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Chase Loan Modification Redux

March 20, 2010: I realized that after three full months the Chase loan modification request I’d submitted December 11, 2009 was effectively back at the starting gate. Was I like Sisyphus, condemned for all eternity to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, over and over again? I’d labored under this boulder for over a year and there was no end in sight.

Chase, what’s the problem with equity?

March 3, 2010, 8:45 pm:  Keisha Hackney phoned looking for payment. She told me I was denied because I had “the equity” and that I should list my home for sale; a modification was not available for me. I should liquidate my assets and pay up; consider a short sale. I will receive a denial letter and a letter with intent to foreclose. I was denied because I have “the equity” and I “should have refinanced or pulled all the equity out.”

Ms. Hackney had the unique ability to make having equity sound like I had the clap.

I asked if Chase merely serviced the loan and she said no, “this is an asset loan in the portfolio” (interesting, because I strongly suspected this particularly predatory Washington Mutual loan had been sliced, diced, repackaged as a mortgage-backed security and sold down the river.) I said I was going to make a payment March 5 but had been told it would not be applied if it was a partial payment; she confirmed this. I said I could commit to a full payment with late fees by April 5, 2010. She told me she would note in the file I “was not able to make a commitment at this time”. I said I was making a commitment but she would not hear of it. I ended the call.

Hello Chase, I live here!

March 2, 2010, 3:05 pm:  Phoned Chase (866) 550-5705 and spoke with Nicole who advised I’d been declined on 3/2/10 due to “lack of hardship”. Nicole connected me to Imminent Default where I spoke with Gene. I told him I’d been advised I was declined due to either “lack of hardship” or “too much equity” and I wanted a confirmation and explanation. He put me on hold and returned to tell me Chase was “unable to verify this was my primary residence”, hence the denial.  I asked if I would get a letter regarding the denial and the reason – he said yes. I was stunned – Megan had never questioned my residency; all paperwork submitted (including Federal Income Tax returns) clearly indicates this is my home.

I e-mailed Tannette McCray and copied Doris at CCCSDV; there was no response from Ms. McCray. 

March 3, 2010, 7:45 am:  I called Megan and left a voice mail regarding the denial.

What does home equity mean to Chase?

January 28, 2010, 3:45 pm: Jacqueline Ham phoned me. We discussed what it meant to be denied a modification for “too much” equity and how I might get a copy of my denial letters. Jacqueline committed to send a letter recapping the 8/25/09 denial based on: property exceeds guidelines/too much equity. Jacqueline said I should call the Chase Home Ownership Center in Media, PA on March 2, 2010 once I was officially 31 days late and try to schedule a March 3, 2010 appointment rather than wait until 3/18/10 as I’d planned.

I asked her what the guidelines were regarding “too much equity”. Was it a dollar amount or a percentage? Because if I had too much equity in 8/09, why would it be any different now? (If I’d pulled my head out of the sand I might have realized property values were dropping by the minute and my equity could have radically diminished in five months). Was there a number one had to be above or below? She said these were good questions; she would ask and get back to me Tuesday 2/2/10 at the latest with answers. I asked what other Chase loan modification programs there were beyond Obama’s Making Homes Affordable and she said there was only one. She also noted I was still in Loan Review and she asked that it be escalated.

February 2, 2010 9:00 am: Phoned Jacqueline Ham to follow up on our January 28, 2010 conversation and get answers on my denial, the equity formula and the status of my modification request. She was not available. I left a detailed voice mail.

February 4, 2010 9:15 am: Phoned Jacqueline Ham to follow up on our January 28, 2010 conversation and get answers on my denial, the equity formula and the status of my modification request. She was not available. I left a detailed voice mail.

February 5, 2010 8:30 am: Phoned Jacqueline Ham to follow up on our January 28, 2010 conversation and get answers on my denial, the equity formula and the status of my modification request. Her mailbox was full and not accepting messages.

