PORTLAND -- Polly Brown has a lot of pride in her Portland home and it shows. Visitors are greeted by a perfectly manicured lawn with flowers everywhere. Not bad for a woman who uses a walker to get around.
So it comes as no surprise that Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, keeps good records of all her home financial transactions.
But she says dealing with Bank of America to get a modified mortgage has been all messed up.
I was hoping for a lower interest rate, Brown said. I've heard some of these programs will lower your principal and/or your interest rate, and they (Bank of America) didn't do either.
However, her monthly mortgage payment was lowered by a little less than a hundred dollars a month, she said. She felt she got the lower payment because of what she calls her perfect credit.
The mortgage modification came with a four-month trial period, during which Brown understood, If I paid in full, didn't miss a payment and was never late, the modification would be permanent.
But soon after those first four payments her statements from the bank began to change.
At first it was lowered by about three dollars, Brown said. So you can see for my trial period my payments are $1,685.00, June through September 2011, at the end of that it reduced to $1,683.22.
I've never been late. I've always paid the full amount on time. Whatever they asked me to pay I paid, she said. I've been paying according to that even though now I'm getting these foreclosure notices.
I panicked. I thought, 'This is bad.' Foreclosure, that's pretty scary. I don't want to lose my home. So I called Bank of America and I got the runaround, I got transferred, I got put on hold.
When she finally got someone from the foreclosure branch of Bank of America, Brown said she was shocked at what they told her.
They told me to ignore the notices, she said. I told them I wanted something in writing.
Instead, every month after paying the exact amount the bank statement showed, she got another foreclosure notice.
It talks about foreclosure, and it will be accelerated on April 20. And it's just more threatening with every letter, she said. I haven't done anything wrong. I've done everything according to what Bank of America asked of me. It's screwy, it's all messed up.
Oregon Associate Attorney General Keith Debauch agrees, not just about Brown's situation but also thousands of other situations in which folks tried to modify their mortgages, only to wind up with foreclosure notices.
You re absolutely right, Debauch said. This has been a mess and we're doing the best we can to bring clarity to the situation. We clearly have a mortgage mess.
It's not an isolated event, he said. I don't believe it's intentional. It s a mess, the banks haven't hired up as much as they need to manage all these mortgage modifications coming their way.
Debauch said a recent settlement Bank of America made with the attorneys general of Oregon and 48 other states showed that some fraudulent foreclosure procedures were intentional.
What led to the settlement we reached with the banks, the $25 billion settlement, was clearly false conduct, he said. What we found in Oregon and around the country were false affidavits being filed to support foreclosure. That's not accidental; that was intentional conduct and that's why we forced them to commit to doing $25 billion worth of good things for the people of this country.
Debauch says people facing foreclosure should keep rattling the cages.
Call us, contact the bank, keep pushing, because they can stay in their home notwithstanding the fact they may continue to get foreclosure notices.
The National Foreclosure Settlement also forces banks to sit down with their customers and go over mortgage modifications and/or foreclosure proceedings.
For the first time we now have a third-party independent monitor that works for the Attorney General--not the federal government--who is going to be looking at the bank's conduct, looking at the banks to make sure they comply with the settlement and making sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing.
A recent Oregon law, Senate Bill 1552, goes into effect in July and specifically outlaws what is called dual tracking. That is when banks send customers to one department to modify their loan while at the same time sending them to their foreclosure department to start foreclosure proceedings.
In our view and the view of the governor and the legislature, that's wrong, he said The reality is: The banks, including Bank of America, are already obligated to stop dual tracking.
Back at Brown's house another letter from Bank of America reads, Please disregard that mortgage modification as it contains inaccurate information.
Oh, it's such a mess, Brown said. They re telling me because of the modified agreement to pay this amount but if I pay this amount they keep sending me bills that say pay more and then they send me foreclosure notices, and then they tell me to ignore the foreclosure notices and they tell me to ignore the bills. That's crazy. The whole thing is just crazy.
The last foreclosure letter is what drove Brown to contact KGW Unit 8 Investigators. The letter read, Foreclosure proceedings may begin or continue.
May begin or continue what's that mean? Brown asked. I mean, have they begun are they continuing? What's going on? This is ridiculous!
Holding her head in both hands Brown cries, They don't even tell me if they've begun or continued or what. I mean this is just crazy. It's so frustrating.