It’s a complicated situation
Written by Don Sweet
Don Sweet Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seems the time has come to write a “First Day Orientation” for folks new to learning how to fight this thing. Sorry if this is going to be a little long-winded, but it’s simply the situation we find ourselves in.
First off, if you haven’t been able to tell, for the most part we’re all homeowners just like yourself, trapped and going in circles in this “alleged” modification program.
Now and then a lawyer will post, but frankly it’s likely their bar association isn’t pleased. People are supposed to go TO lawyers, they’re not encouraged to come to us. In other words, there isn’t a parade of lawyers staring at their computer screens waiting with baited-breath to become our rescuers. In this situation there are no heros. We have to be our own heros.
The next thing you have to recognize is the fact that you are being victimized. Now, it’s necessary to add the word “allegedly” since legally the banks haven’t been “proven” in a court of law to be guilty. In any case, most of us (if not all) originally trusted the bank to perform professionally and ethically, and to know what they were doing. After all, they’re LEGISLATED (by law) to BE ethical.
For the most part, we arrived here because we came to understand we were being screwed.
So your first real hurdle is to get over the idea the bank can be trusted … in any way. Many of us cling to the idea that “we-just-want-our-modification-and-to-get-on-with-our-lives.”
It’s not that easy.
It’s pretty much become the consensus of the folks on this blog/forum/board that the banks never intended for us to get a modification at all, and were merely priming us for foreclosure and repossession to PROFIT from our homes, regardless of whether or not it was legal. After all, that’s what their stockholders and boards of directors demand. It appears as though it’s evolved into “profit at any cost,” whether ethical or even legal.
Many of us believe their appearance of “incompetence” isn’t incompetence at all, but planned and implemented as precisely as a military battle plan. If you ask a lawyer how to “get away with something,” it’s likely the lawyer will say, “You can’t look malicious to a court, but you CAN look stupid. A court will forgive stupidity, but it’s required to punish malice.”
Some people have started this modification process with pristine credit, merely INQUIRING about a renegotiation/modification, and got sucked into the black hole of this [alleged] scheme, with their credit ruined and their house in or facing foreclosure. There have even been people state that they never even asked to be in the “program,” but found themselves caught in it. Most simply believed they could negotiate a modification through TARP (earlier government program) or HAMP, so they enrolled.
The TARP program no longer applies to anything you do with Bank of America since they paid back every last penny of their $45 Billion “stimulus package.” The assumption is the bank wanted to get out from under TARP rules. Since then, the “hook” to snare you has been the HAMP program from Mister Obama, where he’ll pay the bank $1,000 to talk to you about a modification.
That’s a very important sentence.
The banks are ONLY obligated to TALK to you, not ACTUALLY give you a modification. They’re paid whether they modify or not. And modifying under HAMP makes them lose money. Actually, modifying AT ALL makes them lose money, so they do what they can to wiggle out of it. If they can, they find some excuse not to modify under HAMP (often by letting Fannie or Freddie deny it for them), and if they HAVE to modify, they do it privately, outside the program, only reducing payments by about half that of a modification under HAMP.
Yes, this is complicated. That’s the way they like it. They want you to become frustrated, confused, exasperated, and would actually prefer you just gave up and simply moved out, so they can profit from your property …
… all “allegedly” of course.
What many people don’t realize is that the homeowner has Rights … and lots of them … far more than we think. Suing, even in a class action, is only ONE of them. In fact, it’s been pointed out (by an attorney, much to the frowns of his bar association, I’m sure) that class actions can actually be LESS effective or beneficial to a homeowner. MANY individual lawsuits will tie up the banks’ legal departments AND homeowners will get more individualized attention by the courts.
It’s also been pointed out that filing YOURSELF, without an attorney (it’s called “pro se”), can also have benefits. It’s not easy and courts don’t like it one bit, but you have options in court a lawyer wouldn’t DARE use, because they depend on the court to make their living … we don’t.
Essentially, when it comes right down to it, you PERSONALLY have a decision to make … or several, actually. A) Do you simply want your modification and to get on with your life? B) Do you want to sue, meaning go to all the time and effort it takes to get a court to FORCE the bank to do something? C) And if you sue, do you want to individually, or with a group?
If you want to work towards a modification, there’s a 18 point “getting started” list about a third of the way down this page of posts. Examine that on how you might proceed.
