How to Stop a Foreclosure - I Have Been Trying Everything Without a Lawyer!
Suffice it to say that I received my Foreclosure Complaint on Halloween, Oct. 31, 2010 with a knock at my front door and a woman handing me a large manila envelope telling me that this would help me with my mortgage. It is now July 13, 2012 as I am writing this today so it's been 20 months and I have been told that it takes about 2 years in the state of NJ, a judicial state with a backlog of cases that all have to be approved by a Judge. I actually made my last payment in March of 2010 which was partially refunded (after late fees, etc. were deducted) to me much later by Bank of America due to my foreclosure status. I had originally been given, after waiting for many months, a trial modification and had been making smaller forbearance payments for several months to Bank of America while I was working. Then when I suffered injuries from that job and could not work for a while and was denied workers' compensation benefits by my boss as well as unemployment benefits, I could not continue to pay the mortgage because I did not have the income and had to fight in Court with a lawyer for a year to get a workers' compensation settlement for back pay and money for surgery on my shoulder (I did not have any health insurance.) When I finally got my settlement check, I offered to pay Bank of America $20,000 towards my back mortgage payments in person at a one-day modification event but they did not take it and later when I called BOA someone who answered said that I had to give them $40,000 and they could not take any less! A mediation lawyer later told me that they are supposed to work with you if you are willing to pay back a lump sum like that. The problem with calling Bank of America is the bank is so large with so many offices all over the country that you get different information from different people who answer the phone.
Living with this cloud over my head every day of wondering when will I have to move or be forced out of my home has been difficult for me and my son and daughter but I decided that I would stay and try every possible remedy on my own without paying a lawyer to prevent this foreclosure with Bank of America, investor Freddie Mac. One reason to prolong the process was to get back to work and have more time to find a job so that I could attempt to get a loan modification from the Bank because you need enough of a steady income to be able to qualify for a modification. I was denied twice because I needed more income. I also had the death of my spouse who was on the mortgage with me as a hardship two years ago right after I had to leave my job due to work-related injuries for which I had to seek treatment and physical therapy for months and also I kept having other medical problems, like extreme lower back pain and injuries year after year which did prevent me from being at one job for 3 or 4 years straight. Then, of course, the problem becomes trying to find a new job when you are finally recovered and ready, willing and able to go back to work because of the deflated job market where you are now competing with hundreds of other applicants for one simple office job.
It is frustrating at this point, after over nine months now of my applying to several jobs every day on-line, with e-mailing my resume and cover letter, to still not be working. The only calls I get are about paying someone to get me a modification, about going back to school or about working as a salesperson for an insurance company with no salary, just working to earn commission. The scary thing about that is you start to wonder after all this time of job-hunting what is in your background check that could be preventing you from ever getting hired for these types of jobs, like Executive Assistant, Administrative Assistant or Legal Secretary, even Receptionist or Customer Service Representative. Is it your credit score that has to be investigated and is not high enough because you have been out of work for so long and your credit score has dropped? You get paranoid after a while thinking negative things: Do you have some type of criminal record showing up on a background check that you are not aware of and needs to be corrected? Or could it be that the jobs on your resume which are being called to verify your employment are bad-mouthing you without your knowledge or maybe your references are unable to be reached or don't remember you? The worst thing regarding finding a job that I have recently heard on a cable news show discussion about hiring is that employers are sometimes just not hiring the people applying for jobs who are not already working and especially the ones who have been out of work for over a year because they may think that those people have lost their regular job skills, I guess. That is when I figure I will have to take some other kind of job that I have not done recently, like work as a hostess/cashier or maybe waitress at a local restaurant or hotel because I am desperate for a job to save my house and it just has to be something steady as soon as possible because I no longer have unemployment insurance to provide income. Anyway, I have to stay positive and keep trying because if I allow myself to get depressed and give up, I will never get back on my feet and I really need to start earning an income because as of this month I no longer receive my Social Security Survivor monthly benefits from my husband because my daughter turned 16 and now only she will continue to receive her Survivor benefits monthly until she is 18. That was my only regular income for the last two years while, most recently, I was treating for my painful broken right wrist from last year after I slipped and fell on the ice and was going to occupational therapy for 3 months because my right hand and fingers were stiff after the cast came off of my right arm.
