Foreclosure postponed for Tulsa couple in long battle with bank
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Saturday, March 24, 2012
3/11/13 at 1:53 PM
Read more stories in the series documenting area residents’ financial
challenges after the recession.
After more than a year of ceaseless phone calls, endless paperwork and an ever-changing lineup of customer service representatives, Steven Vogler's home of 13 years was slated for the auction block again Tuesday.
But after the Tulsa World made calls Thursday and Friday to Chase, the Vogler's mortgage servicing company, a spokesman said the company was temporarily postponing the foreclosure process.
Greg Hassell, a Chase spokesman, on Friday morning told the Tulsa World he was researching the Voglers' case and would call later in the day to comment. About 4:30 p.m., he called to say the bank had requested "postponement" for the foreclosure on the Voglers' home.
"We're seeking an exception with the investor to create a repayment plan for them," Hassell said. "We'll know Monday if we have it."
Chase services the Voglers' home mortgage. After 13 years of ownership, Vogler and his wife, Margo, owed less than $100,000 before they fell behind on house payments.
Chase had it scheduled for foreclosure auction, even though the Voglers say it was Chase who told them to stop making house payments in the first place. The sheriff's sale website listed his home's value at $210,000.
Steven Vogler said he's not giving up his house without a fight.
The Voglers, who first shared their story with the Tulsa World in January, ran into financial hardship a few years ago after several family medical crises and job changes. Having lived in their south Tulsa home for more than a decade, they thought a mortgage modification program might help them lower their interest rate and monthly payments and keep their heads above water.
Chase customer service representatives told them the only way to qualify for such programs was to fall behind on payments, Steven Vogler said. Then the Voglers could apply and see if they were eligible for consideration, they were told.
It took more than 15 months and seeing their home listed at least four times on foreclosure auction lists before they ever got an answer. Which was no, it turns out. After telling the Voglers they couldn't qualify until they fell behind on payments, the couple were told this past month that they do not meet the requirements for Chase's mortgage modification program.
Hassell said Chase bank's records vary from the Voglers' account.
"That is not an accurate description of how and when the delinquency developed," he said.
Every case is different, Hassell said, and every mortgage servicing company is different.
"We try to help each person the best we can," Hassell said. "There are very strict federal guidelines with regard to accuracy and timeliness, and repeatedly, that was a problem with what we got from them."
Chase has avoided more than 776,000 foreclosures nationally through modifications and short sales, he said.
"We've avoided foreclosure more than twice as often as we are forced to complete it," Hassell said.
For some people who have built up equity in their homes but can no longer afford the payments, selling them may be the best option, Hassell said.
All the Voglers ever wanted was to see if they could qualify for a program that would reduce their interest rate from 6.75 percent to about 4 percent, as interest rates had fallen since they originally purchased their home, they said.
"We heard about these 'Making Homes Affordable' programs and thought, 'Maybe this is God's answer to our prayers!' " Steven Vogler said. "On my first phone call to Chase, I had a check in hand and told the customer service rep I was ready to mail it, and her response was 'Don't send that check!' "
Making payments would only complicate the process of trying to qualify for a mortgage modification, Vogler said he was told. The process of approval would take 30-40 days. But it took 15 months before they were declined. And penalties and attorney fees have added thousands to the amount the Voglers owe.
So why couldn't Chase tell the Voglers that they would not qualify for the program before telling them that falling behind on payments was the only way to qualify?
The Voglers said they've yet to hear an answer, so they've hired a local attorney to assist with their case. Fortunately, a benefactor came forward after reading about the Voglers' plight in the Tulsa World and offered to lend them enough money to pay off the loan balance from Chase at a reasonable interest rate.
"Until you've been through this, you just don't know that people like that exist," Vogler said, his eyes welling with tears. Vogler, an interior designer whose office is housed inside Lou's Antiques at 37th Street and Sheridan Road, has made other people's homes his life's work. He just wants to stay in his own.
But so far, Chase has not produced a copy of the home's promissory note as requested by the Voglers. Chase is the fourth company to service the Voglers' mortgage since they originally borrowed the money though Stillwater National Bank.
The Voglers said they also need the promissory note to work out a deal with the benefactor who offered to help them - but they haven't been given a clear answer as to why Chase can't or won't produce the document they've requested, Vogler said.
"I just feel like I've been fighting a losing battle," he said.
The Oklahoma Mortgage Settlement agreement
Attorney General Scott Pruitt opted Oklahoma out of a national settlement, and the state reached its own $18.6 million agreement in February for compensatory damages for homeowners who were victims of "unfair and deceptive practices" by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and GMAC during the mortgage and foreclosure crisis.
Oklahomans who think they were subjected to unfair and unlawful practices during the foreclosure process can apply for compensation at tulsaworld.com/relief or by calling 405-521-2029. The deadline to apply is Sept. 13.
Homeowners with stories similar to the Voglers may be eligible for compensation through the program, said Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.
The state is developing an index to determine how much Oklahoma residents can be compensated for damages through the program, if they've been harmed by unfair lending practices, she said.
Some people have had a really awful experience on multiple fronts - some have even lost their homes - and all of those factors will be taken into consideration, Clay said.
"There's no monetary value determined yet, but we do know it will be more than the $1,500 to $2,000 they would have gotten through the federal settlement," she said. It applies only to consumers who were harmed by one of the banks named in the settlement.
But Oklahomans with complaints of unfair mortgage practices by other banks should consider filing a consumer fraud complaint with the Attorney General's Office, Clay said.
Original Print Headline: Mortgage misery
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
Steven and Margo Vogler pose Friday next to their dining room table, which is covered in paperwork related to foreclosure problems with their home in Tulsa. The Voglers have been fighting to save their home of 13 years from foreclosure for more than a year. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Steven and Margo Vogler pose in front of their home in Tulsa on Thursday. The Voglers ran into difficulty when their mortgage servicer recommended they let their payments lapse to qualify for a program to reduce their interest rate. They were told they didn't qualify, 15 months later. JAMES GIBBARD/ Tulsa World