We were first-time homebuyers and bought our home in June of 2006. Hindsight is always 20/20. I only wish I would've known what questions to ask back then. The first big problem came in October of 2006, when we got our first bill for property taxes. I remember asking the lender, "How do we get property taxes rolled into the cost of our loan?" What he should've said was, "We'll set you up an escrow account, but it will tack up to several hundred dollars onto your mortgage payment." What he said to me was, "Ahh, don't worry! When you get your tax refund at the beginning of the year, just pay the property taxes with that! No problem!" I just wish I would've known that tax bills are sent out in October and April. So, if I could turn back time, I'd definitely add an escrow account straight off.
Also, we had two mortgages. The second had an ARM after 2 years. The first was fixed.
So, everything was going very well in our new home. Our payments were all on time at first. We had a couple of "hiccups" in late 2006 where I had submitted some payments online that simply never went through. When I got default notices in the mail, I was confused. I called and was told the payments had not been received. I corrected that problem, and knew that from now on, I would need to call in and talk to someone.
We first started getting behind in April of 2007. It was starting off to be an awful year. My sister-in-law (who was 27) was diagnosed with leukemia that month. My husband (understandably) dropped everything to be at her side in Mexico. Sadly, she passed away in the end of July. He again went home to Mexico to bury her.
Before we knew it, we were a payment and-a-half behind. In August, I called Countrywide for help. I told them how badly we wanted to keep our home, that I'd do anything. They suggested a loan modification, where the late payments would be rolled back into our loan, slightly raising our current mortgage. We applied and were approved in September.
Our first repayment was to be in October. Worried about submitting the payment online or via mail, I wanted to call in my payment. I figured the representatives could at least be my witnesses.
During that first call, I wanted to be sure we didn't owe any penalties or extra fees, so my exact words to the gentleman were, "So, what do I owe you?" He told me "$784". I paid that.
A month later, I called to make another payment. Got a "canned answer" agent from India. He said there was a problem, that I should've paid $275 more than I did the month before. I said, "I paid exactly what your company told me to pay, Sir." He said, "Well, can you complete the payments today?" I said, "Yes." So, I paid what we owed. Before hanging up, he said there was a chance I could be kicked off of the modification for "non-compliance". I said, "I'm complying, Sir. I did exactly what I was told to do."
In November, I made the payment I was instructed to make.
In December, I got a notice stating I was now removed from the loan modification for "non-compliance", and that I owed that 1.5 months of mortgage that had been put back into the loan, plus the current month's mortgage. Completely confused, I called Countrywide.
The rep told me, "You should've read your paperwork better", and told me I shouldn't have paid that initial $784, that I should've paid the remainder that first month, too. I argued that I was scared this was going to happen, so I asked the agent EXACTLY what I needed to pay that day. She said, "All I can do is tell you to reapply for the loan modification, Ma'am. There's no guarantee of approval, but you should try."
I sent the paperwork in (a $20 fax bill-yay) almost immediately. Figuring it would take about a month-and-a-half to hear back, I waited patiently. When I heard nothing in January, I called Countrywide. This is what I got: "Ma'am, there's no record of us receiving your paperwork in November. Please send everything in again."
Another 20 page/$20 fax later, and this time I called three days later to make sure they got my fax. They had. So, the waiting game began....
In January, we got a notice saying that Countrywide had added an escrow account, and had paid our past due property taxes. Unfortunately, our combined mortgage total had gone from $1430 a month to almost $1900. That's when I really felt the noose tightening, and feared we may not be able to keep the house.
In February, March, and April, I called Countrywide because they never would call me. I asked, "What is the status of my loan modification application?" Each time the answer was, "Oh, your status is pending, Ma'am." Each time I would ask, "Well, I have $x for you today, is there any way I can at least pay down the past due balance?" Countrywide's response: "No, if we take any money, it'll ruin the application process. We recommend you keep a third of what's past due, so when you are approved, you'll be prepared to put something down." After each of my monthly calls, they would also insist I update my financial information with them. Time-consuming and very annoying, as nothing ever changed for us from month-to-month.
As we waited very patiently for Countrywide to decide if we were going to be approved for the modification, we were getting collections calls and threatening mail. I would have to call in and say, "Wait! We're applying for a loan modification, that's why we haven't sent any money in !" They would say something like, "Oh, I see it now. Yes, well your status is still pending." Gosh, really?
Mind you, this all means we were now 6 months behind on our mortgage. Even if they approved the mod., our credit was still completely destroyed by this.
In the end of May, I was pleasantly surprised to see a packet of papers in my mailbox. I was thinking, "Oh good, we were approved!" I opened the envelope and was confused to find a loan modification approval for our SECOND MORTGAGE, which we weren't even behind on!!! We had applied for a modification for our FIRST mortgage, not the second!
Thinking Countrywide made an "oopsie", I called in to ask what was going on.
Here's what the lady told me: "Your application was denied. I see in the notes that Maria (the case manager) tried to call you twice and didn't get an answer. She said you were denied because you are not allowed to apply for a loan modification twice in a 12-month period. So, unless you come up with the $8000+ you owe us now, your house will be sold. It could be in 2 days, it could be in 6 months-we'll let you know."
We hung up, and I was completely numb. Once the shock wore off, I started to remember the last time I talked to Maria. It was the month before, and I had called her to update my financial information. I thought, "OK, if she really did call me two weeks ago, her number will be on my Caller ID list." Guess what? LIARS! NOBODY from Countrywide called me the day they specified. NOBODY!
I called them back, got a different agent, of course. I had to explain what we had gone through all over again. She read through her notes, all the same stuff. Denied because of reapplication in a 12-month period. No sale date yet. No sale if we came up with the $8000 past due that we owed. I told the lady I wanted to speak to Maria. She wasn't there, but the lady transferred me to Maria's supervisor's number. I let them have it. I said, "First of all, Maria should've said at the very beginning we weren't allowed to apply twice in a two year period, not to mention, she lied about calling my home to deny my application. You CANNOT do this to people!" Of course, nobody called me back.
We now owe $12000+ dollars. I got a call from Countrywide today, asking why I never sent in the papers for the loan mod. for the SECOND mortgage!!! I called and told the rep everything we've been through this past year. She sounded deeply and genuinely sorry, and said she was completely shocked about what had happened.
Now, I'm scrambling to find a home for myself, my husband, and our two school-aged children. I'm also faced with the decision to just walk away, or to try and short-sale the home. I'm scared, and our future is very uncertain. We applied for one duplex, and were immediately turned down. Our credit is completely DESTROYED by what the landlords think was an unwillingness to pay our mortgage for 8 months. I try to explain to all of them beforehand that no, we were applying for a modification and NOT ALLOWED to send money in....for nearly 7 months. They just see the score of 529, and shoo us away.
So, now what, Countrywide? My hard-working, simple-living family is going to be homeless because we can't get in anywhere. I NEED HELP!!! Can someone tell me PLEASE that what they've done is ILLEGAL??? Why did they wait 7 months just to tell us we were denied, and why didn't they tell me at the get-go that I wasn't even allowed to reapply? WHY?????
Please tell me if something similar has happened to you, and if you've been able to do anything about it.
Any City, Washington
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