Whether you want your modification or to sue, the fact remains that your education has only just begun. An ignorant homeowner is precisely what the banks want, so the best way for you to protect yourself is to learn how this game is played. Unfortunately, this IS a game to them. It’s called “How to Profit from Homes at Any Cost,” and that relies on you not knowing your Rights.
If you want to sue, it’s not going to be easy to find a lawyer, but they are out there and class actions are forming, as well as people learning and preparing to file individually or even without a lawyer … pro se.
Sue or not, you should still look though the 17 point list. You’re not alone in this. Much of defending yourself is taking personal responsibility AND holding others responsible, not only the banks, but the politicians, branches of law enforcement and agencies responsible for overseeing the banks.
I know it’s a lot to ask, but read as much of this forum as you have time for. Lots of people have had very valuable things to say, and you can benefit from their knowledge, research and experience. Learn to Google the subject matter and learn the meaning of terms and words.
Holler with questions. There’s lots of folks here willing to help. Some arrived ready to fight. Some had no idea they had to, and learned there’s really no choice.
Besides, in the end, it might actually end up being … well … “fun” … as some of us are beginning to see it.
A Getting Started Defending Your Home List – 18 items that may help –
The list below was accumulated from the experiences of a variety of people going through the same pain and similar circumstances as the stories being told here including myself. Unfortunately, these stories are emerging in the hundreds, perhaps thousands, coast-to-coast. We all have to learn what’s happening and how to deal with it, a sometimes painful, but revealing process.
You DO have rights. For the most part, this is NOT your fault. Hopefully, you’ll find this list informative and it will help you turn the tables.
If you want to keep your home, you have to fight for it … but ALSO, you’ll have to learn how this game is played. Unfortunately, this IS a game to them. It’s how they can manipulate things to get as much money as possible. After all, that’s what their stockholders DEMAND … profit, profit, profit. That means getting money (your home equity) from YOU.
Please try and read ALL of this, and research for additional information. Google is your friend. So is Wikipedia. Whenever you get legal terms you don’t understand, look them up so you know what they mean.
1) If you haven’t made a journal/diary of your mortgage modification experience start NOW. Record every instance every time it happens in detail. This is critical for a court case, but can also be helpful for Attorneys General and Agency complaints and for your politicians, should they get involved.
2) Sit down and write out as complete a timeline as you can from the beginning of your experience with as much detail as you can recall. Take time to do a thorough job. Equally valuable as “1)”.
3) Call your State and Federal representatives, Congressman/woman, State Assemblyman/woman and inform them of your situation. Calling is preferred over emailing. It puts a human element into the contact. Ask for help. Don’t hesitate. It’s their job to oversee your community and the goings-on in it. It’s why you elected them. INSIST that they help you if they try to wiggle out of it. Mine were VERY cooperative and helpful.
4) Get any attorney you can find to advise you from church, synagog, friends, family, neighbors. Retain one if you can afford it or call legal aid if you can’t. These are “contractual negotiations” that involve Statutory Law and a lawyer will navigate that best. Tempt them with the possibility of getting a piece of a class action suit.
5) Call the Hope Hotline 877-300-5454 or Money Management International direct 888-881-7558. Use MMI (or a similar NON-profit) literally EVERY TIME you call the bank. A representative will be with you through your calls and the nightmares on hold. They will also keep a record (although it can’t be released without a subpoena from a court). But if it goes to court, you can get it that way. It’s also better to have the BOA people hear you’re not alone on the phone.
6) Call and call and call and call until you get results and cooperation. If you’re using MMI, they’ll ask for supervisors. If you’re not, YOU ask for them. I know from a full year of this garbage how much it cuts into your personal (or even work) time and how traumatic it is, but big corporations BANK on you getting frustrated and giving up. DON’T GIVE UP. Hold their feet to the fire.
7) Keep up your payments as close to on time as you can. This is ALL about the MONEY. It’s a contract and your end is feeding this behemoth monster your hard earned cash. You agreed to it when you signed the mortgage. Courts (and negotiators) will want to see your willingness to pay, as will your politicians and regulatory agencies. It’s your “good will” that you’re willing to work it out.
8 ) Find as many people as you can in your State that are going through this AND keep in contact with forums like this or others. The ONLY power any of us have over this monster is NUMBERS. It is literally “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” One-by-one they can take us down, but as both national and State groups, they’ll have a hard time of it.