February 5, 2010 11:30 am: Phoned Jacqueline Ham to follow up on our January 28, 2010 conversation and get answers on my denial, the equity formula and the status of my modification request. She was not available. I left a detailed voice mail.

February 6, 2010: Received a letter postmarked January 28, 2010. It was the long sought-after August 25, 2009 denial letter from Washington Mutual. Jacqueline Ham had delivered the goods. It was a form letter, customized with my name, address and account number, with a space left open to accommodate a denial reason. The letter read as follows:

Washington Mutual (FL5-8806)

August 25, 2009

Martha Wright

*** * **

Avalon, NJ *****

Statement of Eligibility for Loan Modification

Account ********** (the “Loan”)

Property Address: *** * ** Avalon NJ ***** (the “Property”)

Dear Mortgagor (s)

Washington Mutual is writing in response to your recent request regarding a loan modification on the above-referenced account through the Making Homes Affordable (MHA) program. After researching your account, we have determined that at this time you do not qualify for a modification under the MHA program or any other program we offer for the following reason(s):

Your property equity exceeds our program guidelines.

If your Loan is current, you may be able to qualify for refinance that may provide you with more favorable terms than you have now. If you are interested in finding more out about that option, please contact us at (866) 888-5935.

If your Loan is delinquent, we may be able to offer alternatives to help avoid the negative impact a possible foreclosure may have on your credit rating, the risk of a deficiency judgment being filed against you, and the possible adverse tax effects of a foreclosure on your Property. If you are interested in discussing these possible alternatives, please contact Customer Care immediately at (866) 926-8937.

Our credit decision was based in whole or in part on information obtained in a report from the consumer reporting agency listed below. The reporting agency played no part in our decision and is unable to supply specific reasons why we have denied credit to you. You have a right to receive a free copy of your report from the reporting agency, if you request it no later than sixty (60) days after you receive this notice. In addition, if you find that any information contained in the report you receive is inaccurate or incomplete, you have the right to dispute the matter with the reporting agency by contacting the agency at the number provided below:


P.O. Box 2000

Chester, PA 19022-2000

(800) 916-8800

FEDERAL ECOA NOTICE* (*Removed for brevity)

If you have any questions, please contact us at the number provided below. At Washington Mutual, we value you as a customer and want to ensure your continued satisfaction.


Imminent Default Department

Washington Mutual

(888) 708-3336

For California customers, …* (*Removed for brevity)

Washington Mutual is attempting to collect a debt, and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

We may report information about your account to credit bureaus. Late payments, missed payments, or other defaults on your account may be reflected in your credit report.

To the extent your original obligation has been discharged, or is subject to an automatic stay of bankruptcy under Title 11 of the United States Code, this notice is for compliance and/or informational purposes only and does not constitute a demand for payment or an attempt to impose personal liability for such obligation.


February 9, 2010 10:45 am: Phoned Jacqueline Ham to follow up on our January 28, 2010 conversation and get answers on my denial, the equity ratios and the status of my modification request. She was not available. I left a detailed voice mail.

February 10, 2010 10:30 am: Phoned Jacqueline Ham to follow up on our January 28, 2010 conversation and get answers on my denial, the equity ratios and the status of my modification request. She was not available. I left a detailed voice mail.

February 12, 2010 8:15 am: Phoned Jacqueline Ham to follow up on our January 28, 2010 conversation and get answers on my denial, the equity formula and the status of my modification request. She was not available. I left a detailed voice mail.

February 12, 2010 10:00 am: Phoned Chase (866) 550-5705 and was advised my loan was still in review. I asked to be transferred to Imminent Default and was disconnected.

February 12, 2010: I received a letter dated February 8, 2010 from Chase Home Finance. The subject line: Issue Still Being Reviewed.

The letter:

Dear Martha Wright:

I am writing in response to your correspondence we received on Monday, December 21, 2009, about a loan modification.

At this time, the matter you brought to our attention is still being reviewed. Please be assured that we will make every effort to provide you with the timeliest response possible.

