“When it’s a former Congressman endorsing it, it makes it sound like a good idea.” -consumer discussing reverse mortgage advertisements and celebrity spokespeople.
Earlier today, the CFPB released a study that examined advertisements for reverse mortgages.
Among the advertisements we collected, on their face, many contained confusing, incomplete, and inaccurate statements regarding borrower requirements, government insurance, and borrower risks. Furthermore, after viewing ads in our focus groups, many consumers were confused or had misconceptions about important features and terms of reverse mortgage loans. For example, some consumers struggled to understand that reverse mortgages are loans that must be repaid with interest. Consumers also often misinterpreted the role of the federal government in the reverse mortgage market as providing consumer protections that are not actually offered.
If you’re a regular follower of CRC, you know that we’re opposing the CIT Group and OneWest merger, and one of the issues that has come to light is the reverse mortgage servicing subsidiary of OneWest bank, innocuously named “Financial Freedom.”
At a Federal Reserve hearing held in February 2015 in Los Angeles, dozens of people and organizations testified against the merger. A number of the people who either spoke or submitted testimony cited their incredibly difficult times trying to work with Financial Freedom, especially after the death of a loved one.
The issue of surviving spouses facing foreclosure due to a reverse mortgage that was originated solely with their deceased spouse has come to light thanks to a class action lawsuit by AARP against HUD for turning a blind eye to reverse mortgage brokers and companies originating these loans to only one spouse, with the implicit suggest that the often younger, often female spouse, wouldn’t face foreclosure and/or could be added to the loan later. Now, these widowed homeowners are facing foreclosure.
HUD released a policy in January 2015 to address this issue, but most experts predicted it would be useless for the very people it was supposed to help. In April, HUD rescinded the policy, but what about the homeowners who are potentially facing foreclosure?
Take a look at the testimony by Karen Hunziker, who is a surviving spouse, facing foreclosure. Does this sound like a helpful loan servicing department, especially if you’re a grieving spouse?
Additionally OWB has failed to provide a Single Point of Contact. This creates a communication maze impossible to navigate for the consumer to get customer support or guidance.
One day, I called 5 times to verify I received the 90 day extension OWB promised in writing. I spoke to 5 different people all with a different story. In part, I was told:
• OWB didn’t receive the documents faxed multiple times,
• The documents needed to be reviewed by their legal department,
• I had to call back in 5 days
• I used up all my extensions.
• I didn’t get the documents in on time,
• The last person told me my property was scheduled for auction in 30 days.
At all times OWB refused to put any phone conversation in writing.
For more background on this issue, read these two articles.
If you’re an attorney working with a surviving spouse facing foreclosure due to a reverse mortgage, or if you’re a surviving spouse facing foreclosure, please contact CRC if you’d like to join in advocacy on this issue. We are NOT able to represent you as an attorney, but we would like to have you join in our advocacy to bring greater attention to this problem and how it is affecting widowed homeowners.