Servicer-Driven Foreclosures: The Perfect Crime?

Naked Capitalism has an article today about mortgage servicers and foreclosure. She notes that a significant number of homeowners facing foreclosure never missed a single payment. I know this will disappoint those that don’t want to hear about bank abuses, fraud or sloppiness and whose answer to every question is “deadbeat” borrower.

Yves Smith sites an example of how this plays out.

Let’s look at how this begins. A payment is credited as being late. It might actually legitimately be late, the borrower might have neglected to send it in on time. Or the bank might have been slow to process it. That might be simple queuing meets bad controls, or it might be deliberate. Servicers have been found to delay posting checks to incur late fees. Unless the borrower incurs the cost of sending mail via a service that provides proof of time of delivery, the bank can always claim the payment arrived late.
Let’s say the late fee is $75. It will be charged against the next month’s payment. But the borrower doesn’t know that he owes more that month. He gets a mortgage coupon and sends his regular payment in.
Now the servicer starts playing the sort of tricks practiced elsewhere in retail banking. Under the terms of the loan and Federal law, monthy payments are to be applied to principal and interest first, fees second. But the bank applies it to fees first. This makes his second month come up short. He gets charged a fee for insufficiency, and perhaps a late fee too.
Once the borrower has had two late fees, the servicer is often required by the pooling and servicing agreement to get a broker price opinion (BPO). This is a typically $250 exercise in form in which a broker drives by, takes a couple of pictures of the house, and offers a guesstimate of what it might be worth.
Many servicers double dip and also charge the BPO to the borrower as well. So the fees and arrerage charges and interest charges are compounding at a faster rate now.
It takes a remarkably short amount of time for pyramiding fees to add up to a few thousand dollars, unbeknownst to the borrower, until he gets a call from the servicer, or worse, a foreclosure notice.
This is where it gets even better. Even when the borrower hires an attorney, it is remarkably difficult to get the servicer to disgorge its records showing the borrower payment history and its fees and charges. I’ve also been told by attorneys that the reports are difficult to decipher and reconcile with the borrower’s records of payments that have cleared his account. So unless the attorney is tenacious, or has been down this path before, he may not realize that the borrower isn’t nuts when he says he was late only once, maybe twice at most, and doesn’t understand how they bank is now foreclosing.

Let’s look at how this begins. A payment is credited as being late. It might actually legitimately be late, the borrower might have neglected to send it in on time. Or the bank might have been slow to process it. That might be simple queuing meets bad controls, or it might be deliberate. Servicers have been found to delay posting checks to incur late fees. Unless the borrower incurs the cost of sending mail via a service that provides proof of time of delivery, the bank can always claim the payment arrived late.
Let’s say the late fee is $75. It will be charged against the next month’s payment. But the borrower doesn’t know that he owes more that month. He gets a mortgage coupon and sends his regular payment in.

Now the servicer starts playing the sort of tricks practiced elsewhere in retail banking. Under the terms of the loan and Federal law, monthy payments are to be applied to principal and interest first, fees second. But the bank applies it to fees first. This makes his second month come up short. He gets charged a fee for insufficiency, and perhaps a late fee too.
Once the borrower has had two late fees, the servicer is often required by the pooling and servicing agreement to get a broker price opinion (BPO). This is a typically $250 exercise in form in which a broker drives by, takes a couple of pictures of the house, and offers a guesstimate of what it might be worth.

Many servicers double dip and also charge the BPO to the borrower as well. So the fees and arrerage charges and interest charges are compounding at a faster rate now.

It takes a remarkably short amount of time for pyramiding fees to add up to a few thousand dollars, unbeknownst to the borrower, until he gets a call from the servicer, or worse, a foreclosure notice.

This is where it gets even better. Even when the borrower hires an attorney, it is remarkably difficult to get the servicer to disgorge its records showing the borrower payment history and its fees and charges. I’ve also been told by attorneys that the reports are difficult to decipher and reconcile with the borrower’s records of payments that have cleared his account. So unless the attorney is tenacious, or has been down this path before, he may not realize that the borrower isn’t nuts when he says he was late only once, maybe twice at most, and doesn’t understand how they bank is now foreclosing.

Max has seen the above example play out over and over and over which is why he started his bankruptcy boot camps five years ago. Through Max, there are now hundreds of bankruptcy and foreclosure attorneys who know how to find evidence of these games and use properly use it to protect their clients.

Read the full article from Naked Capitalism here.