By mid-morning, I slump onto my desk, which is littered with documents, notes, and phone numbers on sticky tags. The so-called “loan modification” people at one of the major banks have me limp as a rabbit in a wildcat’s mouth, shaking out my strength, savings, time, and resolve, while their foreclosure attorneys declare another victory for the one percent.
The bank is playing with me and thousands of other homeowners a hunting game called Loan Modification Limbo with Dual-Tracking, on the pretext of “helping people stay in their homes.” Dual tracking means dangling in front of the client an interminable loan modification process (the bait) and a foreclosure process (the trap) simultaneously, so the bank can take advantage of the unsuspecting applicant by a calculated stealth foreclosure.
This unsafe and unsound tactic isn’t supposed to happen, but apparently the banks haven’t paid attention. We have to guess that all those profits rolling in (sometimes many billions of dollars in a single quarter for a single bank) deafen them to the cries of the 99 percent: those of us who worked honestly for our homes.
My late husband Geoffrey, who was a research scientist and engineer, and I (a California community college instructor) bought our retirement condo in 1997. Now a widow on disability, I did well with the mortgage for years before being suckered into a bad loan. Too late, I tried to refinance it. Over and over, the bank refused to provide a refinance option, even though my credit rating was in the high 800s.
This evasion, I now know, was because the bank no longer had any say in the loan, but had sold it to speculators who turned it into “mortgage-backed securities,” which means it is lost forever in a pool of millions of dollars. I have no real investor, but that cardboard “investor” has total power over my fate.
My story parallels thousands of others. Hardship upon hardship inundated me in the murky national economic undertow. In October 2010, I phoned the Loss Mitigation Department. The counselor told me to stop paying my mortgage for them to take me seriously. I took him at his word and subsequently applied for a loan modification and a Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). That day I joined Humpty Dumpty and fell off the Wall Street precipice with the rest of the 99 percent.
Since then, endless unpaid full-time work filling out forms for the voracious bank paper mill has only heightened my despair. After nine months of their stonewalling, I saw through the swindle and contacted Rep. Lois Capps’ offices, whose intervention has, in turn, catapulted me as far as the office of the president of the bank’s home mortgage department. Under pressure from the congresswoman’s offices, Mr. P from the bank finally phoned me back. The “resolutions” he spoke of on the message were merely the Cadillac version of the Run-Around Dance, that is, no resolution at all:
• Demand a 35-to-75-page application packet
• Rush the client with threats of shredding the instantly obsolete packet
• Lose the packet, and repeat steps one and two several more times
• Sit on the packet for months
• Reject the packet as being outdated
• Repeat steps one and two
• Change partners (the “specialist”), then repeat all the steps above, again
• Promise to get the packet to the underwriter within three to five days
• Go back on the promise and turn in the opposite direction
• Begin foreclosure double cross
• Repeat all the moves from step one
• Stall until moments before the auction sale date
• Refuse the loan modification
• Swoop like a vulture on the client’s home for the big foreclosure finale.
This process, in my opinion, reveals premeditated theft, a mockery of the spirit of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which spawned fair guidelines for HAMP and other loan-modification programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Worse, the mental abuse built into the loan-modification process injures human beings, but the injuries are invisible, thus hard to contest:
Intimidation: “You are 91 days late on your payments. We are starting foreclosure proceedings.”
Stalling: The average loan mod process takes 12 to 18 months. In that time, you go broke.
Empty promises: “Ms. Eyles, we will not set a foreclosure date while we are in negotiations.” Two days later: “Oh, your sale date is Dec. 1.”
Fault-finding, nitpicking: “You didn’t fill in your f4506t form correctly. Read line nine, and figure it out yourself.”
Psychological manipulations: “You need to send those statements separately, all together!” (Huh?)
Hidden agenda: To grab up people’s homes (“Have a nice day, Ms. Eyles!”)
The Machiavellian minds behind this loan-mod scam know very well the human brain is not equipped to handle this kind of stress, frustration, and abuse. Emotional bullying renders the victim confused, paralyzed, powerless, depressed, and physically ill.
“The banks can do whatever they want!” is the cop-out we constantly hear. Can they? This financial mafia reigns from distant sterile offices, spouting soul-killing policies, fattening their profits with government bail-outs, and treating troubled clients as easy prey, while barely covering up their intent to steal their homes.
If I did these things, I’d be behind bars and my victim(s) would be free. Instead, the bank traps me behind the bars of its scam, and it goes on its merry, manic way.
Does this make me a fool for believing in honesty, justice, and the American Dream?
Maria V. Eyles is a freelance writer and editor. She was an educator and editor in the Bay Area before moving to Pismo Beach. Send comments via the opinion editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.