Chase’s goal is to provide the highest level of quality service to each of our customers. We appreciate your business and value our relationship with you.

If you have any questions in the interim, please contact Jackie Ham (866) 605-9253, extension 4663, Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time


Home Lending Executive Office

Was this in reply to my December 16, 2009 letter to Jamie Dimon, Chairman & CEO JP Morgan Chase, or perhaps my letter of January 15, 2010? I hoped not, because the letter said absolutely nothing.

You Have to Give Chase Credit?!

January 5, 2010, 9:00 am: I kept my appointment with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley in the Camden, NJ office, even though my credit scores were decent (701 Equifax, 706 TransUnion, 732 Experian) and I’d never missed a loan payment, although I was about to…

I needed an advocate to get someone at Chase to actually talk with me.

My counselor, Doris B., was extremely professional during our two hour meeting. She said they usually help individuals complete and submit their paperwork – the same paperwork I had already submitted three times! She told me about the Chase Home Ownership Center in Media, PA – I  told her I had phoned them on December 15, 2009 and they had refused to  speak to me because my mortgage payment was not yet 31 days past due. Doris assured me she would be able to get through to them, and right then proceeded to call her contact Jason Papa at the Chase Home Ownership Center.  Jason Papa also stated that he could offer no help until the 31 day delinquent mark, and further informed us that I had “too much equity” in my home. When pressed to clarify what exactly that meant, his reply was, “programs change all the time,” and, “you are back in for loan review so I cannot help you or comment on your loan.” Jason told us to call Chase (866) 550-5705.

Next, Doris and I called the Chase loan modification line (866) 550-5705. We first spoke with Barb and confirmed all paperwork had been received and was in good order, and then asked to be transferred to the Imminent Default Department.  After 25 minutes on hold, we were disconnected. We called Imminent Default back on (888) 708-3336, and were again put on hold. After 35 minutes we finally had to disconnect because my two-hour appointment was over!

January 10, 2010: Alan J. Heavens “On the House” column in The Philadelphia Inquirer features my plight.

The home Chase Home Lending wants to take

Why won't Chase save my home and modify my loan? $$$$$

Taking Care of Business

Chase is in business and I’m a businessperson. I remembered years ago when a business I worked for ran into financial trouble. Our cash flow wouldn’t cover the bills and we feared our creditors would shut us down. For days, weeks and months I made phone call after phone call to each vendor we owed and told them we acknowledged the debt, we did not dispute the debt and we intended to pay the debt, but we needed to work out a payment plan. It was a humbling experience but we worked through it, paying small amounts each week until all of the debts were cleared. Many of those vendors stuck with us for years to follow. Surely Chase would stand by me if I could just work out a payment plan. I needed to talk with someone at Chase.

December 10, 2009, 6:45 pm: I called Chase and spoke with Sheila about pursuing a loan modification. I wanted to work out a payment plan that would both satisfy Chase and allow me to keep my home. Sheila advised that on 6/30/09 I’d been denied a loan modification due to “lack of hardship”. I told Sheila I’d never received a denial letter or any other letter of any kind from Chase/WaMu. I asked if she could fax me a copy of the denial letter and was told she could not do so. I persisted and was transferred to Chris in Loss Mitigation. Chris said a letter was sent on 8/25/09 saying I do not qualify for the Making Homes Affordable program as my “equity exceeds loan guidelines”. I asked Chris for a copy of this letter since I’d never received any letters about anything related to my application for a loan modification, in fact, the only evidence I’d even applied for a modification were my own copies, fax confirmations, postage receipts and phone records.

It could have been a dream sequence although it had really been a nightmare.

I asked Chris if he could fax a copy of the letter. “No”. Could e-mail a copy of the letter, perhaps a pdf? “No”. I offered to send a stamped, self-addressed envelope so he could send a copy at no cost but was again rebuffed. I told him I really needed a copy of the letter – I wanted to show my congressman. I went on to say I was recording the call (meaning I was taking notes) and he said “then I’m going to have to hang up” and he did.

