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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.

Chasing the Underwriters at Chase Home Lending

I’m curious about “Underwriting”; it seemed to be a Bermuda Triangle at Chase, yet another example of their opaque banking procedures, but it could also be the one place to get a straight answer from Chase. Underwriting might be the black box where decisions were actually made. Here is the history of my loan modification with Chase:

  1. December 30, 2009: I was told my loan was “in Underwriting” as of 12/15/09
  2. January 20, 2010: I was again told my loan was “in Underwriting” as of 12/15/09
  3. February 23, 2010: I was told my loan was “with the Underwriter”
  4. April 5, 2010: I was told my loan was “sent to the Underwriter” on 3/1/10”
  5. April 12, 2010: I was told my loan was “with the Underwriter”

As of April 28, 2010, Natalia Carrillo Chase Home Finance (800) 848-9380 informed me my loan was not going to Underwriting until and unless a new Profit &Loss statement was submitted and a financial interview conducted.

Was my loan EVER in Underwriting (perhaps in a parallel universe)? Was Chase just like Washington Mutual – had Chase been lying to me since December 15, 2009?

How to get to Chase underwriting for a loan modification?

April 28, 7:32 PM: Natalia Carrillo called from Chase Home Finance (800) 848-9380 and after reading the “this is an attempt to collect a debt” disclaimer, she confirmed receipt of my 60-page loan modification fax. Natalia reviewed each document with me and said the “packet was complete”, but then went on to say she required a YTD Profit & Loss statement for my “freelance business” (even though my 1099 income is declared on my Federal Income Tax returns). Further, Natalia informed me that Chase needed to conduct a “financial interview”, and that until the Profit & Loss statement was received and the “financial interview” conducted, my file could not be turned over to Underwriting.

It was now over fourteen months since I initiated a Chase loan modification yet per Natalia, it was not yet in Underwriting…could this possibly be true? Chase did not seem to be helping at all…

Chasing Loan Modification Answers

April 28, 1:23 pm: Called the Chase Home Finance (800) 848-9380 number Natalia Carrillo had provided to tell her I’d faxed the information. After listening to a summary of my account I waited and pressed 3 for an operator. There was no way to enter Natalia’s extension. Carol answered and I asked how I might reach Natalia at extension 382-3158; she said she would transfer me but came immediately back on and said Natalia was not available. I asked if I could leave a voice mail and was told “they don’t have voice mail over there”. Why had Natalia given me her extension if she did not have voice mail?

The paper chase for a Chase home loan modification

April 28, 2010, 12:00 pm: I faxed a 60-page document to the (866) 282-5682 number on the Chase Homeowner’s Information Packet as Natalia Carrillo asked. I truly can’t imagine how anyone could address the paperwork requested by Chase without access to an office or a free copy and fax machine. I certainly can’t imagine anyone with a restaurant, retail or assembly-line job, or any position where their time is monitored or they are required to be at a work station, completing, copying, submitting and tracking the documents Chase requires. Looking back, I realize I have sent the following large packets to Chase, not to mention “incidentals” (faxes and copies I’d not really kept count of):

  1. February 18, 2009: 34-pages by Certified Mail (initial modification application)
  2. March 13, 2009: 34-pages by fax (replacement for lost copy of 2/18/09 modification application)
  3. May 23, 2009: 53-pages by fax (re-submission of 2/18/10 modification application with updated content per  Washington Mutual request)
  4. December 11, 2009: 46-pages by Certified Mail (new submission of Chase loan modification application)
  5. December 11, 2009: 46-pages by fax (copy of above, sent via fax as a back-up)
  6. March 16, 2009: 19-pages by fax (updated statements requested by Chase)
  7. April 28, 2009: 60-pages by Certified Mail (complete re-submission requested by Chase)
  8. April 28, 2009: 60-pages by fax (copy of above, sent via fax as a back-up)

Each set of documents must be copied so I have something for my records, and while the Chase fax number is toll-free, the Avalon Library charges $1.00 a page to send a fax; Staples is five miles away and the nearest FedEx is 22 miles away. Copies are not free and neither are faxes.

On the flip side, Chase seemed reluctant to commit to anything on paper. It had taken me a full six months to get a copy of a letter allegedly mailed 8/25/09 with a one-sentence  denial “explanation”:  “Your property equity exceeds our program guidelines.” The second letter from Chase, sent March 5, 2010, merely said: “We are unable to offer you a Home Affordable Modification because we are unable to verify that you do live in the property as your primary residence”. This was especially maddening – due to my loan size, I only qualified for a Chase in-house program; the Home Affordable Modification had never been available to me. Residency was quickly established with the March 16, 2010 fax of voting records & tax returns and the modification re-opened, but no more letters came from Chase…

As a single woman with no children and a job that offers somewhat flexible working hours, I find the paperwork  daunting. How could anyone with a family and a conventional job be expected to jump through these hoops? While the size of my loan and the fact that I still have a job, albeit at half my original salary, may not engender sympathy, the obstacles are the same regardless of loan size. Who has the time, the facilities and the ability to chase a loan modification? Especially when they are holding down one, two or even three jobs and scrambling to make ends meet, or actively seeking work?

