AFTER MUCH NEGOTIATING BANK OF AMERICA HAS AGREED TO MODIFY MY FIRST LOAN AS OF 6/29/12. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE SUPPORTED ME THROUGH THIS PROCESS
I, Francesca Lia Block, working author/teacher and single mom with good credit and an up-to-date mortgage for an over-encumbered property (that has declined due to current market conditions and the recession), have decided, after much thought, to go public with my complaints against Bank of America.
In order to avoid potential foreclosure, I have been trying to work with the bank since March, 2010 to modify an unfair interest-only loan on a property that has declined in value. I have been subjected to inefficiency of unimaginable proportions, rudeness and inexcusable delays. After hearing about Obama’s plan to help people in a similar situation and reading various things on the Internet about what the bank is saying it will do to help people I am now bringing this to your attention.
I ask your help in spreading the word about this situation so that I may maintain my home for myself and my children.
I have been in the faerie cottage for almost five years. Here is where you have come to share cupcakes and read your stories and laugh and cry. Here is where my children play and snuggle and sing and where my dog barks at you one second and the next is kissing your face. Here is a mermaid bathroom, an apricot tree with tiny pink blossoms, a pond with purple flowers, a jacaranda that I planted, roses tall as a man in spring, a pot of mung beans and rice on the stove, my father’s paintings, my mother’s books, lots of little goddess statues and other charms from you, my friends and readers. My kids can walk to their school, which is great since my ability to drive is getting more and more uncertain (due to the loss of most of the vision in one eye due to a perforated retina and the cataract in the other). Their friends are also within walking distance. It is a safe, lovely neighborhood with a park and a library near by. I planned on living here until I died, in my bedroom overlooking the garden with my children on either side of me, and everything would be okay. All the heartache and pain and stress would be worth it if I could own this home and pass it on to my kids.
I bought the house as joint tenant with my mother in 2007. The Countrywide loan was in her name but I made all the payments. The cost of housing was continuing to rise and I was trying to get in while I still could, afraid I would never be able to afford a home for my family. I got an interest-only loan which does not pay off principle until later, after having been reassured by my broker and realtor as well as accountant that I could refinance in a year or two and start paying off principle. Then the market crashed, the value of the home has continued to decline (to $150,000 less than the original cost) and the bank (now Bank of America who bought out Countrywide went it went under) refuses to refinance on an over encumbered or “underwater” property so refinancing is no longer an option. This is exactly the type of situation President Obama is trying to address with his new legislation since so many homeowners are in this position.
After having a very low income year in 2010 due to my retinal surgery and my mother’s death from cancer, I realized I would not be able to afford the loan, especially when it balloons in a few more years, so I tried to modify. After almost a year I learned that I could not qualify for a modification because the loan was in my mom’s name, even though I had made all the payments on time since the beginning and am now the sole owner. I am unable to assume the loan because I don’t qualify, in spite of having a good year in 2011—you need a year’s worth of mortgage set aside to even assume the loan at the high interest, interest only rate. I have been told by experts in the field that only by stopping paying may I be able to get the bank’s attention so they will let me assume the loan at a modified rate. I do not want to do this for many reasons, including the risk of foreclosure. If someone else came along to buy this house, they could get it at a very good price and get a loan at a very low rate. I tried to explain this to the bank, suggesting they could avoid the costs of foreclosure and I could avoid the heartache of leaving my home if they just worked with me but they have definitively refused.
These banks have been bailed out by the American public and yet are not working with us. The interest-only loan from Countrywide was egregious in the first place (although my broker, realtor and accountant reassured me it was standard for the times and quite safe, especially with the expected ability to refinance in a couple of years) and Bank of America knew this type of loan was unfair when they bought out Countrywide. B of A’s behavior toward a customer who has never been behind on a single payment has been inexcusable.
I ask that you let as many people as you can about this situation in the hopes that it will help others who have gone through what I am going through and perhaps, in some way, help me save my home for my family.
Thank you for your time, as always.
Francesca Lia Block
August of 2007: Purchased home in Culver City CA using two Countrywide loans (30 year fixed interest only and 7.25% interest rate and interest only 3.25% interest rate.) Both loans added up to 10% down. I always paid monthly mortgage on time. .
Sept., 2008: Mother diagnosed with bladder cancer that had metastasized to her colon.
Jan., 2009: I suffered spontaneous perforated retina. Had emergency surgery and have permanently lost half vision in one eye.
Sept., 2010 Mother passed away.