9) Once you’ve contacted your politicians and they’ve started to help you, tell all your friends, family, co-workers and anyone else who knows you to write to them and THANK them for helping you get through this difficult time. DO NOT have them criticize, complaint or tell stories. Just a short thank you will make it clear to your politicians that people are watching their performance. No need to get into detail. They’ll KNOW they’re being watched just through a simple thank you.
10) File a complaint with your State Attorney General and the OCC (http://www.occ.treas.gov/customer.htm). Research your State and complain to any applicable agency. Be sure not to “rant” and provide information in the form and with the content they request.
11) Contact your telephone company and request call records to and from BofA, or get all your calls and highlight them. Add that to your package of evidence.
12) Compose a letter asking news agencies to look into this problem. Describe your situation BRIEFLY, then forward it to every news program and news agency you can think of. There are lists of contacts throughout this blog. Key Point: News people are a bit “legalistic” in covering stories and require documentation and facts. Although they respond to emotional pleas, they will likely ignore incoherent rants, finger-pointing and unproven accusations. Be factual in your letters. The emotions will come across even if you try not to.
13) Learn about, compose and send a RESPA/TILA (Truth in Lending Act) qualified letter, or “Written Qualified Request” (QWR) to the bank and other regulatory agencies, and include anyone (politicians) who might be monitoring your case (see below). The Federal government REQUIRES banks to provide you with DETAILED information on your mortgage.
RESPA is explained on these two government sites –
Samples of letters can be seen (copied) here –
Insert your personal information, rewrite the opening paragraph(s) to describe your personal concerns, and customize the “demands” to your own case, preferably with the help of a lawyer.
DO NOT send via email, and use the Postal Service, certified mail, return receipt requested. Copy all related people/parties the same way.
See below for a suggested list of Carbon Copy (CC) recipients to a REASPA/TILA letters.
14) Also … and this is tricky … this is ALL about contract law, which is called “Statutory Law.” It literally has NOTHING to do with Right and Wrong, but what contract law expressly states. This is NOT “Common Law” that talks about the rights of a human being. This is about your “fictitious corporate self” that’s a party to the contract … NOT YOU as a human being. Statutory Law only sees the “contractee,” not the human being. Statutory Law couldn’t care less whether you live in that house or not … just whether the contract is fulfilled.
READ your mortgage and READ your restructuring agreement. Everything that’s happening to you is based on THOSE, not Right or Wrong … or have someone who understands legal language read them and explain what they mean.
Contract violations are what Class Action Law Suits are based on … contractual violations, and that’s all a court will listen to.
Remember, this is a nation (now, anyway) of laws, courts and parties to contracts … NOT common decency or even Common Sense. Work to save your home. Complaining gets you no where. Working hard and learning “the game” they play is the only thing that works.
15) One other thing has emerged … try to get over any embarrassment. For most people, this is not your fault. You have no control over the financial environment and you are merely exercising your rights. In fact, you should be BOLD about exercising them. Don’t let anyone convince you that “you were just asking for it.”
16) Consider stretching your budget to file an INDIVIDUAL lawsuit, rather than being lumped in with a class action. Jamming up a bank’s legal department with multiple suits is far more effective than allowing them to combat one class action. A class action puts you in a barrel with all the other fish.
It’s also been suggested that you can file yourself, without an attorney. It’s called “pro se.” When you sue personally, you can name names. You’re not held to the same standards as a lawyer. You can sue everybody, including the “negotiator” or “customer advocate” or even the court itself if they contradict the law, by filing criminal charges against even the judge. You can name anyone on any paper that relates to your mortgage.
But if you can’t file individually, keep in touch with people in your State. You can’t simply “put-your-name-on-a-list”. It’s not that easy. You have to work to FORM a class action suit. For the moment, no Federal class action exists and they MUST be State-by-State. Band together and hunt hard for an attorney who will take it on.
17) There’s also been the suggestion that you file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a complicated and often expensive process, and not everyone qualifies … as described here …
It can be a difficult decision, time consuming and possibly expensive, seriously affecting your credit for years, but a solution none-the-less.
18) An IMPORTANT use for items 1) and 2), the journal/diary and timeline, has developed. You should have these timelines and journals notarized, scanned, and placed in the “repository” or online data base we are developing so anyone suing or filing against the bank(s) can access the statements when filing a suit.
You need to have written evidence (affidavits) of a widespread pattern of behavior by the banks for the courts to accept or listen to your accusations. You can’t just “claim” widespread, systematic abuse without documentation. You have to PROVE it with affidavits. A data base has been created and the details are being worked out. More news and details later as they