Monday, February 23, 2009
Help Me Howard: Bank won't help
If you own a home, if you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, you are not alone. At Help Me Howard we are hearing from hundreds of people who want to re-work their mortgages and can't get their banks to help or even listen. But now that those banks are getting federal bailouts, do they have to try to help you? Here is tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- You may have heard of this before. Thirty years ago all of Jeff Goldens family lived in New York.
Jeff Golden: "My brother came, then I came, my parents, my sister, we're all here."
Jeff was doing great. In the 90s he bought this house, watched the value soar, then refinanced and used the equity to open a business.
Jeff Golden: "And the business failed. A lot of the equity in the house went toward the business, and then of course, the market turned around, and then you end up upside down."
To make matters worse, Jeff lost his job, so he called his bank to see if he could re-work his loan.
Jeff Golden: "Tried to work with the bank, they didn't want to hear it, said you had to go late. Then they'd work with you."
Jeff missed four mortgage payments to become late and called the bank to get to work.
Jeff Golden: "Went late, now they won't work with you."
And that is Jeff's problem in a nutshell. He just can't get anywhere with his bank.
Jeff Golden: "I filled out the paperwork, faxed it to them, and now I'm still waiting to hear, haven't heard back from them."
Patrick Fraser: "Communication not their strength?"
Jeff Golden: "Evidently not."
Actually, Jeff sent the same paperwork in twice, and finally the bank did respond with a letter telling him to catch up in February, or else.
Jeff Golden: "If you don't pay this $5300 and change, you know, we're going to start foreclosure proceedings."
Jeff now has a job again and offered to pay part of the back payments.
Jeff Golden: "They told me they won't take a partial payment either."
Jeff does not want the bank to forgive the back payments, just move them to the end of his mortgage, so he can start making payments again and save his house.
Jeff Golden: "I guess I'm dumbfounded by it. I mean, why wouldn't they want to work with you?"
Further frustrating Jeff, his mortgage is with CitiBank, which got a $20 billion bailout from the federal government, and he can't get them to even pay attention to him.
Jeff Golden: "Yet, they've all got their money, have their big bonuses and yet people are still struggling keeping in their homes."
Bottom line, Jeff has begun to believe, he can't beat the bank.
Jeff Golden: "I've actually got it in my head that I am going to have to leave this house."
But with banks getting billions from the taxpayers, do they legally have to turn around and work with the taxpayers who want to find a way to pay their mortgage and save their house from foreclosure, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, a bank does not have to work with you at all, but unique things are at work here. Banks have to start helping their customers because Congress and the president are going to require it if the financial institutions want government assistance to get out of this mess."
Before the Obama plan was even announced, Jeff's lender stepped forward. When I called Citi they said they would see what they could do, and they did. Citi agreed to stop Jeff's foreclosure for up to six months, that there would be no penalties, no late fees, and in six months, they would see what modifications he qualifies for in his loan.
All Jeff has to do is pay $200 a month to keep his escrow account current, and in this case, the time will really help Jeff.
Howard Finkelstein: "The great news for Jeff and other people struggling to keep their homes, in a few months the details of President Obama's plan to rescue homeowners from foreclosure will be sorted out. It won't save everyone, but people like Jeff trying to keep his home, should get help."
Jeff doesn't know the details of Obama's plan, but as a struggling homeowner, he knows if it does work, it will certainly help people like himself.
Jeff Golden: "It would open up the gates. People would have less of a mortgage, car payments paid off, and then they can start buying again."
I am dumbfounded by the number of people we hear from in the same boat as Jeff. Right now, Howard says you can't tell people facing foreclosure specifically what to do because the plan to save homes coming from Washington is not finalized. Advice today may be dated tomorrow. Just be patient and wait a few days till struggling homeowners know all the details, and remember some people will get help, others won't.
Struggling to block a problem from foreclosing on you? Don't mortgage your future, bank on us. We don't do stimulus plans, but we will try to bail you out at no cost to you.
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