JPMorgan Chase told a California couple to quit making mortgage payments in order to qualify for a loan modification but then foreclosed on their Sacramento home, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Faiz and Khadija Jahani called Chase in December 2008 because they were having trouble making their mortgage payments. According to the suit, they were told that they wouldn't qualify for a modification without being delinquent and that they should stop making payments for three months.
At the beginning of June, the Jahanis claim that they were told they qualified for a modification that reduced their monthly payments. Three weeks later, they received a letter telling them the bank intended to foreclose. This confusing back-and-forth continued for months, with Chase repeatedly asking them to resend paperwork, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California/Sacramento Division, which was first reported by Courthouse News.
The couple is demanding damages of $150,000 for breach of contract, fraud, predatory lending and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
In October, a real-estate investor knocked on the Jahanis' door and asked them about buying the house, telling the couple that it was a bank-owned property. When the Jahanis called Chase to find out what was going on, they claim they were reassured that the bank had not foreclosed on the house.
"They kept getting conflicting information," said lawyer Piotr Reysner. He added that, as far as he can tell from public records, the bank did in fact foreclose on the property. "Unfortunately, they face a situation right now where they could easily get a three-day notice to quit the house."
Chase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reysner, a bankruptcy attorney, said he did not know whether the Jahanis had been pursuing their modification via the Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program, which started in spring 2009 and gives banks incentives to modify mortgages for hard-luck homeowners. Banks are not allowed to foreclose on borrowers eligible for the program, but they are allowed to move forward with the foreclosure process during a trial modification, a source of much confusion for borrowers everywhere.
"The fact that a servicer is telling a homeowner that they're taking care of the matter and, while they're negotiating, the house moves into foreclosure is a completely common scenario in today's foreclosure world," said Ira Rheingold, director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
In March, HuffPost reported on Indiana law student Melissa Stuart, who had been making monthly payments under HAMP, only to be told when the trial period ended that she was delinquent. Stuart ultimately won a permanent modification.
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UPDATE 6:05 PM: Several readers and commenters have written to say they're having the same kind of problem. And Melissa Huelsman, a Seattle attorney whose practice focuses on predatory lending and wrongful foreclosure, wrote HuffPost to say clients of hers went through the same process as the Jahanis and were ultimately evicted. She wrote:
I'm just getting ready to file suit against Chase for this same thing, except my clients were actually making their trial loan mod payments up until the month before Chase foreclosed. They went to make the December payment but got a knock on the door from a realtor before they could do so. They spent a couple of weeks trying to get someone at Chase to fix the problem, except that Chase kept telling them that the property had not been foreclosed. Turns out Chase was wrong and the house was sold to a third party. They were just evicted a couple weeks ago and we're getting ready to file.