Now, due to the hardships that I have had in the last few years, like death of my husband and various health issues not under my control, I applied for the NJ Homekeepers Program which is for the hardest hit, people out of work or who had hardships like medical problems which is supposed to pay the mortgage payments you owe back to the Bank for you and help you with your payments until you find a job. This program is funded by the Federal government for each state to help people facing foreclosure in their state. I was depending on this to come through for me as a last resort because I thought that I should definitely qualify for it and I'm sure plenty of other people also applied for it so you don't know for sure if you'll get approved. I applied through Consumer Credit Counseling Service back in early December, 2011 and got a denial letter at the end of May, 2012 saying that my arrearage was too high, over $36,000 but they took six months to process my application and when we applied, the arrearage was only $32,000 and it goes up every month when you are in foreclosure. So, I wrote a letter of appeal and just found out today by letter that my appeal was denied so now I am reaching out to my Senators and Department of Justice and even the White House if I can to complain how unfair this decision is. This appeal denial is based on credit and there was never any mention of credit being used to see if you would qualify in the guidelines to apply for this program. And NJ has not given out very much of these Homekeeper funds to help people in foreclosure compared to other states who have given out more of the funds in less time than my state. Apparently, they just keep denying applications and it's like false advertising to change the criteria at the last minute from what is stated on their website. I had already been turned down twice for a loan modification by Bank of America, first through NACA and then at a one-day event that the Bank had because I needed more income and I even had a mediation in Court with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service and the Bank's attorney last November, to no avail. The bank's attorney was quite unsympathetic to my hardships and she just told me that I could reapply if I got more income. My last chance is re-applying now for a loan modification but using my son's income to contribute to household income because he is working full-time and he wants to help us keep our house. The way I got to that point was advocating with my two Senators, Lautenberg and Menendez.
Another of my medical problems was, out of the blue, my right foot started to hurt when I walked on it and especially when I did the stairs and I found out from the podiatrist that I needed to have right ankle surgery in 2009 for a torn Achilles tendon. I had to stay on crutches for a whole summer and I could not work outside of my home temporarily and then I still had to go to 3 months of physical therapy a few days a week for my ankle to be able to stop limping on that foot. I ended up going to the therapy sessions around my work hours because I went back to work at a small law firm as soon as I got off of the crutches because I was trying to prevent a foreclosure and try for a loan modification. I did get one back then in Feb. 2010 and my payment went from about $1100 to $850 a month which sounded great but then I got injured on that job and had to leave.
Anyway, I guess the message is keep trying and try everything you might qualify for since there are new programs, like a lady from Freddie Mac called me a few months ago and told me not to wait to submit my documents until I found a job because she said that there's a new unemployment program where you can pay a smaller amount for a while until you find a job. Of course, in my case, it seems like there is always a technicality that I do not qualify for each program, like I am not on unemployment anymore but am unemployed. So you have to keep reading and checking on the latest information with all the various changes in this area and researching the whole mess of foreclosures that we're in and this crazy housing market. I guess I should close with if you are feeling desperate and crazy and depressed over trying to fight a foreclosure, you are definitely not alone. There is some hope out there and the last resort is that you can maybe find honest attorneys who specialize in foreclosure defense and pay one of them to help you get your modification since they are more expert at negotiating with the Bank's legal department. I have not done it yet although I have talked to many different lawyers over the phone and compared prices and what they would do but I did not want to pay a few thousand dollars (which is a lot to me) up front to a lawyer who cannot guarantee getting you the modification. I wanted to try on my own first working with my lender and Freddie Mac. I do think it would be much easier for me by now to just turn the whole thing over to an attorney!
