Avoiding Foreclosure, One Phone Call at a Time

Last Updated Apr 14, 2011 4:18 PM EDT

A divorced mother of two, Dannielle Hernandez-Romero built her house in 2007 in a new development in Leander, Texas. Her mortgage loan was through Countrywide and everything seemed to be going fine. "I was making my payments, no hiccups," Hernandez-Romero says.

In February 2010, she received a notice from Bank of America saying Countrywide had incorrectly assessed her property taxes and her monthly mortgage would increase $500 per month starting March 1.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Hernandez-Romero says. “All my neighbors were going through the same thing since we all moved in at the same time and were assessed at the same time.” However, Hernandez-Romero has multiple sclerosis and cannot work. She lives off disability payments, and an additional $500 a month was simply not in her budget.

“I immediately called them and said I’m sorry, I’m on disability, it’s too much money,” she recalls. “What can I do to fix this? Can I get another loan? What are my options?”

Bank of America told her about the Making Home Affordable Program, or HAMP, and she entered the program on a trial basis, knocking her monthly payments down from $1,200 to $800. Hernandez-Romero made her adjusted loan payments every month, and every month she would call to ask about the status of her loan modification, but she never got an answer.

A Detailed Record

“I would call them every month on the same day,” Hernandez-Romero says. “I would get their name, what their ID number is, what department they were in, and record it all. Those numbers gave me leverage in the end.”

Returning from an out-of-town trip in late August, Hernandez-Romero arrived to find a certified letter from Fannie Mae notifying her that her property would be foreclosed on in September. She immediately called her lender, who told her she was still making her payments and still being approved for HAMP. The bank rushed her some more paperwork and told her not to worry.

On September 9, more paperwork arrived. It said the bank had foreclosed on her home.

“For a day or so I thought about just walking away,” Hernandez-Romero says, “but my neighbors encouraged me and said, ‘This isn’t your fault. Keep fighting.’ So I went home and started searching online about other people having problems with loan modifications, and that’s how I found Ilyce.”

Filing a Complaint

Following the suggestions in the posts, Hernandez-Romero filed complaints with the OCC and the Texas State Attorney General’s office. After filing her complaint she gave me her case number, and I passed it along to an internal contact at the OCC.

“Once they got my case number, I got a call the next day,” Hernandez-Romero says.

Today, Hernandez-Romero is optimistic. Bank of America is in the process of getting her loan back from Fannie Mae and redoing the loan documents. The bank is also revoking the foreclosure.

“We are focused on continued improvements in the modification and foreclosure process, including enhancing and introducing new programs to meet the evolving needs of our customers,” says Bank of America spokesman Dan Frahm.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, best-selling book author, and radio talk show host who also hosts "Expert Real Estate Tips," a Internet video show. She owns and operates several websites including ThinkGlink.com, ExpertRealEstateTips.net, LawProblems.com, and HouseTask.com, as well as Think Glink Publishing LLC, a privately held company that provides consulting services as well as editorial content and video for companies and non-profit organizations. An in-demand speaker, she appears frequently on CNN, CNBC, NPR, and in local media outlets across the country.