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House Committee on Financial Services Chases Answers

April 13, 2010: David B. Lowman, CEO Chase Home Lending, speaks before the House Committee on Financial Services and tells people who can’t get answers to come to him. Unaware of this, I decide to share my over thirteen-month saga of chasing a loan modification and launch a blog. I truly do not know what else I can do to get a decision-maker to speak with me about modifying this predatory loan devised by Washington Mutual and perpetuated by Chase. The mortgage servicers seem to have no interest in actually helping people and I don’t know why.

Chase, we need to talk!

April 5, 2010, 1:10 pm: I received via regular and Certified Mail identical letters from Chase Home Finance, both dated 3/31/10. The contents were a dunning notice along with a marketing solicitation. The letter(s) said:

Your house is your home. We want to keep it that way. We need to talk — call 1-800-848-9380 today.

The letter went on to say I “may be eligible for a loan modification programand “we may be able to change the term of your loan, the interest rate and maybe even the principal due date”. If I called right away, a “Loan Specialist will work with me to determine the option that best fits my need.” I called immediately and was routed to an auto announcement reiterating receipt of my recent payment; the delinquent debt amount and that I was two payments past due. I worked through the menu to get to a live person and spoke with Angeer.

I read her the letter – I was eager to speak with a “Loan Specialist”. When I told Angeer I’d already applied for a loan modification she asked “when?” – I said originally 2/24/09 and then again on 12/11/09. Angeer put me on hold then returned to say that after reviewing the notes, my file is in review and was sent to the underwriter on 3/1/10 (over 30 days ago). She told me to “disregard the letter” and asked when I could pay in the next two weeks. I told her that just as I’d advised Laura on 4/1/10, I could next make a full payment on 6/5/10. Angeer agreed this was already noted in the file. With that, we ended the call.

Hey Chase, how does one actually speak with a “loan specialist”? I’ve been trying to do so for over thirteen months!

Chasing home values before Chase appraises

While waiting for Chase to schedule the appraisal I met with a realtor friend to figure out how much my home might be worth. A true professional, she had prepared a comprehensive market analysis along with the closest things she could find in the way of comparable sales. It was slim pickings and she didn’t mince words. 

“Your home is off the beaten track. It’s not on a desirable street. It takes a special kind of person to live on that street and you know that. I have clients who won’t even look at homes on your street. It’s too far from the beach and the center of town.” Yes that was true, and probably why I liked it so much. The somewhat secluded location overlooks the Cedar Island Bird Sanctuary and I hadn’t been to the beach in years. 

“The adjacent lot on your east side has been on the market since the day before forever; they’ve reduced the price several times and it’s still not selling. No one is financing land; it needs to be a cash deal and no one’s interested in paying cash for the lot.” I knew that was true – the speculator who owned it was underwater, but the local lender who held the loan was working with them. 

“The adjacent house on your west side has been on the market for three years; it has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a proven rental record. They’ve just listed it with a different realtor and reduced the price again but it’s still not selling. At least it’s rentable. Your home, with 2 bedrooms, one bath and no air conditioning, isn’t even really rentable.” I hadn’t designed my home as rental. It was tiny and it was my home. I traveled a lot in July for trade shows so I’d rented it to some like-minded folks the last few years to help cover expenses, but it wasn’t a rental property. 

“Martha, if you were to ask me to sell your house I’m not sure who I’d market it to. With all due respect, it’s a tear-down and the spec builders who might buy it can’t get financing. They’re stuck with inventory and losing their shirts. With spec builders off the table that leaves the general public. You were an exception – almost no one wants to design and build a new home on their own, nor do they have the money to. You really need to work it out with your lender.” Yes, I really did need to work it out with Chase, and I’d been trying for over a year. Why wouldn’t they work with me?

Chase Home Lending – thirteen months in a bad relationship

March 24, 2010: Today marks thirteen months since the day Chase/WaMu first received my request for a loan modification. Back in February 2009 I wanted to get in front of my financial situation. Having suffered a 50% salary reduction in May 2008, I was still employed and supplementing my income with a freelance job; by using savings I could make ends meet, but unless something changed, my savings would be depleted by February 2010. 

The responsible thing to do was to speak with my lender and renegotiate the terms of the loan. No reduction in principal, just a reduction in interest rate so I could ride this out until my salary increased. Since I had no other debt of any kind, was not underwater and the Chase/WaMu loan was my primary and only mortgage (no home equity loan or second mortgage), this seemed like a reasonable request. 

Reason, however, seems to have flown out the window at JP Morgan Chase. Although JP Morgan Chase employs over 200,000 people, not one of them including Chase Bank’s Mortgage Unit CEO, David B. Lowman can provide a straight answer or a loan modification. After thirteen months I’ve drained my savings, devastated my once decent credit rating and spent countless hours chasing answers, yet I can’t get anyone at Chase to meet face-to-face to resolve a loan work-out. It’s a predatory loan and a bad relationship. The resolution to a bad relationship is to walk away and put it behind you, but I can’t. This is my home, and I just can’t walk away.

Hello Chase, I really do live here!

March 4, 2010, 10:45 am:  I called Megan who told me she had “no record of a denial” although there “may be a question as to my residency”. Megan indicated I should only call her; if I called the Customer Service line I would get conflicting information. That may be, but the “conflicting information” I gleaned was often accurate. I offered to provide additional documentation to verify my residence but she said to wait. Chase likes to wait, except when it comes to being paid. 

March 11, 2010, 8:45 am: I called to follow-up; Megan was not in so I left a voice mail regarding the BPO and my residency status. I was starting to panic; I had to be in Florida for business and nothing was happening at Chase. Would they padlock my home while I was away like Bank of America did to the lady with the parrot? 

