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Chase Home Finance only calls when they want to

May 10, 2010, 2:00 pm: Natalia Carrillo at Chase (800) 848-9380 ext. 382-3158 had not returned my call; it had been over 48 hours if we were counting business days only, although Natalia had called me once on a Sunday (April 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm), so it had really been over 72 hours without a call back, or any contact from Chase. It had also been eleven days since my financial interview with Chase – so what exactly were these new processes? They seemed like the same old Chase processes: ignore, obfuscate and deny.

Chase home loan modification new processes mean…

May 6, 2010, 1:49 pm: Called Natalia Carrillo at Chase (800) 848-9380 ext. 382-3158. It had been a week since my financial interview with Loss Mitigation Solicitor Bailey; Natalia had referenced “new processes” so I was eager to learn more. My call was taken by Customer Care Professional Jack who confirmed my contact information and reinforced the fact that Chase was attempting to collect a debt. I asked to speak with Natalia Carrillo and Jack transferred me but the outbound message was clipped. I missed the beginning and while it did not replay, I’d heard the part that said to “leave a message, press 1; otherwise, stay on the line”. I stayed on the line only to reach Brandon. I said I wanted to leave a message or speak with Natalia Carrillo and Brandon said he would transfer the call. I heard the same clipped outbound message so I pressed 1 to leave a voice mail for Natalia Carrillo. Her outbound message said to expect a call back in 24-48 hours. I certainly hoped a timely call back was part of the new processes at Chase since my track record on callbacks was holding steady at slim and none.

Chase Home Lending sends an email…what does it mean?

April 30, 2010, 11:11 am: I received this e-mail from Olga Danilova:

Hello Ms. Wright,

We are unable to provide you with a modification at this time. We will be sending your [sic] our detailed response in a letter. 

Thank you 

Olga Danilova

Chase Home Lending

Home Lending Executive Office

Phone: (614) 422-2260

Toll Free: (888) 310-7995 ext. 2260

Fax: (866) 480-1239

I decided there was not much else I could do until I either received a real letter in the mail from Chase or heard back from Natalia Carrillo, especially if Olga was going to be out of the country for two weeks. Either way, this made no sense. Why had I done the Financial Interview on April 29, 2010 if my modification had been denied on April 28, 2010? Was Chase playing games, stringing me along and pretending to offer this struggling homeowner help when all they really wanted to do was drain my last dollar in savings and then take my home? It felt that way, especially after being denied a modification because I had three months cash reserves on hand. Three months was a nano-second in the life of this mortgage.

Was Chase continuing the predatory lending practices established by Washington Mutual, masquerading as a friend of the family while they fleeced you…I sure hoped not.

Chase loan modification denial?!

April 30, 2010, 10:00 am: Olga Danilova called from the Chase Home Lending Executive Office. She’d been out of the office for two days and was calling to tell me I’d been denied for a loan modification. According to Olga, I could afford the monthly mortgage payment and I “did not qualify”. I asked her to repeat herself as this just could not be true. She said that based on the documents I’d submitted, I could afford this mortgage.

I said what she was telling me simply could not be right; there was some kind of mistake. I went on to say that the documents I’d submitted clearly showed my W-2 take home pay was a thousand dollars a month less than my mortgage payment plus insurance and taxes. What on earth was she talking about?

Olga paused, re-read the file and blithely said, “Oh yes, I see that. I meant to say you’ve been denied because you can’t afford to pay this loan.” No kidding! I said of course I couldn’t afford to pay the loan as structured, that’s why I’d sought a modification. Olga replied, “Well you don’t meet our requirements for any program.” I said I knew I didn’t qualify for any HAMP government program; I was pursuing the Chase in-house program. Olga reiterated that I did not meet the criteria so I asked her what exactly the criterion was. Olga said, “It has to be 31%”. I was so darn mad I forgot to ask 31% of what, or to point out that if Chase reduced the interest rate to 2%, it would be 31% of my gross pay and I could pay the loan. My hair was on fire and I couldn’t see straight.

I said if you knew that, why didn’t you just tell me back in February 2009 or in December 2009? Olga retorted by pointing out I’d also been denied on 3/5/10 and I rebutted. I told her Chase had alleged they were unable to prove residency; that had been resolved and on 3/8/10 the case had been reopened. Olga’s reply: “Oh yes, I see that. Well, you were denied two days ago because you can’t afford the loan. You need to sell your house.”

I could see that Olga really didn’t know what she was talking about and apparently didn’t know how to read the file, so how valid was this communication? I asked her if I would get a denial letter, something in writing explaining exactly why I’d been denied. She said she wasn’t sure, “probably”. I asked how long it would take to get a letter and she said “a couple of weeks”. I got the feeling she was just making up the answers and said that a “couple of weeks” was not acceptable. Could she fax something? No. E-mail? No. I then asked why I’d been on the phone at six o’clock the night before for over an hour giving a financial interview. Olga wanted to know who I spoke with and I said Natalia Carrillo and Bailey; she then asked if they were with Chase!

