CHARLOTTE, N.C -- CHARLOTTE, N.C. - More frustrated homeowners turned to federal court this week for help with their mortgages, saying Bank of America and Wells Fargo failed to provide promised payment modifications.
The two cases, filed Tuesday in Massachusetts, seek class-action status.
Three specific families are identified, one with a loan serviced by Bank of America and two by Wells Fargo - the nation's two largest mortgage servicers. They were granted trial modifications, according to court documents, but haven't received long-term modifications despite having submitted all required documents and made timely payments for more than three months.
The claims are simple, the two filings say: "When a large financial institution promises to modify an eligible loan to prevent foreclosure, homeowners who live up to their end of the bargain expect that promise to be kept."
The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is the main federal plan for reducing mortgage payments, part of a $75 billion plan to stem the national foreclosure crisis. The program calls for a three-month trial period, intended to give time for the homeowner to demonstrate an ability to keep up with the lower payments. However, there are growing reports of homeowners in trial plans ultimately being rejected for modifications despite making their trial payments or even being foreclosed on during the process.
The modification process has generated so many complaints that regulators and lawmakers are pressuring lenders to improve.
The Massachusetts cases, which are not open to borrowers in other states, say homeowners are "living in limbo" and spending scarce resources on payments that might ultimately not save their homes.
"Some are in fact continuing to receive foreclosure notices," said Stuart Rossman, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, which brought the lawsuit, along with a law firm and another advocacy group.
Bank of America said it couldn't comment on the lawsuit because it hadn't yet been served. The Charlotte bank has said its "extraordinary measures" include sending workers to borrowers' homes, to help them fulfill requirements for long-term modifications.
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the company "will respond to the lawsuit once we have a chance to review it."
The San Francisco bank, which bought Wachovia late in 2008, has been "diligently working to convert - from trial to completed modifications - customers who meet the HAMP guidelines," Debora Blume said in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, not all customers who enter a HAMP trial do ultimately qualify for the program. In these instances, we work to determine if another foreclosure prevention option is available to them."
Earlier this month, 10 Ohio homeowners filed a civil case in federal court against Bank of America, also saying the bank broke promises to modify their payments.
The circumstances differ, in that the Ohio homeowners say they were promised modifications during a federally sponsored event last year. As of the filing date, they hadn't received documents or had their payments reduced, meaning they are not as far along in the process as the Massachusetts