In the late Summer of 2007, my husband put his house up for sale and we bought our house one month before our wedding. We put more than 20% down which allowed us to reduce our payments to an amount that was affordable for us. We were thrilled when we received an offer on his previous residence for a very good price. Everything looked so promising as we began our new life together. The following Spring of 2008, the buyer informed us that his financing fell apart and would be unable to purchase the property. Thus, began our journey of carrying two mortgages for more than 6 years.
In the Fall of 2009, my husband Bill was laid off from his job. Although I received a Master’s Degree a few years earlier, I had been unable to find full time employment and often relied on cobbling several part time jobs together to make ends meet. I finally took a full time job in 2008 answering phones that paid about $10.00 per hour just to receive benefits. By late 2009, we knew that the situation was unsustainable so we contacted Bank of America to find out what we could do. They offered us a loan modification that would require more than $14k in closing costs. We asked about the new “Making Home Affordable” program for a modification of our 6.875% interest rate. They responded “you don’t make enough to qualify” for that program (interesting considering that we were current on the mortgage and we were asking for a reduction in our interest rate). Early in 2010, after sending out dozens of applications and resumes each week, Bill took a job more than 100 miles away so that we could qualify for the Making Home Affordable program. We informed Bank of America of our change in status and they assured us that they would send us the application paperwork which we should receive sometime in the next 45 days. While we waited, we continued to make our mortgage payments, on time and in full. I called Bank of America periodically to check the status of the paperwork they said we would receive. Each call last about 3 hours during which time I was bounced from department to department. Each Customer Service Representative told me a different tale. Finally, those 45 days came and went. When no paperwork arrived, I called Bank of America and, after a couple of hours of being shuffled from person-to-person and department-to-department, I was told that it was actually 45 business days and that it should arrive within the next couple of weeks. During that same call, the Customer Service Representative told me that we would only qualify for the program if we missed a payment and that we should do so to ensure our eligibility in the Making Home Affordable Loan Modification Program.
We refused that suggestion and continued to make our payments in full and on time. They began sending us foreclosure notices. We continued to pay in full. When 45 business days came and I called Bank of America the response to my question about the application paperwork was that it would be another 30 business days. I knew that there was a game going on and we decided to attempt to take them on. We wrote a Letter of Complaint and sent it to eight different offices - both State and Federal. Ten days later we received a letter back from the Office of the NYS Attorney General stating that they had forwarded our complaint to Bank of America. At 5:30 pm on a Friday evening we received a phone call from the Personal Assistant to the CEO of Bank of America asking us what they could do to restore our confidence in BofA. They offered us a deal which we asked them to send in writing. Somehow, they couldn’t provide us with paperwork we requested in 75 business days, but they managed to get us their offer the next day via FedEx. The offer was like nothing I have ever seen. It consisted of just four pages and had absolutely NO terms. We are not attorneys but we knew something was very wrong. We contacted an attorney we knew who offered to review the documents. He informed us that, if we had signed those papers the bank sent “they could have done anything” to us - including taken our house.
Our tax bill came - school and property combined - came in early 2010. We put more than 20% down at purchase so we did not have to escrow our taxes. In NYS, we have until May 31 to pay our taxes in full albeit with a small penalty. Finally, in February, we borrowed the tax money from a family member and sent it in to the tax collector. Imagine our surprise when we received our check back from the Tax Collector with a note stating that our taxes had already been paid. The next mortgage statement we received was $800 more per month than what our payments had been. It turned out that Bank of America had PAID our taxes BEFORE they were late and created an Escrow Account without our knowledge or permission. That is illegal and they were fined by the NYS Bank Examiner. The battle continued. Constant threatening letters. We remained current and even sold personal belongings until we entered into a legal Forbearance Agreement while the mess got sorted out by the Attorneys. In that agreement, the Bank was supposed to refrain from reporting us delinquent to the Credit Bureaus so as not to adversely affect our credit ratings or interest rates. They broke that agreement and, to this day, we are still suffering from the lasting effects of their actions which jacked up our interest rates to rates that would be considered usury in New York State and they decreased our credit limits in order to make life extra difficult.
Finally, in September 2010, after being threatened by our attorney, Bank of America gave in and granted us a loan modification. Somehow, we continued to remain current on both mortgages and all of our debts and even started a successful Home Performance with Energy Star participating contracting company in December 2010. To this day, our credit is adversely affected which impedes the growth of our company because we do not have access to credit. Our company has so much potential and yet Wall Street Banks still hold us back from hiring more staff and buying more equipment. Finally, we are grateful that our resourcefulness paid off and empathize with countless American families who lost their homes due to the lies and manipulation of Bank of America and the other big banks that still wield so much power. Where is the justice in that?