Home & Garden Columns

Restoration Comedy: Perhaps They Should Change the Name To HAMPer

By Jane Powell
Tuesday August 10, 2010 - 10:43:00 AM

After my trip to Washington DC, and the promise that there might be a reply from Fannie Mae regarding my loan modification in as little as a week, what have I heard? Nothing. Well, not entirely nothing. A letter arrived from GMAC requesting letters from all my tenants detailing how much they pay me and how often. I guess the signed rental agreements that contain this exact same information were not sufficient. So they all wrote the letters, and I faxed them to every fax number I had- the one in the letter, the one I had for the representative I talked to in DC, as well as to NACA. No doubt they will have claimed to have never received them. Probably I should FEDEX them so someone will actually have to sign. Not that they wouldn’t “lose” them after that. 

There had been two e-mails from the representative, saying she needed to talk to me. I called and left a voicemail. I called her cell, but that mailbox was full. She never called back, nor did she respond to my email. So much for the advantage of having an actual person. 

In the meantime I’ve been reading more of the HAMP fine print. It’s astounding how it was written to help the banks and not the homeowner. For instance, if by some miracle you actually get a permanent modification, it will come with an escrow account for taxes and insurance, because you are obviously a deadbeat who can’t be trusted with money. 

In the same way that withholding taxes from your paycheck (assuming you are one of the lucky ones who still has a paycheck) allows the government the use of your money all year until you maybe get some of it back after April 15, an escrow account requires you to pay monthly for things which are only due once or twice a year, so the bank gets the use of that money in the meantime. This might even be okay if they only collected the actual amount of the taxes and insurance, but no, they collect more. Escrow accounts are a profit center for the banks. 

Furthermore, although the lender collects the money and is supposed to pay the taxes and insurance when they come due, it remains your responsibility to pay them, and unless you keep on top of the lender, they often fail to do so or pay them late, and who pays the penalty for that? Yup, the homeowner. 

Meanwhile, I decided to rent out another room- the spare bedroom where I store my tools and equipment, since I don’t have a garage, and only a partial basement. So the tools and supplies are now in the basement, on shelves which have to be raised up on bricks since the basement gets wet in the winter. To say I’m a little cranky about this would be rather an understatement. 

There’s a rumor going around via Reuters that the White House will order Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to forgive part of the principal on millions of the mortgages they hold. Supposedly there’s a meeting at Treasury on August 17th regarding Fannie and Freddie- Treasury has basically promised them unlimited money. It would be lovely if this turned out to be true, but then, we were promised other things- you know, a public option, closing of Guantanamo, suspension of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, re-regulation of the financial system… and none of that has come to pass. Let’s just say I’ll believe in the “Principal Forgiveness Sparkle Pony” when it waltzes into my living room in all its rainbow-haired glory. And a signed and notarized document in my hand. 

Jane Powell writes for the Planet whenever she feels like it, and perhaps someday will go back to writing about old houses and such. She can be reached at hsedressng@aol.com, and catch her in person next weekend at the SF Arts and Crafts Show at the Concourse (8th and Brannan).