Learning Curve

Throughout August, September, October and November I went to large banks and small banks, banks I’d done business with in the past (Wachovia, Citizen’s & Sturdy Savings Bank) as well as banks I’d only driven by (1st Bank of Sea Isle City & 1st Colonial National Bank), meeting with residential loan officers to explore any and every possible way to refinance. Could my parents co-sign? Could a friend? Could I do something with home equity against a house I owned? Maybe a reverse mortgage? I also met with mortgage brokers who promised the moon, only to be shot down or not even called back.

I went to my investment advisor to look at raiding my retirement savings and he directed me to his mortgage guy. This guy helped him out when he was going through a divorce and his wife had destroyed his credit – he was a miracle worker. The guy was sharp and professional but there were no miracles for me. His response:  “Yes, you have equity, yes you have assets, but the banks want to see income, it’s all about income and cash flow. You need to cut your losses and move on; there will be other houses.” 

A friend in Florida told me I had to talk to her mortgage guy, he was the best. He took all my information on November 13, 2009 and called back four days later. He said there was absolutely no one who would touch a loan of this size without a comparable salary; did I have any wealthy relatives or stand to inherit any money soon? His advice: “Stop paying your mortgage, now. Write your senator; write your congressmen, there’s going to be a revolution. Mail in your house keys and walk away.” I patiently explained to him that perhaps he wasn’t hearing me correctly. I was not underwater in the loan. I had equity, enough equity that I’d been denied a loan modification, I had assets; my credit rating was decent (701 Equifax, 706 TransUnion, 732 Experian) and I’d never missed a loan payment or even been late. I could drain my retirement savings and hang on, ride this thing out until things turned around and I got a good job again. His reply: “As long as you pay, they won’t play. Stop paying now. So what if there’s a tax lien. That will get their attention. They only address the squeaky wheel. You are not a problem so they won’t work with you, they won’t talk to you, and they’ll just string you along because you are a performing loan. They will bleed you dry and take every penny you have. They just want their money. Stop making payments now.”

But I couldn’t stop paying the mortgage. I had an obligation. Only bad people didn’t pay. Plus I’d ruin my credit rating and never be able to get a loan again. It should have occurred to me that despite my good credit rating, I couldn’t get a loan now, and besides, what did I need a loan for other than a mortgage? I didn’t finance new cars, boats or anything else. I didn’t buy anything new, and I wasn’t about to start. Credit cards weren’t important – I didn’t carry a balance with American Express and used it only for work; the only other card I had was my debit card. 

I met with more loan officers, mortgage brokers, neighbors and friends of friends. I asked anyone I knew to hook me up with a senior loan officer, bank CEO or board member, any introduction where I could meet face to face and work out a way to re-finance. I talked to a lot of people but I didn’t get a loan.

In all that time, from July to November, no letter from Chase/WaMu regarding a loan modification application, review or denial ever arrived. The only thing that arrived with resolute punctuality was the monthly mortgage statement and payment coupon.

Game Over

Phoned Chase/WaMu on July 3, 2009 at 9:30 am and spoke with Chris. After verifying all of my contact information Chris advised me that my loan modification request was reviewed two days ago and I did not qualify due to the amount of equity I have in the house. I do not meet the interior department guidelines. A letter of denial has been sent and I may certainly re-apply if “my situation changes” or maybe, he said, I ought to consider selling as they are open to a short sale. He then terminated the call.

Chasing WaMu

WaMu becomes Chase!

Phoned Chase/WaMu June 5, 2009 at 9:55 am and spoke with Hank who had fond memories of vacationing on the seven-mile island of Avalon, NJ. Hank confirmed my re-submission fax was received on 6/3/09 and that the loan modification clock starts anew. Hank advised there was nothing for me to do but “be patient and pay my mortgage”. The government had changed all the programs in March and the programs change daily; his department had only been established on May 1, 2009. Hank assured me they are working on it and said it was okay to call back and check in every week.