Why is it so hard so obtain clarity and get straight answers on the loan modification process, and why are all the “qualifications” and the “formulas” a big secret?  Borrower’s Assistance at Chase is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an elaborate masquerade designed to deceive the media, the government and the American people.

The Chase Home Lending Shell Game

April 25, 2010, 3:55 pm: Natalia Carrillo called from Chase (800) 848-9380 ext. 382-3158, wanting to discuss my loan. I figured she was looking for money but as the call unfolded I realized she was my new contact. I asked what happened to Olga Danilova, was she off the case? Natalia said a lot had changed at Chase and there were “new processes”; she was tasked with getting the files moving. She went on to say that previously Chase had been doing three-month trial modifications and then determining if the loan qualified for a permanent modification (implying that Underwriting was reviewing the loan during or after the trial modification).

Natalia said Chase was “not going to waste people’s time” putting them in a trial modification and then determining they didn’t really qualify. (Interesting – Chase had wasted fourteen months of my time when even a three-month trial modification would have made a world of difference to me). Per Natalia, they were now doing the Underwriting first; she required a complete package so there would be no questions for Underwriting and after a decision from Underwriting they were only doing trial modifications on “qualified” loans. I should have asked right then what a “qualified” loan was…

I told Natalia it seemed like we were in a parallel universe…what happened to all the stuff I’d submitted since February 24, 2009 and what about my conversations, follow-up, denials, re-openings and re-submissions with Jacqueline Ham, Megan Valdivia and Olga Danilova at the Chase Home Lending Executive Office? Natalia said since I was now over two months past due, the file had moved on to her area and she was responsible.

Natalia went on to review much of the paperwork I’d submitted and told me that some additional and updated paperwork would need to be submitted. She was extremely thorough and opened many files (the files seemed to be in a pdf format). She asked questions about some things she found unclear and she walked me through a required list of documents which she said could all be found on the Chase web site at https://www.chase.com/ccpmweb/chf/document/Borrowers_Assistance_Form_Chase_2009.pdf  She told me I needed to download, print, complete and return several forms, and provide more copies of checking statements and pay stubs. She said my 4506-T had expired (it was only good for 90 days) and it was essential I submit a new form, the RMA Hardship Affidavit. Essentially Natalia Carrillo was requesting yet another loan modification application. She noted there was a “Hardship Letter” in my file dated April 5, 2010, but I still needed to submit the RMA Hardship Affidavit.

Natalia’s reference to an April 5, 2010 “Hardship Letter” made no sense. I told her I’d submitted a handwritten hardship form “inside the box” on the modification application sent 12/11/09, as well as the original submitted February 24, 2009 – what letter could she be talking about? Natalia opened the file and said, “Oh, it’s a letter to Jamie Dimon. She then scrolled down further and saw additional faxes and letters I’d sent, none of which had anything to do with hardship.

I could now understand why I’d not heard back from Jamie Dimon – all of my letters to Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO JP Morgan Chase, were electronically filed and forgotten, along with faxes offering explanations, clarifying details, outlining the situation and offering solutions. I should have asked if my letter to David Lowman Chase Home Lending CEO was in there but I didn’t.

Natalia next looked at a utility bill and asked about my residency; I said perhaps she’d want to scroll down further in the “Hardship” file to my Cape May County, NJ Voting Record. Natalia demurred; saying, “I see your 2008 tax return has the address, that’s sufficient”, then she requested updated utility bills at the service address anyway! Natalia asked if I could submit everything within a week and I said it would be in her hands by 4/28/10 at the latest. She said she’d mark the files for a 4/29/10 follow-up and we ended the call.

Chase Home Lending – fourteen months in a bad relationship

April 24, 2010, 10:59 am: Phoned Olga Danilova at JP Morgan Chase Home Lending Executive Office; her voice mail announced I had 24 seconds to leave a message – I tried my best but didn’t think it went through. I called back immediately to leave another voice mail; her mailbox was full and no longer accepting messages.

Another anniversary – fourteen months to the day since I’d first sought a loan modification from Washington Mutual, now Chase. A full two years since my salary was reduced by 50%. I’d marked it by again approaching my employers for some type of salary increase, offering to pick up additional responsibilities or provide more services but all proposals were declined. My anniversary presents: drained bank accounts, damaged credit scores and no loan modification answers from Chase.