How to Protect Yourself From Unauthorized Mortgage Modifications

It’s important to review any mortgage statements or documents you receive. Changes outside of what you originally agreed to should be considered red flags.

 

The Seattle Times | July 9, 2017        The company that holds your mortgage isn’t supposed to extend your loan or alter your monthly payments if you don’t agree to it beforehand. But recent lawsuits argue Wells Fargo changed the terms of home loans held by customers in bankruptcy without their consent.

Wells Fargo allegedly attached loan-modification letters to payment-change notices, forms routinely filed in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases to authorize preapproved adjustments. Without following the proper procedures, the bank allegedly lowered monthly payments and extended loan terms by years, potentially costing borrowers thousands of dollars in interest.

It’s unclear how many of the unauthorized loan changes Wells Fargo is alleged to have made (the company has denied wrongdoing), but if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, pay attention to what’s happening to your mortgage, especially if you live in a jurisdiction that allows a trustee to make payments on your behalf.

“Even though the consumer might be in a bankruptcy, they should not ignore any written notices that they get from their mortgage servicer,” says John Rao, a bankruptcy expert and attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. “If there’s anything in it that suggests that there’s a payment change or something, you know, they probably want to contact their attorney and just make sure that this is correct.”  Read more here.

New Wells Fargo Scandal Over Modifying Mortgages Without Authorization

CNN | June 15, 2017          Christopher and Allison Cotton had 16 years remaining on their mortgage when family medical expenses forced them into bankruptcy in 2014.

Wells Fargo went ahead and modified the North Carolina couple's mortgage several times without their authorization, according to a class action lawsuit. The bank extended the term of the mortgage by nearly 26 years, documents say.

If the "stealth" modifications hadn't been caught, the Cotton family's total interest payments would have nearly tripled to more than $140,000, the lawsuit said.

"I anticipate Wells Fargo has done this to thousands of customers," said Theodore Bartholow III, a lawyer who represents the Cottons and last week launched the class action.

News of the latest legal trouble facing Wells Fargo (WFC) was first reported by The New York Times. It comes as Wells Fargo continues to dig out of a scandal over unauthorized account openings and alleged worker retaliation.

Bartholow described an "insidious" process where Wells Fargo uses a routine, but little-noticed form to "sneak through" mortgage modifications on unsuspecting homeowners.  Read more here.