Letters from my NJ Senators
An unexpected result was after e-mailing my two Senators regarding my hardships and trying to prevent my foreclosure, I got a call from the President's Office of Bank of America with a conversation about trying to help me because the Senators had forwarded my e-mails to the CEO's office. That was a pleasant surprise. At least they paid attention, tried to help. I had called the lawyer's office for the Bank who has my foreclosure file recently to check on the status of my case and I was told that my file was on hold, presumably because of my senators getting involved with my case. I am grateful for small favors! The current issue has been requesting a representative from Bank of America who I could understand over the telephone because the latest person I was switched to had a very heavy West African accent. It has taken about three months to finally get someone else assigned to me who is American or someone from America without a foreign accent. I have actually spoken to three different people from the Bank in the last month about this same problem and keep being told that a new representative would call me within a couple of days. (And someone from Freddie Mac urging me to send in my documents quickly for assistance) I am still waiting for someone to call me who I can work with on my loan and understand what documents I need to fax over to apply again for my loan modification. I am hoping maybe I'll finally get approved for a loan modification this time but if I don't, then my last resort would be bankruptcy to save my house but I would have to have a job by then to show the Judge that I am able to pay the mortgage again and you probably have to pay a bankruptcy lawyer. The only other option to prevent foreclosure without hiring attorneys is doing a short sale, assuming that your house is underwater and you would not be able to sell it for even what you paid for it, where you get some money for moving from the Bank and your mortgage debt is written off and the house is just sold for less than its value. At this point I am tired of living in this limbo, really not sure whether we can stay here and not even knowing what school my daughter will be going to in the middle of high school so, hopefully, it will be settled very soon and in the best way for us.
Voila - BOA does principal forgiveness on my HELOC!
I just wanted to update my article with some very good news. On September 19, 2012 (which is my late father's birthday by the way) I was sent a letter which suddenly informed me that my whole Home Equity Line of Credit for $25,000 was being forgiven by Bank of America. It was as a result of the U.S. Government settlement with the large banks for various mortgage mistakes they had made with consumers and advised me about any tax consequences relating to this forgiveness of my second mortgage by Bank of America. That was really great because It was an adjustable loan where the amount that I paid every month would vary depending on the interest rates. I am still at this point trying to get a loan modification approved for my first mortgage for my third time. The two years will be up by the end of this month from when I received my Foreclosure Complaint so I hope it finally goes through. Wish me luck - or else it may have to be a short sale! I am still working on finding a steady income which is really the most important thing!
Case is dismissed by Judge!
I recently found out that AS OF OCTOBER, 2013 MY FORECLOSURE CASE WAS DISMISSED BY A JUDGE FOR THE BANK NOT EXECUTING ON THE FORECLOSURE FOR 3 YEARS AND ALSO NOT SENDING OUT AMENDED NOTICES OF INTENTION TO FORECLOSE BY A CERTAIN DATE REQUIRED. I got served Court papers in January by mail informing me that the Bank of America had filed a Motion to Reinstate the Foreclosure case. Now as of May 14, 2014, the Judge granted them the Motion to Reinstate the Foreclosure case and the Order stated clearly that they had to proceed to Final Judgment within 90 days. I guess I do need a lawyer?
Anyway, in the meantime, I am still being told to send in the same documents over and over for a loan modification and this has been going on since August of 2012 with no decision.
I finally filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because of this situation. I think the Bank is just collecting all of this paperwork from all these people trying to get out of foreclosure by seeking a loan modification and piling it all up in a warehouse without anyone actually evaluating you for a modification. The Bank can keep you in this process for a legally required period of time before just declining to give you a loan modification and scheduling a Sheriff's Sale. I read an article on the Internet which talked about this and it was revealed by former employees of the Bank of America.