(This had to be a parallel universe). I said of course they were with Chase, where else would they be from but she didn’t seem to care. Olga said, “Well, you were denied two days ago. Maybe they didn’t check the system.”

I had a feeling about who might or might not be checking the system and I was not going to let Olga off the hook without a fight. I said I needed a letter and I did not consider this modification denied without something in writing. Olga said the letters come from Loss Mitigation but the Chase Home Lending Executive Office sends them. She went on to say she would be out of the country for two weeks. I said that really would not do, I needed something to acknowledge we even had this conversation. I convinced Olga to send me an e-mail telling me that I would get a letter. It wasn’t much but it was all I could get her to commit.

Will the Chase Financial Interview help to get a loan modification?

April 29, 2010, 6:39 pm: Natalia Carrillo Chase Home Finance (800) 848-9380 transferred me to Bailey, a Loss Mitigation Solicitor. I asked Bailey if she was an attorney and she laughed and said no, even though she was called a Loss Mitigation Solicitor, she was just in the call center and she was going to “help me out”. She asked for a few minutes to “read the file” and then told me that after the financial interview she would e-mail the negotiator and things would move along. I asked if there was a financial interview form I could complete and submit and if not, might I get a copy of the completed financial interview. The answer was no. With that, Bailey asked what my monthly salary was; she wanted net, not gross, so I was a bit surprised and unprepared but still able to produce the monthly net for my W-2 earnings by quickly checking my bank account online. Next she wanted my net monthly 1099 pay; that was not so easy because who really knows what their net will be after taxes? I don’t know how much I’ll make on a freelance basis so I can’t determine the net. I had to estimate. Not good.

Next Bailey asked how much the mortgage, taxes and insurance were (Was this a test? The taxes and insurance are escrowed and Chase knows the numbers). Bailey then asked about secondary loans and/or home equity lines (I have none); credit card debt (I have none); college tuition and/or student loans (I have none).

Bailey went on to ask about utilities. At this point I was especially grateful to Doris B. at the CCCSDV for the time spent going over my budget on a monthly basis. I had at the ready my documents from our January 5, 2010 credit counseling session and they proved invaluable. To prepare for my meeting with Doris back in January, I’d had a friend create a yearly spreadsheet of my expenses, so in our meeting it had been a relatively easy task to break out monthly averages for all expenses and properly account for every penny. That was the very same worksheet I’d reviewed and updated in preparation for this financial interview and I clung to it like a life raft.

No one should ever enter into a Chase financial interview without knowing all of the answers in advance and to the penny. Had I estimated off the top of my head or answered on the fly as Natalia had suggested the day before, it could have been disastrous.

Bailey didn’t probe for anything. She just wanted a number for utilities. It was incumbent on me to mention gas, electric, water and sewer, and if I’d missed something, it would not have been counted. It’s easy to overlook or underestimate smaller bills, and with a winter like we just had, I needed to revise the numbers to address greater gas and electric consumption, something I’d remembered to do before the interview. But the way Bailey was asking required me to add up various expenses, yet another opportunity to make a mistake. Thank goodness I had a calculator at the ready!

After utilities, Bailey moved on to automobiles (I have no car payments). She asked about automobile insurance (I drive clunkers so I carry only liability insurance and have no collision coverage) and then gasoline costs. With that, Bailey was ready to move on. Hold the phone! If the category is Automotive, what about tolls? Between the Garden State Parkway and the NJ Turnpike, I throw money out the window almost every time I get in the car. And parking? Automobile registration, inspection, driver’s license renewal and how about maintenance? Things like tires, oil changes, tunes-ups?  I could see right then that Chase wanted to breeze through this interview so the “modification” would be as small as possible. It was a set-up to fail. No wonder so many homeowners who had been given a trial modification couldn’t keep up. They probably didn’t really understand their actual operating costs until they ran out of money before month’s end, and by the time they figured it out it was too late.  

Bailey seemed to be asking questions in a random fashion, and there was no reference to categories. I suggest anyone facing a Chase financial interview ask in advance for the categories as Chase accounts for them so they can compile their expenses accordingly. She seemed to be working through a spreadsheet of some kind and entering numbers, but she jumped all over the place.

I hunkered down. When Bailey asked about health insurance, I made sure to add in co-pays, medications (I have no prescription plan), dental, optometrist and eyeglasses. Next was food, and at this point I was glad I was single. I know what I eat. The prospect of doing this for a family was daunting.  We continued through a few more questions like clothing, toiletries, life & disability insurance (I have none) and Bailey was ready to call it done.

