As the economic impact of the coronavirus fully took hold in April, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was deluged with calls from Americans looking for help as they struggled to pay their mortgages and other bills.
In April, the bureau fielded 31,422 complaints about financial institutions – up from 29,538 in March and 22,915 in April 2019. Of those calls, 1,938 were concerning mortgage related-issues – the vast majority relating to struggles with paying their loans.
A huge chunk of the complaints – 75 percent – were resolved with an explanation from the lender. A substantial portion of these complaints come from borrowers seeking forbearance, only to learn that their loans were not eligible.
The $2 trillion CARES Act includes a moratorium on foreclosures and the right to forbearance on federally backed mortgages. Forbearance allows borrowers to put off payments for at least 180 days if they suffer economic hardship during the pandemic.
But not all loans are backed by the federal government and therefore were not automatically eligible for forbearance, something people learned about their mortgages throughout the month of April.
“I have been paying my mortgage on time until 2 months ago,” a borrower from Florida wrote. “I called Homebridge Financial and asked what I could do. I even offered to pay partial payments or just my mortgage amount minus the PMI and was told it was all or nothing. Which I could not do. I was told I did not qualify for a modification.
“Now I lost my job due to Covid19 and am waiting to be tested for the virus. I called again to ask what I could do and was told there was nothing they could do and they would send me a packet to fill out which I should receive in 12 days. … I am not a bad person just having some financial problems. I would like them to work with me not treat me terrible. Please help.”
The complaint was resolved with explanation from the company, though Homebridge advised the CFPB that it “believes complaint represents an opportunity for improvement to better serve consumers.” Homebridge was the subject of just three complaints in April – and provided a public response in each case.
Here are the top 10 lenders by number of complaints in the month:
- Shellpoint Partners: 159
- Chase: 90
- Ocwen Financial Corporation: 134
- Wells Fargo: 115
- Nationstar: 106
- Freedom Mortgage: 94
- JPMorgan Chase: 90
- Bank of America: 85
- LoanCare: 82
- Select Portfolio Servicing: 81
“Due to the recent COVID19 impacts I reached out to Shellpoint/NewRez for assistance with my mortgage and was advised I was only able to be given a forbearance plan which would not help in my current situation,” wrote a Texas borrower. “I asked for a deferment, which would move the payments to the end of the loan and allow me to maintain the payments. I asked to speak to a Supervisor on the call and the agent refused to let me speak to a Supervisor. In our current environment this company has not provided the appropriate options to help consumers during this time.”
The issue was closed with an explanation from Shellpoint, which responded to the bureau that it believes it “acted appropriately as authorized by contract or law.”
Like others, a Florida borrower took issue with their lender’s customer service during the pandemic.
“The only way to get help with mortgage issues is by calling … but the problem is that my domestic partner and me have been on hold for up to 3 hours in several occasions and we have never been able to reach a representative,” according to the complaint. “We turned to the community and all other clients of Truist are experiencing the same problem, some holding for up to 5 hours in a call without ever getting an answer. …
“Since calls don’t get answered, I went to a branch risking being on the street, emailed their `customer support’ address and even wrote to them on social media. I have never received an answer. Please help investigate what is going on with Truist.”
The CFPB reports that the issue was resolved with non-monetary relief.
Here are the top five states, by number of complaints:
- California: 325
- Florida 214
- Texas: 124
- New Jersey: 91
- Georgia: 91
Like others in the report, a California borrower pleaded with the bureau to help – though it does not appear they were eligible for assistance under the CARES Act.
“I requested a forebearance on my mortgage due to my roommate losing her job due to covid19, but they only offered me one option – pay three months of deferred payments in a balloon payment,” according to the complaint. “My roommate … normally pays rent which allows me to cover the mortgage, but since the mandatory closures – no rent. I cannot pay a balloon payment and wish to have the missed payments attached to the end of the loan. I thought that is what the law says. Please help!”You can see all of the April mortgage related complaints to the CFPB here.