Latest in Saga
I finally got a temporary job through an agency by September which only paid $10.00 per hour and it only lasted until the beginning of October and ironically, the job was telemarketing to get people to refinance their mortgages. At least I could then send 4 paystubs to my lender to try to qualify for a modification before we end up in a Sheriff's Sale because now (by November, 2012) it's been over two years of being in this foreclosure process! Anyway I was also told by the lady from NJ Homekeeper Program to call her back after I had 4 paystubs and that maybe I could qualify so I called her and left 3 different messages and she never called me back. Since August I have been faxing over 35 pages of documents to Bank of America and it was all requested again to be sent by the end of October and then more things to be sent right away in the middle of December and finally, all the same information requested to be sent again by the middle of January, 2013. That's when I started calling and leaving messages to see why they needed all these same things all over again within a few weeks. I even joined pre-paid legal in December and asked an attorney to call them for me to find out. Two people from Bank of America finally called me back and I was told first not to send anything else and that my modification had passed the Underwriting Department and was now being reviewed by the Auditing Department. That is at least progress!
Another development with the foreclosure is that because of the timing of my foreclosure, before the end of 2010, I may be eligible for some type of compensation because of this independent foreclosure review process that Bank of America has just settled on with the Government which involves errors made in the process made by the Bank. I have not heard anything yet but it takes time - probably by March checks will be sent out. Wouldn't that really be nice?
I am still, of course, looking for a better-paying job!
Foreclosure Review Settlement
I finally received a $2,000 payment from the foreclosure review settlement which was a welcome check! Thankfully, I also, after so many months of job-hunting, started a new long-term temporary job at AIG close to home and it should last at least until the end of the year and could possibly go permanent. I'm glad now that we bailed out AIG so that I could finally find a job! I am now sending in my paystubs to BOA to keep trying to get a loan modification and I am still waiting for over a week now since I faxed over 27 pages to them to get any response or return call. I am really learning patience with this saga. I will keep posting progress!
Worst fear realized
I got a new Customer Relationship Manager who sounds great about a month ago but now as of today, October 1st, 2014, I am supposed to get a new servicer and investor. Right when she was telling me that I should think positive about finally getting my loan modification after waiting for over 2 years, now Bank of America is out of the picture. To make matters even worse, my CRM told me that their lawyers did get the final judgment for a Sheriff's Sale on August 19th and then said that it was on hold because I was still being evaluated for a loan modification, not to worry about it. I called the lawyer's office for Bank of America in NJ where I live to check on this and was told that they submitted a request for a sale date from the Sheriff on September 18th and were waiting for a sale date! The person I spoke to said that no one notified them that it should be on hold because I was in the loan modification process. I then called my CRM and left a message about this and called the Bank of America CEO office and was informed that it was on hold because of seeking my loan modification and there won't be a sale date yet. A lawyer I spoke to said to get it in writing! We shall see. Unbelievable.
In the meantime, another lawyer from Legal Shield recently checked over all my numbers for getting a loan modification when I was thinking of trying to get another mediation in Court and told me that I did have the right debt to income ratio legally needed to receive one.
Sheriff Sale Date!
I just opened A LETTER FROM THE BANK'S LAWYER saying the sale date on my house was November 12, 2014. I immediately filed a complaint with the CFPB about this violation of their regulations and the Bank of America had to respond to my complaint. They lied and said I did not send in everything which I did and I disputed their response and then nothing happened with the investigation.
Postponements of the Sheriff's Sale
The new servicer, BSI Financial Services (which is a debt collector) which Bank of America sold my loan to, agreed to let me apply to them for a loan modification so they had the sale date postponed from Nov. 12th to Dec. 3rd, 2014. Then they denied my loan modification after about 3 weeks saying that I needed more income even though I sent them all the same numbers as what I had sent the Legal Shield attorney who said that I qualified. I told them I wanted to reapply with a higher income from a different job so the sale date was then postponed again by them to January 14th and probably because of some error in communication between BSI and the attorney's office, luckily it was postponed again until March 4th. Legally, I get a month extension as the homeowner which will bring me up to April 1st. In the meantime at the end of October, 2014 right after I got the letter about a Sheriff's Sale I got laid off from my job at AIG because of lack of work so my contract ended. Now I have been looking for a good job paying more than my last job to get a modification for over 3 months and I promised BSI the last time that I spoke to them that I would be sending them my new paystubs shortly to reapply for my loan modification! Time is running out so I sure hope I find a decent-paying job soon. (At least $20.00 per hour not $15.00)
Program for Unemployment?