I asked, “what about the telephone?” Bailey’s response: “Oh, that’s entertainment”.  Really? What about “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?” I have a waterfront property and yes, I have a landline so anyone can dial 911 in the event of an emergency. There will be no fumbling for a cell phone if someone’s fallen into the bay and is being swept away by the current. I also have a cell phone (the size of a brick with no features at all) which I use for business, but it didn’t matter to Bailey. She filed it all under “entertainment”. Maybe there’s someone out there who finds my phone calls to Chase entertaining; I sure don’t.

I soldiered on and mentioned charitable contributions, newspapers (to look for a better-paying job!), job search expenses, pet food, gifts, etc. but I soon realized it was all going to be lumped under “entertainment”. There also didn’t seem to be a category for office supplies and loan modification application expenses like having a phone line and access to a fax machine; I sure knew Staples, FedEx and the USPS were beneficiaries of the Chase paper trail.  That was probably still considered “entertainment”.

Bailey quickly ran through some of the categories and totals she’d come up with including: Income, Expenses, Medical, Auto, Health, Transportation, Utilities, Food & Toiletries and Other. My head was spinning. It had been 45 minutes and I was done. I agreed to dollar amounts and categories I could not see and would not be given a copy of and we ended the call. Chase was really beginning to wear me down and it was not at all entertaining.

Chasing answers about my Chase loan modification

April 29, 2010, 6:09 pm: Natalia Carrillo Chase Home Finance (800) 848-9380 called. She confirmed receipt of the Year-To-Date P&L and said that pending the financial interview she had everything she needed to turn the loan over to Underwriting. I asked Natalia why I’d been told on April 5, 2010 that my loan was turned over to Underwriting on 3/1/10, and why I’d been told previously it was in Underwriting as of 12/15/09.

Natalia said that before I was with Imminent Default, a separate area working on loans that are not delinquent. Now that Chase had gone through the “process changes” she told me about on April 25, 2010, she “overrode” the account.

I pointed out that if Chase had addressed this loan modification in a timely fashion, I would not be in arrears, and expressed my anger over being strung along for 14-months. Natalia said she really couldn’t comment on that; the file was “just not reviewed” and when April came around it went to Natalia’s department. I protested; Natalia said the only explanation she could offer on behalf of Chase regarding the delay was that the “priority is for people who are behind” and my “file was just not reviewed”.

Natalia went on to say I had to complete the financial interview to determine if I qualified for a repayment plan although typically the interview does not qualify anyone for a payment plan. Once the Chase financial interview was conducted Natalia would get the go-ahead to submit the information straight to Underwriting who would determine if the loan could be modified.

This seemed very convoluted after fourteen months of paperwork and phone calls. It felt very much like a parallel and even less-friendly universe so I again expressed my dissatisfaction and concern. Natalia seemed surprised; she said there were virtually “no notes” in my file about any of the calls and submissions I’d alluded to. The conversation didn’t seem to be going anywhere so I decided to forge ahead and proceed with the financial interview. Natalia stayed on the line as she transferred me to a Loss Mitigation Solicitor and signed off when the Loss Mitigation Solicitor picked up.

The Chase Financial Interview for Dummies

April 28, 7:40 PM: I wanted more information about the financial interview and how to prepare. I told Natalia Carrillo at Chase Home Finance that I’d phoned (800) 848-9380 on March 2, 2010 and attempted to have a financial interview, only to be told they had no idea what I was talking about. Natalia ignored me and said the financial interview would be verbal questions about my monthly expenses. A “solicitor” would ask a series of questions, it would “fast and easy”.

This made no sense. Everything else Chase wanted had to be submitted in writing and in excruciating detail…why was this going to be “fast and easy”, yet a “solicitor” was involved? Natalia explained that the  “solicitors run” the financial interview and ask basic questions like my income and expenses…things like “utilities, food, entertainment, gym memberships”, etc…  I asked if my attorney should be present and Natalia said that was okay but why? She said the “solicitors” at Chase were just the people who answered the phones and forwarded the calls; she downplayed all of it and encouraged me to do it right then and there.

I didn’t like the sound of this at all. I’d read and been cautioned to never offer anything off the top of my head and to take each interaction very seriously; that’s why I’d documented every contact with Chase since I first requested a loan modification in February 2009. I asked if the financial interview could be scheduled; I wasn’t at home when Natalia called and had none of my paperwork with me. Natalia said if I submitted the updated Profit & Loss statement then she could look into scheduling the interview; we tentatively agreed on Thursday April 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm.

I asked how I could reach Natalia directly since there seemed to be no way to enter the extension she’d provided. Natalia said she was “unavailable” when I’d called and that after dialing the (800) 848-9380 number the 382-3158 extension would go to her voice mail and a 381-3158 extension would go to her phone no matter what.