Phoned Chase/WaMu on June 12, 2009 at 9:35 am and endured a recorded collection message informing me this was an attempt to collect a debt. Note: I had never been late nor had I missed a payment. After the message played I was put on hold for ten minutes when Kim B. picked up. Kim’s sole purpose appeared to be to transfer me and introduce me to someone who could answer my questions. I then spoke with Adam who noted I’d called before. Adam confirmed receipt of my 6/3/09 fax and advised that all paperwork was in hand, WaMu had a “complete” package. Adam said I should have an “update” by end of month; it’s taking 20-25 days for an “update”. I pressed him on what an update meant and he said deny, modify, etc.

Phoned Chase/WaMu on June 23, 2009 at 10:30 am and spoke with Brad who advised that as of 6/15/09 the loan was in the Imminent Default department and I should be calling a different number. Per Brad the loan had been assigned to Brad U. – I could see this conversation was going nowhere and asked to speak to someone in Imminent Default. I was transferred to Troy who told me the files had been “sent to Guardian to microfiche” and that should take a week. They are taking pictures of documents and basically my loan is still in the review process. There was nothing he could tell me and nothing I could do. Brad was in Loss Mitigation, now I was talking to Imminent Default and they do not share names. Troy terminated the call by hanging up on me.

Maybe, Maybe Not

Phoned WaMu May 8, 2009 at 12:55 pm and spoke with Amber. Now that they have received the “missing” information, as of 4/15/09 they have 28 business days to assign to a negotiator as the package is now “complete”.  It will go to a different negotiator and within the 28 days I will be contacted.  

WaMu is Becoming Chase!

As it was the one-year anniversary of my salary reduction it seemed time to approach the owners and ask for a salary adjustment. Given that I was still doing 100% of the work at 50% of my salary, I was confident they would see how well the business was doing and make some positive salary adjustment in recognition. In acknowledgment that times were still tough, even though our sales were robust, I offered to take on additional work as part of a salary increase and posed several options. All ideas were rebuffed and no salary increase was granted.

Phoned WaMu/Chase on May 20, 2009 at 8:45 am and spoke with Julie. She indicated my loan was assigned to modification officer Brandon U. on 5/13/09 and it would take 77 days from then. Per Julie, no file was opened until 3/31/09 and anything related to my 2/24/09 submission and all prior communications were null and void. Stanley S-D. may have been an “opener”. I will receive a form letter telling me they are looking at the loan and considering my request for a modification.

May 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm I received a call on my landline, not the cell phone number I had provided to WaMu/Chase as my sole contact telephone number. It was Rich Naylor calling to tell me Brandon U. is a processor. Rich Naylor was in charge of doing the review and my loan was no longer in Loss Mitigation, it was now in the Imminent Default department. The package was considered incomplete as of 5/13/09 and would not be looked at until all updated and additional material was provided.

Rich directed me to the web site and told me to download the forms and submit all of the requested information. This site had no cheerful exclamation points – just a Borrower’s Assistance Form with a lengthy checklist.  Rich also requested:

– Updated/current utility bills showing proof of residency

– 2 pay stubs or 30 days worth of pay documents

– 2008 income tax returns

– Documentation of all assets

– Recent bank statements

– Profit & Loss Statement

– Monthly Budget

All were to be faxed to the Imminent Default department and should be mailed as well. Upon receipt of all documents, the loan would go to review and then be assigned to an underwriter, after which it would take 30-40 days.

Basically, after three months of paper shuffling WaMu, now Chase wanted a complete resubmission of my loan modification request.   

May 23, 2009 was spent assembling, copying and faxing the requested documents, now totaling 53 pages. With the exception of my 2008 tax returns (I’d already submitted 2006 & 2007), most of the documents were updates on the same documents I’d submitted 2/24/09 and 3/13/09.

May 26, 2009 I mailed the same documents to WaMu Imminent Default. No upbeat Home Ownership Preservation moniker at this address.

May 29, 2009 I confirmed the packet had been delivered at 8:51 am via Certified Mail.