April, 2011: I assumed the full title on property. Applied for Making Home Affordable program.
I was repeatedly told to resend and that bank had not received my documents. I sent at least three times from my brother’s fax and local Bank of America fax at two branches.
May-June, 2011: Assigned to work with RC, my package was accepted, though not approved. I asked him how long it would take and he said about ten weeks maximum before I heard.
July, 2011: I still hadn’t heard and called. RC said to wait.
Oct., 2011: I still hadn’t heard. I called RC who told me that my application had been summarily rejected because, due to the death of my mother, the mortgagor of my loan was now an ”estate of” Property. This type of property was not entitled to modification under the Making Home affordable Mod program but I had not been informed of this. RC told me to wait until I got a final rejection from the bank to move to the next step and assured me there WAS a next step and that someone would be assigned to my case to help me with it.
Late Oct., 2011: Called back. RC was out of town. I emailed him but he didn’t respond.
Nov., 2011: Called for clarification about my situation. The customer service representative told me no one was able to help me. I asked for a supervisor. She told me, “You do not own the house. It is in your mom’s name and she’s dead.” (Direct quote). Our conversation escalated to raised voices. I asked to speak to someone else and she again told me there was no one else to speak to. I insisted and she put me on hold. Finally, not having any response, I hung up distraught and crying. Her rudeness was inexcusable, not to mention that she was wrong—although the mortgagor of the loan is now in the form of an estate of, the title of the house is fully in my name as sole survivor of the Joint Tenancy.
I have never been treated so badly by anyone in customer service in my life.
Nov., 2011: Called RC again but he no longer had a direct contact number. The customer service person this time said that he did not know who Romulo was or how to reach him. Finally I was able to have the customer service person email C. RC called me back and I found out that even though I still didn’t have final word from BofA I could try a traditional or in-house type of modification and gave me customer service number to call and try to work with them to get this.
A few days later I called to speak to someone about this. I spent two hours on the phone being rerouted to different people. One man said there were no other type of mod programs besides the Making Home affordable mod. Also, he had “never heard of” an in house or traditional mod. Someone else said that this wasn’t true, there was a modification that came along with assuming the loan but at a fair rate for the loss in value. She sent me to another dept. but it turned out to be customer service again. I went round and round all morning. In the afternoon I spent an hour trying to reach RC, asking two different people to email him for me, which I did, but HE NEVER RESPONDED.
11/9/2011 at 2:15 PM, having been advised by an attorney to keep track of all my exchanges going forward, I called Customer Service and spoke to J who tried to put me through to Modifications. He said, “They are not available, call back.” I asked to speak to the president’s office. He tried to put me through to Modifications again. The phone disconnected at 2:36. At 2:41 I called again. M answered. I asked for the president’s office and told her my story. She said she could not put me through and finally gave me this address and fax.
11/22/11: 9 am Called office of President and complained, threatened to go to press. I had written attached letter* but didn’t send it since I was able to speak to someone on the phone and convey my concerns. Was put through to LA who said he could help me and asked for relevant paperwork, which I sent. PD was assigned to my case. The plan was to assume the loan and then modify it.
11/30 Phone tag with PD
12/12 Left message for PD and called his supervisor and left word.
12/13 Called PD and supervisor, BW.
12/14 Called PW and BW and left word. Called AB. Left word.
12/15 PD called me and said he was no longer my point person but it had been assigned to JA.
12/20 Mailed package to bank to try to assume loan.
12/21 spoke to JA who asked where I had sent package.
12/21 Charged two times for mortgage because I had sent an unsigned check that was sent back to me so I replaced it with a signed check. The unsigned check was returned but also deducted and replacement check was also deducted.
1/3/12 S in Accounting explained I was paid up. They had applied unsigned check that they sent back to me to next month’s mortgage
January ? Received notification packet had been received by bank with paperwork to try to assume loan. Was advised by attorney, realtor, broker and friends not to assume loan at current high, interest only rate but request modification to fair market rate to avoid future foreclosure.
1/4 Called JA.
1/5 Called JA.
1/8 Called JA
1/9 Missed JA’s call and called back, left word
1/10 spoke to LA and asked, as a customer in good standing who is trying to avoid the eventual loss of the property, to assume loan at modified, market rate. We spoke for twenty minutes and I explained the complex nature of my situation. He denied my request. He told me I should try refinancing. I did not think I would qualify due to underwater nature of property. He assured me I could and gave me number of someone in refinancing, MP. I called MP who told me I would need about 150,000 to refinance and over the next few days did not return my calls to check on any other options. JA did try to call me back a few times on this day but after speaking to LA I realized any discussion with JA would be useless.
