Analysis: Mortgage-Related CFPB Complaints In 2019

Bait and switch. Pleas for help with foreclosure. Accusations of a stolen mailbox.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau receives more than 1 million complaints from banking consumers across the country each year – including issues surrounding credit cards, debt collection, everyday banking transactions and mortgages. 

The Mortgage Note conducted an analysis of the 22,708 mortgage-related complaints filed with the CFPB in 2019. The review found that a vast majority of the complaints are closed with an explanation from the mortgage lender, more than half are centered on payment issues, and very few result in any sort financial restitution.

The analysis found that Wells Fargo led the way with 2,065 mortgage-related complaints filed by consumers against the bank. The San Francisco-based bank was followed by JPMorgan Chase (940), Bank of America (890), Flagstar (352), PNC Bank (345) and Quicken Loans (313).

Many Complaints

The complaints – which account for 8 percent of all filed with the CFPB – were down by about 1,800 from 2018. They range from pleas to prevent banks from foreclosing on homes to legal advice to general customer service issues. The searchable database includes verbatim language from many of the complaints, providing a snapshot into the many issues the agency and mortgage lenders must sort through.

“Bait and switch tactic being used at Wells Fargo Bank. Offering a product then steering you to a more costly product,” one complaint from a New York borrower simply read.

The most common complaints received by the agency were:

  • Trouble during payment process: 11,342
  • Struggling to pay mortgage: 6,601
  • Applying for a mortgage or refinancing: 2,252
  • Closing on a mortgage: 1,713
  • Incorrect information on credit report: 419
  • Applying for a mortgage: 170
  • Problem with a credit reporting company’s investigation: 156

One complainant from Illinois alleged the lender “continues taking efforts to defraud my mortgage escrow account. I received a letter … that my homeowners insurance lapsed, that the bank was purchasing insurance on my mortgage, applying the premium back to the time of lapse. The bank then charged my escrow account nearly $2800.00 for an insurance period. …

“The bank refused to pay my insurance as presented from escrow but instead billed its own for nearly 7 times the original cost presented. This institution continues trying to steal funds from my account in such nefarious ways.”

This complaint was resolved with financial relief to the customer – an outcome that was relatively rare last year. Of the 22,708 complaints in 2019, the CFPB categorized the outcomes as:

  • 21,167 were closed with explanation from the lender.
  • 732 were closed with monetary relief.
  • 725 were closed with non-monetary relief.
  • 83 there was an untimely response.
  • One remained in progress.

Stolen Mailbox?

A Florida borrower complained, “Bank of America’s employees damaged my home, stole my mailbox, personal items, and added charges to my mortgage that for work never performed thus inflating my mortgage balance to an amount that is not correct.”

The case was closed after an explanation from Bank of America, which also reached out to the borrower.

This was far from the only Floridian to reach out to the CFPB. The Sunshine State trailed only California in the number of complaints:

  • California 3,236
  • Florida 2,070
  • Texas 1,493
  • New York 1,315
  • Georgia 1,057

One of those Georgia residents was just looking for some legal advice.

“I was forced into a short sale in 2015 … and would like for someone to look thru my paperwork to see if there was anything fraudulent done or signed,” the individual said in a complaint that was ultimately closed after an explanation from the lender.

In each of the complaints, the CFPB notes how the lenders responded to the complaints:

  • Company has responded to the consumer and CFPB and chooses not to provide a public response: 8,211
  • Company believes it acted appropriately as authorized by contract or law: 2,951
  • Company believes complaint is the result of an isolated error: 389
  • Company believes the complaint is the result of a misunderstanding: 275
  • Company believes complaint represents an opportunity for improvement to better serve consumers: 267
  • Company disputes the facts presented in the complaint: 77
  • Company believes complaint caused principally by actions of third party outside the control or direction of the company: 61
  • Company can’t verify or dispute the facts in the complaint: 14
  • Company believes complaint relates to a discontinued policy or procedure: 2

Finally, one Oregon borrower reached out to say they just didn’t like that their mortgage had been purchased by Wells Fargo.

“I have a mortgage in good standing with Wells Fargo. The problem is that I did not choose Wells Fargo as my servicer, and I am morally opposed to giving them business based on their immoral business practices, which have only recently become widely reported on. Ideally, I want my loan to be serviced by a local credit union or bank, keeping my money in my local community rather than giving it to a multinational corporation. I called around but the only option appears to be a refinance, which I am not looking for. Do consumers really not have any say at all about where their mortgage money goes to? It seems terrible that I would be forced to help boost the financial profile of a corporation that I have strong moral objections to.”

CFPB notes the issue was “closed with explanation” from the bank.