Homeowners struggle to get mortgage relief
BY OMER GILLHAM World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 05, 2012
3/23/12 at 6:17 PM
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While the government has taken measures to bolster its mortgage-relief program, local homeowners are still ensnared in red tape with lenders attempting to foreclose on their homes.
The Tulsa World interviewed several area homeowners who said they are seeking mortgage relief through various government programs.
The programs are the government's response to a sluggish job market and housing market that has left many homeowners in Oklahoma facing foreclosure.
President Barack Obama recently announced plans to increase incentives to private lenders that provide mortgage relief to homeowners.
Mike Wise, 44, lost his job in April 2009 and sought mortgage relief as he looked for a new job. He has since found new work as a residential youth worker.
"This has been the biggest hassle that you could have ever imagined," said Wise, who lives in Sand Springs. "I have experienced lost paperwork and bank specialists who don't know my file. In the past six weeks alone, I have been assigned three different 'specialists.'"
Wise's lender is Chase bank, he said.
Kathy Strickland, 51, said she had a similar experience with her lender - Bank of America.
Strickland's Tulsa home was recently placed in foreclosure after her family experienced a loss of income, including her husband losing his job of 11 years. The Stricklands are eight months behind on house payments, she said.
"I've sent in paperwork four or five times but it seems like you can never talk to the same person twice," said Strickland, who is self-employed. "They don't seem to care. You can't get a straight answer out of them."
Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said the bank has been working with the Stricklands to provide relief.
"Our research indicates that we have been working with (Mrs.) Strickland since 2008 and offered assistance and reviews at various times over the years," said Bauwens, media relations for Bank of America Home Loans.
Bauwens said Bank of America provides support and options to customers facing financial hardship.
"We continue to simplify and improve our processes by investing in resources, technology and associate training to enhance customer experience," Bauwens said. "Since the housing crisis began, we have helped more than one million customers with modifications."
Strickland and Wise responded to the World's story involving Steven and Margo Vogler.
Wise said: "You could have replaced the Voglers' name with my name because my story is a lot like their story."
The World article showed how the Voglers sought mortgage relief for more than a year, only to face foreclosure and a recent sheriff's auction.
Chase bank spokesman Greg Hassell said the bank has removed the Vogler home from the sheriff's auction and has reached out to the family.
Steven Vogler, 61, said nothing has changed.
"Here we go again. I have received another request for more documents in the mail received yesterday (Jan. 30)," Vogler said. "This time, instead of the usual 15-day deadline, they have given me 30 days from the date of the letter. Of course, during that 30 days there will be some financials that will 'age out' of validity."
Steven Vogler said he has submitted his paperwork at least half a dozen times to Chase bank seeking to have his mortgage reduced from 6.5 percent to 4 percent or less so that he can make his payments. He said he first contacted Chase bank for a mortgage modification in December 2010.
The Obama administration last month said that it will expand the foreclosure-prevention program to try to help those with heavy debt loads avoid losing their homes.
The Home Affordable Modification Program will be extended through 2013. The program is part of the Making Home Affordable Program, which has received much criticism from distressed home-owners.
Through the program, the government has said it will triple financial incentives for private lenders to reduce mortgage principal for home-owners at risk of default.
Homeowners responding to the World article cited numerous difficulties with banks and lenders involved in the program.
In addition to alleged paperwork problems, home-owners repeatedly said they were told to stop making mortgage payments by a lender. They said after doing so, they received notices of possible foreclosure or penalties because they were delinquent on their payments.
"I was told to not make payments because it would mess up the process and then I was told that I was behind," Wise said.
Hassell said that Chase promptly offered the Wise family a plan when they applied for mortgage assistance in 2009.
"That plan included temporary relief and then a resumption of regular mortgage payments," Hassell said.
"The family did not comply with the forbearance offer. They applied for a mortgage modification a year later but did not meet federal qualifications for a modification."
Hassell said Chase reviewed Wise's request again in 2011.
"Unfortunately, the family still did not qualify for a HAMP modification, and that information was promptly communicated," Hassell said.
Wise said: "But that was 2011. I talked to a specialist and asked if I would have qualified in May 2010 before losing all this time and she said 'probably.'
"This all could have been avoided if I could have gotten a straight answer to start with," Wise said. "That's all I wanted."
Wise said he is running out of time.
"Ultimately, I will probably end up in foreclosure," he said.
After losing his job in 2009, Wise said he sought employment at various jobs to meet his bills and house payments. At one point, he said he was working three jobs to meet his financial obligations.
"The bank did offer a forbearance plan with a payment only a little lower than my mortgage and then they changed it to be more than my actual mortgage," Wise said.
His mortgage was $1,306 a month and Chase offered him a forbearance plan of $1,319 a month, he said.
"That's $13 more than I was paying originally," Wise said. "What are they thinking?"
Home Affordable Modification Program
You may be eligible for HAMP if you meet all of the following
- You occupy the house as your primary residence.
- You obtained your mortgage on or before Jan. 1, 2009.
- You have a mortgage payment that is more than 31 percent of
your monthly gross (pre-tax) income.
- You owe up to $729,750 on your home.
- You have a financial hardship and are either delinquent or in
danger of falling behind.
- You have sufficient, documented income to support the
- You must not have been convicted within the last 10 years of
felony larceny, theft, fraud or forgery, money laundering or tax
evasion, in connection with a mortgage or real estate transaction.
*Eligibility criteria are for guidance only. Contact your mortgage
company to see if you may be eligible for HAMP.
Source: U.S. Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development
Original Print Headline: Mortgage relief woes familiar
Omer Gillham 918-581-8301
Mike Wise, standing in front of his home in Sand Springs on Thursday, is behind on his house payments and is struggling with a bank overseeing a mortgage-relief program. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World