Feb ??Called to speak to someone about Obama program. Put through to my account supervisor and then disconnected
Feb. 29th, 2012 Received call from W at Bank of America Qualified Assumptions to see if I wanted to go through with assumption. Was told I would have to qualify for original loans with very high income and 12 months mortgage set aside if I wanted to assume the loan. He didn’t think I would qualify based on my income and I do not have 12 months mortgage set aside after being hit with a huge tax bill this year.
March 7: In last ditch attempt, called office of president and complained, threatened to go public with this. Was put through to AR and told her the story. She promised to get back to me Friday, March 9th at @2:15 PM and told me to continue to pay my mortgage.
March 9: Called AR At 2:15. No answer. Called again at 3:09. No answer. Left word both times.
SOME COMPLAINTS AGAINST BANK OF AMERICA
My main complaints against Bank of America are:
INEFFICIENCY IN PROCESSING LOAN MOD PACKAGE, HAD TO RESEND NUMEROUS DOCUMENTS NUMEROUS TIMES
NEVER TOLD ME I WAS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PROGRAM WHEN I APPLIED (ESTATE OF)
HAVE STILL NOT CONTACTED ME TO SAY MOD REJECTED (SINCE JUNE, 2011)
HAVE CHANGED PHONE NUMBER OF MY CONTACT PERSON SO I CANNOT REACH HIM. HE DOES NOT RESPOND TO MY EMAILS EITHER. HE TOLD ME THERE WAS AN ALTERNATIVE FOR ME BUT I WAS TOLD BY OTHERS THAT THIS WAS NOT TRUE. THEN TOLD BY SOMEONE ELSE THAT IT WAS BUT NO ONE COULD DIRECT ME TO CORRECT DEPT.
EXTREMELY RUDE SUPERVISOR WHO TOLD ME THE HOUSE IS NOT MINE AND THAT “YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD”
NO WAY TO MOVE FW. WITH ANOTHER TYPE OF IN HOUSE OR TRADITIONAL LOAN MODIFICATION OR ANY OTHER OPTION. I HAVE BEEN TRYING FOR ONE YEAR.
LETTER I SENT TO BANK:
Francesca Lia Block
*December 19, 2011
To Whom It May Concern:
I, a working well-known author of over twenty published books (www.francescaliablock.com) and a single mom with good credit and an up-to-date mortgage for an over-encumbered property (that has declined due to current market conditions and the recession), respectfully ask your help with a modification at a fair market rate. I have been told I must first assume the loan that was originally in my late mother’s name, although I have always been on title and have made all the payments from the beginning and I believe this packet includes all the materials requested in order to do so.
In August of 2007 my mother and I purchased my home in Culver City CA 90230 using two Countrywide loans (30 year fixed interest only 7.25% interest rate and interest only 3.25% interest rate.) My mother, Jill (Gilda) Block signed for the loans and I assisted her with the down payment and have made all subsequent payments before and after her passing. I was also on title as Joint Tenant. In Sept. 2008 my mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer, that had metastasized to her colon, and she passed away as a result in September 2010. After her death, I became the sole titleholder of the property. Notice of my mother’s death was recorded in the real property records per the attached Affidavit, to which her death certificate is also attached.
In January, 2010 I also developed a spontaneous perforated retina and underwent emergency surgery. During my recovery I lost some work and due to the above hardships (my mother’s cancer and my eye), my income was lower. In spite of this I was able to keep up all of my payments to Bank of America on time. I am now back on my feet with a three-book contract from Henry Holt publishers as well as many other teaching and writing projects.
I ask in good faith (proven by four and a half years of mortgage payment stubs and the new roofing, wiring, plumbing, dry-walling etc. I have put into the house) that you give this responsible customer the opportunity to assume the loan and then pursue a modification so that we may all avoid the ensuing costs (financial for you, emotional for me and my two children) of foreclosure.
Francesca Lia Block
IRS form 4506 T
Identity Affidavit notarized
1099’s (minimal as I am mostly self employed)
2008-2010 personal tax returns
Bank /Asset statements Chase, ING, Merrill Lynch, Adams Express, PayPal
Property tax statement
Original Deed of Trust
Sale Escrow Instructions
Death Certificate, Jill (Gilda) Block
Affidavit—Death of Joint Tenant