a summary of the correspondence sent to Senator Diane Feinstein in a request for Assistance Dated October 10, 2011
We are small business owners and due to the economic downturn, in March 2010 we contacted Bank of America to see what could be done about a loan modification on our home. We had been late on a couple of payments, but had not missed a single payment at that time.
We were told that there was nothing that could be done unless we had missed a few payments. Basically they would not work with us at that point.
We missed several payments and in August 2010, we requested the loan modification package. At that time they ran rough numbers, and said we qualified and would mail the package in 7-10 days. For the next three months we called weekly attempting to get the modification package. Each we verified the mailing address, each time they assured us it had been mailed and they would mail another package. When we first requested the package a notice of default had not been filed. It took three months before we were finally told just to use the HAMP forms that could be found online. Based on our loan amount these were not the correct forms, however desperate we completed the package and send it in the next day. Over the next two months it was much the same. Every time we called it was under review. Then in late December we received notice that we had a sale date of January 3, 2011. During this entire process we were never given any options. At one point we asked for forbearance, and would just resume the payments until we could work something out. They customer service person we spoke with said that was not an option.
During the last week of 2010, we were informed that the modification had been denied. By this time our income had stabilized. It was not what it had been prior to the recession, but it was improving. Desperate we contacted the National Hope Foundation. They reviewed our numbers and said based on our income we should qualify for modification. We had to move very quickly at that point. They suggested we file foreclosure to delay the sale. Desperate, we had no choice. They submitted the pack to Bank of America a few days after Christmas.
Over the next few months the responses from the bank were the same as before. Every call (of which I have logs from the National Hope Foundation), were exactly the same. It was under review and to call back. The last call made on March 30, 2011, was the same as all the rest. On April 7, 2011, a Realtor representing Bank of America came to the door to let us know the property had gone to Trustees Sale on April 4, 2011. We were shocked. We called the National Hope Foundation and they said it was sad but common with Bank of America. There was nothing further they could do, however they gave me the name of an FHA Counselor who specialized in getting this type of wrongful foreclosure overturned. The National Hope Foundation stated she would review the case and would only take it if she felt something could be done.
The FHA Counselor agreed to reviewed our case. After reviewing all the documentation she agreed we should have been given a modification. She filed with OCC, and opened an investigation with the office of the President of Bank of America.
We were served with an Unlawful Detainer in September; we need to be out by end of the second week in October, 2011. However the case is still open with the office of the President. The status as of last week was it is still being investigated.
One other interesting detail, after the Unlawful Detainer Hearing, we briefly spoke with the Realtor working for Bank of America. He stated that due to errors and issues, Bank of America had to pull several (six or more) properties off the market and re-file the foreclosures. Ours was one of those properties. July, 2011, public record shows two separate foreclosure sale dates for our ranch.
We need some assistance with the office of the President. We dont want to lose our home. We have filed with every agency we could find trying to find some help. We built this ranch from nothing. Again, we are small business owners. During this crisis we have managed to keep ten journeyman painters employed. In order to do that we had to cut our margins, tighten our belts and make some sacrifices. We understand and honor our responsibility to not only our employees but their families, children and homes. All we were looking for was a little relief until things got better. However unnecessary almost preplanned delays by Bank of America put us in a terrible position.
During my extensive research on this subject, I could not find a single property like ours that had been given a modification. What I did find was a very disturbing pattern among these types of loans that I would like to bring to your attention.
Our loan was not FHA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. We were originally a Countrywide Loan.
At the height of the market Countrywide was the largest lender on non-conforming, ranch and rural properties. Our home is ranch property (private residence on 9.94 acres). Even at the height of the market many lenders would not lend on this type of residential property. That is why these loans were typically held by Countrywide. Since the acquisition, now these properties are all held by Bank of America. There are no Local, State or Federal agencies (aside from OCC and State Attorney General), who can help these homeowners. All the agencies that provide assistance are geared to the big three. No one is out there for us. I did file a complaint with the Attorney General and received a response. However anything they can do would not be in time to help us or any homeowner in immediate need of help. There are non-profit groups and FHA Counselors who work with people like us, but they do not have the recourse or resources of HUD, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
We personally found, hundreds of stories identical to ours in every detail (imagine - that was only those willing to share, foreclosure is such a personal thing many just dont talk about it). Clients calling Bank of America and being told that because they were current there was nothing that could be done. Being given the advice to miss a few payments and call back. These were proactive homeowners trying to save their credit and their homes. These same people being told time after time that the modification paperwork was in the mail, and it never every receiving any the package in the mail no matter how long they waited. In addition, unlike many other banks, Bank of America does not provide their forms on online; they only refer you to the HAMP website. After finally submitted a package there are extensive delays in review, being told it was under review, up until a few days before the published sale date, so they homeowner had no other recourse. Time running out, a sale date and someone coming to their door telling them they had to be out in 30 days!
From the Banks point of view it is a win-win to foreclose. They already got their bail-out. Then they write off the loan against TARP, and whatever other program of loss is available to them. They get money, get rid of a Countrywide liability and they are done. They have to reason to work with homeowners. There are no agencies to conform to (HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac); most of these people try to work within the system, so they fall at the mercy of the banks. I am sure something could be done if they sued the bank, but if they had the money to hire an expensive lawyer they wouldnt have missed any payments.
I cannot believe that so many have the same story. For that to be the case it must have been a policy, you cannot tell me that many minimum wage customer service people could all come up with the same instructions without being told by the Bank to handle customers that way.
The most distressing part, we personally know at least five families that have gone through this exact same nightmare. Of course no one volunteers the information, but if you bring it up and they are more than willing to share their story.
Bank of America is violating of trust of their customers. They are morally & ethically wrong to steer customers down a road that leads to the client to foreclosure and while benefitting Bank of America.