Home & Garden Columns

Restoration Comedy:Let Them Eat Paperwork

By Jane Powell
Tuesday June 08, 2010 - 11:26:00 AM

If you missed the previous installment, this is part two of the story of attempting to get my mortgage modified under HAMP, the Home Affordable Mortgage Program rolled out last year by the Obama administration. 


I should make it clear that I don't think the problem lies with NACA- they are clearly overwhelmed by the number of people they are trying to help, and they didn't set up the rules or the process. Rather, it's clear that the process is being used by the banks to delay actually doing any modifications and hoping homeowners will just give up and let them foreclose, because the federal government offered them a carrot without a stick. 


Funny, the Bush administration basically handed Hank Paulson a check for $700 billion to give to the financial industry on about two days notice, but it's taking regular people a year or more to maybe, MAYBE get their interest rate lowered for a few years. Principal reduction- no way. After all, we peons have been told that we have A Moral Obligation To Repay Our Debts, even though large developers and investment firms are just walking away from their projects or land because it no longer makes financial sense, yet their credit ratings aren't being destroyed, and no one is trying to make them feel ashamed. So even though we, the taxpayers, are now the owners of all these mortgages- essentially they have been paid off, or at least taken off the books, it is still left to individuals to negotiate with the lenders on their own- lenders who have no real incentive to do a damn thing. Some people who now owe more than their house is worth who can't get a modification are now making the eminently rational business decision of letting the bank foreclose and just walking away-but there are so many people who have drunk the kool-aid about The Moral Obligation To Repay Your Debts that every time there's a newspaper article about people struggling to get modifications or facing foreclosure there will be vitriolic letters and comments- I expect to get a few, since I put my e-mail at the end of this article. Apparently the banks didn't feel any moral compunction about crashing the entire global economy with their greed, but let one regular person who is suffering in the current depression ask for a few thousand dollars worth of help, and it's the end of the freaking world. I just love social Darwinism. 


Anyway, just when I thought I was done with the bank statements, I talked to another counselor who inquired about my rental income. You guessed it- had to go back through the bank statements and circle the rental income deposits too. More faxing. Then I was told I also had to total all the deposits and expenses and write them on the front page of the statements. Jesus, it's like effing kindergarten!Makes it easier for NACA and the bank, I suppose- no one trying to make it easier for the homeowners. More faxing. 


In early February I talk to yet another person at NACA. He's looking at my income- says basically I have negative income. Duh. He asks how much I pay for health insurance. I tell him:$1163 a month. “That's a year?” he says. “No,” I say, “that's per month.” I have to repeat it three times. But we wouldn't want to have that socialist single-payer health care, would we? He asks for paperwork documenting the premium- more faxing. Tells me he's going to ask the lender for a forbearance- a six month payment suspension which no doubt gets added on to the end of the loan and probably destroys my credit rating to boot- I don't know. During the six month forbearance, I am supposed to try to increase my income somehow- probably by succeeding in renting the empty room that I had to evict the deadbeat asshole from back in January. Of course it took me six months to re-rent the last empty room I had- and that's how it is these days. He tells me it will take 30 days to get an answer and that I should call to check on my file status in two weeks. 


Unfortunately, he doesn't bother to give me his extension, so when I call in two weeks I am unable to get hold of him, instead I try the regular customer service line. All representatives are currently busy, naturally. But my call is important to them. I put on the headset phone and go outside to pull weeds. After two hours on hold I give up, though I do get an entire green can full of weeds pulled. 


Eventually a reply from the lender shows up when I check my file on the NACA website. They are offering a three month forbearance. I send them an email refusing the offer, and explaining it's going to take at least six months to rent the room. Then, nothing. No response from the lender. I try twice to make phone appointments with NACA- no one calls. I have no idea who has my file at the lender, and calls to their 800 number lead only to rounds of voicemail hell. 


Meanwhile, I've been trying to rent the room since the first of April. Anybody want to move into the fabulous bunga-mansion? 




Jane Powell writes for the Planet whenever she gets around to it and can be reached at hsedressng@aol.com