Someone told me over the phone that there should be a way to apply for a modification even if you are on unemployment but I called BSI to check with them and I was told that they did not have any unemployment program. Yet BSI had sent me a letter a couple of months ago telling me to apply for a HAMP modification which included unemployment in the letter. Confusing!
I just got a call yesterday from a government agency and she said that I could still get help to stop the sale and to fax over a mortgage statement, proof of income and proof of residence. It is worth a try!
BSI refused to provide me with a mortgage statement - waiting over 2 weeks for it to be mailed or faxed to me. BSI does not call back when you leave a message - a few times - no response to postponing my sheriff sale so I can re-apply for a modification. I had to go to the Sheriff's Office 2 days ago to pay for an extension for 2 weeks. I really need a bit more time to start sending in paystubs from a new better-paying job! I finally called Bank of America today to request a mortgage statement from them which is up to October 2014. Their lawyers are still handling the sale of my house because I called them to try to request a last-minute postponement. The woman told me that BSI had to approve it but nobody answers their phone and I waited on hold for a long time the other day and then a recording came on to just leave them a message. Frustrating. The last time I spoke to a man there he just told me angrily to list my house.
3rd Complaint to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
I called CFPB the other day to file a complaint against BSI for refusing to provide me with a mortgage statement.
The last thing now is the HAMP person (from the government agency program) told me don't believe what BSI tells me because they lie and just fax over my hardship letter and proof of residency to them with the mortgage statement (if I can get it!). Hope springs eternal.
Son May Bail Me Out? WOW!
I was told by BSI who called me on Saturday before Easter that I could not get another sale date postponement so I had to list my house for a short sale in order to have any kind of postponement. I said that I still wanted to re-apply for a loan modification and was told that I still could do that even if the house was listed so I responded that I did not want to sign anything with a real estate agent but I would think about it and check with the HAMP agency person who was supposed to be helping me. I also said that I still had a 2 week extension myself with the Sheriff's Office. When my son came home and I told him that a real estate agent was coming to list the house for a short sale on Monday, he said "Why can't I pay 100% of the mortgage? I have over $4,000 in income in a month, so just tell them that your son can afford to pay it," I asked him "Are you sure?" and told him "You can just get an apartment to move to." and he said that he definitely wants to stay in the house and not move.
He told me that now he has two jobs, one at the restaurant for 3 years and now also selling life insurance for a company for commissions and that he can get paystubs as proof of income from the restaurant instead of just getting cash tips as a waiter like before. I was so very thankful to my son who just turned 25 years old to offer that to save our home where he grew up since he was 3 years old. Now we have to get that idea approved by the mortgage servicer, BSI, to accept that my son's income is enough as household income on my mortgage since his name is not on the mortgage. I am still on unemployment and job-hunting so my income currently is not enough but it would be a great temporary fix so that later when I get back to work full-time we can jointly pay it or I can pay it myself! I called back BSI on Saturday afternoon and left a message and e-mailed BSI Monday morning not to send the real estate agent on Monday and also informed BSI about my son wanting to send in his income for the modification. I called back later on Monday and left another message about this and did not get any response all week from BSI. The HAMP person told me that this should be fine because he has worked with other cases where someone else in the household has enough income to afford to pay the mortgage if someone has lost their job or is just on unemployment. That sounded good and HAMP asked me to fax over my son's paystubs so they could work on it. I did that and also faxed over his paystubs to BSI the same day so they could give me an answer quickly and also asked them if we would get one more postponement because they were now reviewing me for the modification again. We both have to complete the whole application again, my son and I now, and after we send it in BSI said they will find out about a postponement. Hopefully, if they still say no then maybe HAMP can help to remove the sale date of April 22nd. Keep you posted!
Well, now it is July 8, 2015 and we got the sale date postponed again from today until September 2nd, 2015. We are still waiting for an answer about getting a loan modification using my son's income. Hoping that we get it - finally!