As a real estate agent, Mark Conca has watched homeowners struggle to make their mortgage payments. He’s seen a lot of short sales and foreclosures in recent years, and he’s even assisted homeowners looking for mortgage modifications.
He didn’t want to be one of them.
But the distressed housing market put a major dent in Conca’s commission-based income. He said he still paid his bills on time, but his savings account was dwindling.
He decided to approach his lender, Bank of America, to see if he’d qualify for a modification. After he applied, many months passed and Conca heard nothing from the bank. Knowing lenders had huge backups in modification requests, he remained patient.
Conca, 41, continued to make the full payment on the mortgage for his Caldwell home, on time, every month.
But that’s not what Bank of America said when it sent Conca a letter about its intent to foreclose.
“I would have been better going to a loan shark and borrowing all that money,” Conca said. “At least with the street mafia, you know where you stand.”
Here’s what happened:
Conca has had the same Bank of America mortgage since he purchased the three-bedroom Cape Cod in 2005. He applied for a modification in December 2009.
“I was trying to stay ahead of the game,” he said, noting he asked for help before he got into real money trouble. “They told me I should miss some payments. I said I won’t miss payments. If I have a debt, I pay it.”
He finished the application process and continued making his payments, knowing lenders were backed up with modification requests.
Until he received a letter in March 2011 that said he was two months late on his mortgage.
“I called and said that’s impossible,” Conca said. “I had copies of all my payments on my bank statement.”
When he finally got in touch with a supervisor, he was told the account would be reviewed and he’d have an answer in 10 days.
Three weeks later, the supervisor called back, Conca said. The supervisor reported the loan had been approved for three months of temporary modified payments for October, November and December 2010, and something wasn’t properly recorded, Conca said.
“He told me it was now squared away and that I was approved for the modification,” Conca said. Approved not just for a trial payment plan, but approved for an actual modification. The supervisor said Conca would receive information in the mail about his new modified payment in about 10 days, Conca said. About a month went by, and Conca said he didn’t receive any information from the bank. Finally, on April 10, a letter. But not the one he was expecting. “According to our records, payment for your home loan is past due,” it said. Conca finally called a lawyer for help, and the lawyer corresponded with the lender, but got nowhere.
Then on July 19, Conca received a letter saying he was approved for a rate reduction on a modified mortgage and he’d receive the paperwork in 10 days.
Relief, but it was only temporary.
Two days later he received a different kind of letter from Bank of America: a notice of intention to foreclose.
“I’ve gotten three more since then,” he said.
The last straw was a notification from a Citibank credit card Conca said he’s had since 1991. Citibank said it was lowering the credit limit on his credit card because Conca’s credit report showed him as more than 60 days late on his Bank of America mortgage.
“My credit score for the last 21 years has been in the high 700s,” he said. “This has ruined my credit.”
Conca asked Bamboozled for help.
There’s no shortage of lawsuits related to Bank of America’s loan portfolio, and other suits allege the lender hasn’t followed proper foreclosure practices. A judge last week granted permission for the lender to restart foreclosures in New Jersey after a 9-month moratorium.
The bank is also in the process of negotiating a settlement with officials from several states and the feds regarding its foreclosure practices.
Bank of America’s stock price has suffered under the weight of the lawsuits.
Bamboozled asked Bank of America to review Conca’s account.
After a few days, a spokeswoman said in an e-mail that Conca had been approved for a Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) trial modification and he was notified by the bank in writing.
“He continued making his regular payments during the trial payment period, which the bank posted and reported as partial payments under a trial payment plan rather than full payments on the account,” the statement said. “This resulted in a notice to accelerate foreclosure, a precursor to … foreclosure, being sent in error.”
The spokeswoman said the payments have now been properly credited to his account, the loan is not in foreclosure and Bank of America has submitted corrections to the credit bureaus.
Excellent. But exactly how did this happen? Even if Conca’s modification notification was lost in the mail, his payments were still made on time.
Shouldn’t they be linked to his mortgage — whether the bank credited them to the original mortgage or a modified trial payment plan?
We asked that question, but the bank didn’t have an answer beyond saying his regular mortgage payments were treated as trial payments because their system indicated he was in a trial plan, so the payments were placed into the partial payment account associated with his loan.
That still doesn’t explain anything. If the partial payment account was associated with his loan, why didn’t the bank didn’t notice he was still making full payments?
So we asked if Conca is now supposed to make modified payments.
“If Mr. Conca is interested in being reviewed for a modification, and can demonstrate a hardship, we can assign a home retention specialist to work with him,” the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
But wait: the July 19 letter already said he was approved for the modification.
Bank of America didn’t respond to requests for additional explanations.
Conca says he doesn’t have much faith.
“The process was a disgrace and it took a threat from the media to get them to move? It annoys me that they have no respect for the common man,” he said.
Conca said he’s still interested in a modification, and he wonders how long it will take the bank to tell him where the account stands.
“The least they can do is say now that they’ve screwed up, now that they caused me all this pain, they will modify my loan,” he said.
We’ll let you know what happens.