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.

Why More Widowed Homeowners are Struggling to Prevent a Foreclosure

Los Angeles Times |  May 3, 2016      When Jesus Sequeira's wife, Yadira, died in 2008 from lung cancer, times soon grew tough.

Sequeira said his income plunged, leaving him unable to pay the mortgage on the couple's Canyon Country home when payments more than doubled a year later.

Sequeira hoped a loan modification might save him, but there was a glitch: Even though he was listed on the title, only his wife was on the mortgage note — a setup Sequeira said a Countrywide Financial employee suggested given her superior credit.

The arrangement, he said, turned efforts to secure a modification into a multiyear red-tape nightmare that may end in a trustee sale scheduled for May 11.  Read more here.

 

Foreclosures: What Role Should a Trustee Play?

Huffington Post |  April 29, 2016      It’s one of those questions that seems pulled from a final exam at the Harvard Business School but if you’re a homeowner caught in the foreclosure wringer it’s something worth thinking about. Now, if you’re seeking an answer about the trustee’s role from any of the parties suing to extricate you from home and hearth the response, no doubt, will be an unequivocal “no.”

When it comes to snatching houses current banking wisdom goes something like this: mortgages (most of them) are held in securitized trusts which in turn hire servicers to collect monthly payments and if something goes awry — say the homeowner defaults on monthly payments — the servicer can initiate a foreclosure action on behalf of the investors in the trust. The role of the trustee — whose name usually appears as “plaintiff” in a foreclosure lawsuit — is simply that of a passive custodian storing the original mortgage documents (“wet ink,” in the vernacular).  Read more here.