(Source: By Cary Aspinwall, Tulsa World, Okla. (MCT)- – GROVE – Kimberly Toomey built her home in a quiet neighborhood seven years ago, planted an apple tree in the yard and paid her mortgage on time.
When she and her husband, Toney, ran into a series of financial hardships that caused them to fall one month behind on their Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgage last year, they applied for modification through their servicing company, JPMorgan Chase.
They were approved for a lower monthly payment through the federal Home-Affordable Modification Program and made their first of three trial-period payments on time.
A few weeks later, the family started getting calls that said they had missed their payment. They began frantically trying to figure out what happened, Toomey said. They learned that Chase had applied their first payment to the wrong account, canceled their HAMP agreement and begun the foreclosure process on their home.
The error by the bank snowballed into months of never-ending phone calls, yellow foreclosure notices stuck to their front door and no resolution in sight, Toomey said.
This week, the Tulsa World asked Chase officials to explain what happened to the Toomeys’ April payment and HAMP modification agreement. On Friday, Chase notified the World that foreclosure proceedings were canceled.
“We are committed to helping home-owners avoid foreclosure whenever possible,” Chase spokesman Greg Hassell said. “In this instance, a payment was applied in error. We have reinstated their trial modification and apologize to the family.”
The Home-Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), launched in 2009, allows qualifying homeowners to modify their FHA-insured mortgages so they can reduce their monthly payments and avoid foreclosure. There are short “trial modification” periods before the modification eventually becomes final.
“It’s such a relief,” Kimberly Toomey said. “Whatever happens, we’ve done everything we can to make it right.”
Toomey said her troubles with Chase have “opened her eyes” to some home-owners’ claims that banks are unwilling to work with them when it comes to mortgage modification.
“I used to think (people) were just trying to get something for nothing,” she said. “But often, they’re being lied to and told the wrong thing. If they would have just done what they said they would with those first three payments, we never would have been in this mess.”
Last year, the Treasury Department criticized four lenders – JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Ocwen Loan Servicing – for not doing enough to work with homeowners on modifications and avoid foreclosures.
The Toomeys said they tried to work with Chase from the beginning of their financial hardships, but often received conflicting information.
They were told repeatedly that they wouldn’t qualify for HAMP assistance until they were more than 90 days past due, which FHA representatives later told them was incorrect, Toomey said.
Chase officials declined to comment on the specifics of the Toomeys’ mortgage or HAMP modification.
Customer service agents “have been much more responsive” since the World began making inquiries on the Toomeys’ behalf, she said.
“I have some peace now,” she said.
Home-Affordable Modification Program
For those with FHA-insured mortgages, the Home-Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) allows qualifying homeowners to modify their mortgages in hopes of avoiding foreclosure.
Earlier this year, federal officials decided to extend the HAMP program until 2013.
Throughout the $29 billion mortgage modification program’s history, homeowners have complained that banks repeatedly lost documents and paperwork they’d filled out, and failed to return phone calls. Banks have said many home-owners failed to submit the correct paperwork.
More than 1.7 million troubled homeowners received trial modifications over the past two years.
Less than half of those who applied, or more than 900,000, have had their mortgage permanently lowered.
You may be eligible for HAMP if you meet all of the following criteria:
You occupy the house as your primary residence.
You obtained your mortgage on or before Jan. 1, 2009.
You have a mortgage payment that is more than 31 percent of your monthly gross (pre-tax) income.
You owe up to $729,750 on your home.
You have a financial hardship and are either delinquent or in danger of falling behind.
You have sufficient, documented income to support the modified payment.
You must not have been convicted within the last 10 years of felony larceny, theft, fraud or forgery, money laundering or tax evasion, in connection with a mortgage or real estate transaction.
*Eligibility criteria are for guidance only. Contact your mortgage company to see if you may be eligible for HAMP.
Source: U.S. departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development
Apply early for Oklahoma’s restitution fund
Oklahomans applying for the relief through the state’s mortgage foreclosure restitution fund should start as soon as possible, the Attorney General’s Office said.
The deadline to apply is Sept. 13.
It may take time to put together the documentation required to apply, spokeswoman Diane Clay said.
After opting Oklahoma out of a national settlement, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt helped negotiate an $18.6 million agreement in February for compensatory damages for Oklahoma homeowners who were victims of “unfair and deceptive practices” by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and GMAC during the mortgage and foreclosure crisis.
Oklahomans who think they were subjected to unfair and unlawful practices during the foreclosure process can apply for compensation at or by calling 405-521-2029.
The state is developing an index to determine how much Oklahoma residents can be compensated for damages through the program if they’ve been harmed by unfair lending practices.
Only Oklahoma residents are eligible, and the home in question must be the primary residence.
For information on the refinancing and mortgage reduction options provided by the federal settlement, Oklahomans whose mortgages are with the banks involved in the settlement should call the following toll-free numbers:
Bank of America: 877-488-7814
JPMorgan Chase: 866-372-6901
Wells Fargo: 800-288-3212
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
©2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)
Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at www.tulsaworld.com
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