Money Crunch: Confusion over home mortgage modification persists
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Thursday, April 12, 2012
3/11/13 at 1:54 PM
Read more stories about people struggling in the post-recession economy.
A Chase Bank customer service agent called Steven Vogler to deliver the "good" news: After previously being denied, his application for a mortgage modification had finally been approved.
One hitch: His new payment would be $80 a month more than his previous mortgage payment. Vogler couldn't get an exact answer from his mortgage servicing company as to why the payment was increasing, but it certainly wasn't what he expected when he applied for mortgage modification to reduce his monthly payment, he said.
"It's an increase. It's not any kind of relief," Vogler said.
Chase spokesman Greg Hassell declined to explain why the Voglers' payment would increase as a result of the mortgage modification.
"Because of privacy reasons, we can't discuss the terms of the mortgage modification that's been offered to the Vogler family," he said.
It wasn't until the Tulsa World reported on Vogler's mortgage woes this year that Chase postponed foreclosing on the family's south Tulsa home of 13 years and reconsidered their application for mortgage modification.
And it had taken more than a year of repeated phone calls and filling out piles of paperwork to get an initial answer from the company on their request to lower their monthly payment, Vogler said. The first answer was no; they were told in February that they did not qualify for mortgage modification.
Chase services the Voglers' home mortgage. After 13 years of ownership, Vogler and his wife, Margo Vogler, owed less than $100,000 before they fell behind on house payments.
Chase scheduled their home for foreclosure auction several times, even though the Voglers say it was Chase that told them to stop making house payments in the first place.
The Voglers ran into financial hardship a few years ago after several family medical crises and job changes. 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.
Chase bank's records vary from the Voglers' account, Hassell told the Tulsa World in March.
But Chase declined to offer an explanation of how the Voglers' or any homeowner's payment would increase as a result of its mortgage modification programs.
"They're different in each case," Hassell said. "It is our goal to avoid foreclosure whenever possible. We gather the information on each case to see what we can work out for that homeowner. We're happy to be able to offer the Voglers an opportunity to stay in their home."
The Voglers are now working with a local attorney to investigate all their options.
After opting Oklahoma out of a national settlement, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt helped negotiate an $18.6 million agreement in February for compensatory damages for Oklahoma 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.
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, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said.
How to apply for the state's mortgage relief program
Internet: If you believe you are a victim of foreclosure abuse by a lender, go to tulsaworld.com/relief. At the website, you will find the form on the Oklahoma Mortgage Settlement Information page.
In person: Visit the front desk of the AG's Office at 313 NE 21st St. in Oklahoma City.
On the phone: Call the AG's Public Protection Unit at 405-521- 2029, and an application will be mailed to you.
For information on the refinancing and mortgage reduction options provided by the federal settlement, Oklahomans whose mortgages are with the banks involved in the settlement should call the following toll-free numbers:
Bank of America: 877-488-7814
JPMorgan Chase: 866-372-6901
Wells Fargo: 800-288-3212
Source: Oklahoma Attorney General
Original Print Headline: Confusion on home lending persists
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
Steven and Margo Vogler are shown March 23 next to their dining room table which is covered in paperwork related to foreclosure problems with their home in Tulsa. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World