Bank of America Wants This Family Homeless -- You Wouldn't Believe the Dirty Tricks They've Used
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Warning: While completely horrifying, the story of how the Mata family had its lives turned upside down is not harrowing just because of what happened to them — but also for how it represents the quiet story of so many other Americans, as well.
Gisele Mata, her husband and three children have lived in the same home in Whittier, Calif., for 10 years. They fell victim to the Great Recession in late 2009, when she and her husband were both laid off within six months of one another; Gisele had been at her retail job for 23 years before the dismissal. Determined to stay current on their home loan, both she and her husband cashed in their 401K plans.
What follows is a story of how seemingly illegal, but very common, bank machinations affect ordinary homeowners — who, after bad luck or an accident of timing, turn to their bank for help, only to get caught up in a nightmare. There’s a tremendous amount of shame put upon homeowners, who are unaware of the institutional forces working against them, and who think they somehow deserve this treatment. And there’s a risk that others will fall prey to the same scheme.
Within a year or so of floating between temporary jobs and a home-based business, none of which earned the same wages as before the layoffs, the money had run out for the Matas. They could no longer afford the mortgage payment. So Gisele contacted Bank of America in January of 2012, seeking a loan modification.
Eighteen months later, she has applied and reapplied six different times for modifications, without success. And many of the tactics she has had to deal with match perfectly with what bombshell Bank of America whistle-blowers have revealed was standard practice inside the loan modification unit. “They claimed I didn’t send in paperwork after I did, then they claimed I didn’t send in the right paperwork, and then they claimed I had a tax lien on the house which didn’t exist,” said Mata, 43.
I’ve heard lots and lots of these stories over the years, but making up a tax lien out of whole cloth is actually a delaying tactic I’d never heard before. Mata had to go through the city of Whittier to prove to Bank of America that the claimed tax lien was imaginary.
Part of the problem for Mata was that changes in her family’s income situation would habitually kick them back to the beginning of the loan modification process. Her husband found permanent work inspecting aircraft equipment (making an entry-level wage of $12 an hour) and over time received a couple of raises and promotions, and each time, Gisele had to inform the bank of the change in income, which would prompt Bank of America to restart her application, delaying the final decision even further. This also happened when one of her daughters entered the workforce as a massage therapist. “And we’d have to send in new forms, new financial documents, the whole thing,” Gisele told Salon. The Mata family still couldn’t secure a modification, despite three incomes.
Every time Gisele would reapply for a loan, she would get a new single point of contact (SPOC). She would receive letters from different people inside the bank with contradictory information, some from an old SPOC saying she was denied a modification (without explanation), others from a new SPOC saying that her paperwork was in the underwriting process. This matches what Bank of America whistle-blowers have stated, that customer service representatives would facilitate delay by claiming that applications were “under review,” when they weren’t.