March 15, 2010, 8:30 am: I called again to follow-up; Megan was not in so I left another voice mail reiterating the need for an answer on the BPO and my residency status. 

March 16, 2010, 8:30 am: I called Megan and she advised that my residency was an issue – Chase was “unable to verify owner occupancy”. I pointed out that I’d submitted three years of Federal Income Tax returns with this address and she agreed. Nonetheless, Chase wanted the following information:

1. Copies of last 4 months bank statements (previously submitted)
2. Copies of last 2 months pay stubs (previously submitted)
3. Copies of most recent utility bills with service address (previously submitted)
4. A P&L for 1099 “business” 

I told Megan this had all been submitted with my modification request in December 2009. I told her I didn’t own or operate a business; I am a W-2 employee who supplements my income as a 1099 employee for another company, as reflected on the tax returns.

Megan steadfastly reiterated the need for all of the information and a P&L regardless of what I said; she also noted she’d be out of the office 3/24/10 to 4/5/10 and I should get this information to her as soon as possible and call to confirm receipt. 

I faxed items 2, 3 & 4; putting my 1099 earnings in a P&L format to satisfy her request. I also took it upon myself to obtain and fax my Cape May County, NJ Voter’s Record indicating my residency since 2005. As I was in Florida on business, I couldn’t access my checking statements but told Megan I would provide them by Saturday 3/20/10 when I returned home.   

A word about voting. I vote, and not just in the “big” elections but all the elections, and care as much, maybe more, about the school board and the sheriff as I do about who will be our next President. Because I vote I had no problem writing to my Congressman and my Senators to both ask for help and express outrage over opaque banking procedures and predatory lending practices. 

March 17, 2010, 1:00 pm: I called Megan to confirm receipt of the information. Megan reviewed the submissions and agreed the information received  (3 pages voter’s records; 5 pages P&L + two months paychecks; 3 pages owner occupied cover memo & utility bills) was in order and legible. I again confirmed that checking statements would be sent 3/20. 

March 20, 2010, 10:30 am:  I arrived home to find a denial letter dated 3/5/10 and postmarked 3/8/10 indicating I was denied for a loan modification as Chase was “unable to verify residence“. I immediately called Chase; Megan confirmed I had been denied but the case was reopened as my voting record satisfied “them”. Chase also wanted a contact telephone number to schedule an interior appraisal. I gave the same number I’ve provided since 2/24/09 and asked again about the BPO. Megan indicated it was a 32-page document; she tried to extract a price/value from it while I waited but after putting me on hold and speaking with a co-worker, decided she was unable to do so. Megan said the interior appraisal was important and she would be going away so the sooner I sent the checking account statements, the better. That evening I faxed:

1. Copies of last 4 months bank statements

2. A formal notice indicating my contact phone number for scheduling an interior appraisal

March 20, 2010: The mailbox held a second letter from Chase, dated March 10, 2010, from the JP Morgan Chase Home Lending Executive Office, 2201 Enterprise Drive, Florence, SC 29501.

The subject line: Issue Still Being Reviewed

The letter:

Dear Martha Wright:

I am writing in response to your correspondence we received on December 24, 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 Megan Valdivia (888) 310-7995, extension 7850, Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time.

Sincerely,

Home Lending Executive Office

Was this in reply to my December 16, 2009 letter to Jamie Dimon, Chairman & CEO JP Morgan Chase, my January 15, 2010 letter to Jamie Dimon, or perhaps my letter to Jamie Dimon dated February 18, 2010? I had no idea, and the letter said absolutely nothing.

Chasing a Chase Home Loan

December 17, 2009, 11:30 am: It was obvious that with “too much equity”, Chase was not going to play ball. Their web site offered attractively low interest rates and encouraged folks to refinance now. Why not? No one else would work with me but if Chase thought my financial situation was so great, surely they help me to refinance. I called (800)-873-6577 and responded to the prompts. Yes, I was an existing customer and yes I could key in my loan number. I was directed to Cynthia, a debt collector. She did not know why I was sent to her as I was current on the loan. I told her I wanted to refinance. Cynthia said she’d try to send me to the right place and gave me the number (877) 835-3019 just in case. We were disconnected.

I then called (877) 835-3019 and spoke with Kathy, who took my qualifying information “before turning me over to a loan officer”. After taking my all of info she advised that it would be impossible for me to refinance at this time as Chase was running 90-120 days behind on processing. She couldn’t offer me anything nor would she accept an application from me. In fact, Chase had selected QuickenLoans to handle the massive volume of inquiries they were getting. I was then transferred to QuickenLoans, where I spoke with Bryan, Executive Banker. (480) 346-0551. Bryan reviewed my financial situation and said that based on my salary, he could offer nothing. Loan too big, salary too small.

Chasing the Chase Home Ownership Center

December 14, 2009, 4:11 pm: I called the Chase Home Ownership Center several times throughout the day but there was no answer, the system was busy, etc. Finally my call to the Chase Home Ownership Center in Media, PA (610) 892-6620 went to a voice mail box. The outbound message advised their hours were Monday – Thursday 10 -7; Friday 9-6 and Saturday 9-1. I left a voice mail with my account number and phone number and said I wanted to make an appointment with a loan officer; I wanted to work out a way to honor my mortgage obligation. 

December 15, 2009, 10:15 am: I called the Chase Home Ownership Center in Media, PA (610) 892-6620 and spoke with Roxanne. I requested an appointment with a loan officer and was advised they “can’t help me”. They deal only with people who are 31+ days past due. I need to call “another department” (866) 550-5705 (the number for Customer Service from the Borrower’s Assistance form). I pressed her to make an appointment and she said they were advisors for a loan modification, I MUST be past due! They can’t talk to me!