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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?

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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.

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.

Do Chase Home Ownership Centers help struggling homeowners?

April 20, 2010, 11:39 am: I was denied service at the Chase Home Ownership Center in Media, PA starting on December 15, 2009 (they would not meet with me because I “had to be 31+ days past due”), then on January 5, 2010 (they would not meet with me because my loan was “already in the system”) and again on April 22, 2010 (they would not meet with me because my loan was “already in the system”). The Chase Home Ownership Centers are not helping this struggling homeowner. I need answers about my loan modification, not more opaque banking procedures and certainly not a continuation of the predatory lending practices devised by Washington Mutual.

Chase Home Ownership Centers are not decision makers!

April 20, 2010, 11:25 am: I asked Jason Papa what the function of a Chase Home Ownership Center was and if I should drive there for a face to face meeting. He said “anybody active we can’t take”; we “originate and monitor applications” and “we are not decision makers at the Chase Home Ownership Center”; he went on to say they were a “contact point” for the consumer. He remembered my loan and requested permission to pull the file. I agreed and we talked about the situation.

I wanted clarification on “too much equity” and the 30% formula Jacqueline Ham from the Chase Home Lending Executive Office had provided on February 12, 2010. Jason said if my monthly mortgage payment was less than 31% of my monthly gross pay I would not qualify for HAMP. I reminded him my loan did not qualify for HAMP regardless, but I was asking about the equity formula, not the relationship between monthly mortgage payment and monthly salary. I also made it clear my monthly mortgage payment was far greater than 31% of my monthly gross salary. Jason was stuck on HAMP and referenced the $727,750.00 cap. (I didn’t bother to point out that in Cape May County, NJ the cut-off was $487,500.) I jumped in and said it was not about HAMP. I was asking about the Chase in-house program – I thought Chase had another program, an in-house program that he’d mentioned in our January 5, 2010 call.

Jason said I’d been denied (in August 2009) but I could always “apply again if my situation changes”. I said my situation had changed; my savings were depleted and I was pursuing the 12/11/09 loan modification application allegedly underway. I said an interior appraisal had been done on 4/1/10. Only then did Jason realize what I was talking about and he said he could not help me. I persevered and asked about a face-to-face meeting with a decision-maker; Jason said “no one meets with the decision-makers” (Nobody gets in to see the Wizard, not nobody, no how!) and the decision-makers “don’t write a lot of letters”; “they only send one when the decision is made”.

Based on my attempts to get a copy of the denial letter allegedly sent 6/30/09 and/or 8/25/09 for my 2/24/09 modification, I knew this was true. Chase put as little as possible in writing, thus continuing the opaque banking practices and predatory lending schemes devised by Washington Mutual.  I thanked Jason for his time and we ended the call.

Mr. David Lowman, Chase promises loan modification answers…

April 19, 2010, 4:47 pm: I decide to write a letter to Mr. David B. Lowman, CEO Chase Home Lending, and take him up on his testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services. In addition to the letter I outline my attempts to get loan modification answers in a nineteen page enclosure and send it to Chase Home Lending CEO Mr. David Lowman via Certified Mail, copying Jamie Dimon, Chase CEO; Senator Frank Lautenberg; Senator Robert Menendez; Congressman Frank LoBiondo and Philadelphia Inquirer real estate columnist Alan J. Heavens. Mr. Lowman promised answers; after almost fourteen months of trying to play by Chase’s ever-changing and secret rules, I need an end to opaque banking procedures and I need straight answers. This predatory loan originated by Washington Mutual and serviced by Chase must be modified.

Chase, I need answers and a loan modification!

April 19, 2010, 8:40 am: Received an e-mail from Olga Danilova at Chase Home Lending Executive Office:
Hello Ms. Wright, I have not received a response on your account from our loss mitigation area. But from what I can tell your account is still being reviewed. Thank you.

I freaked out; I could see what was going to happen: I’d get one e-mail a week from Olga with no news and in the meantime, Chase would continue the predatory loan practices devised by Washington Mutual and foreclose. I had to get answers. I’d written my congressman, my state senators, even Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan Chase, and a case had been opened with the Comptroller of the Currency. What else could I do?

I searched the internet for answers and stumbled upon the testimony of Mr. David Lowman, Chase Home Lending CEO, before the House Committee on Financial Services April 13, 2010; he said that people seeking answers from Chase should come to him. I don’t have a television and I’d not heard this offer on the radio or read it in the newspaper – I can’t believe it’s true, but it is. I saw the testimony myself.