Got a beef with your mortgage company or loan servicer? Lots of people do, and thousands of them have been turning to a federal complaint hotline for action – or at least a quick response from the lender.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened up its bulging online complaint hotline files to public view last week, and the contents are startling: Though the CFPB’s complaint window is open to various financial disputes – credit cards, student loans, credit reporting agencies, bank loans to consumers – by far the biggest source of complaints is home mortgages. Nearly half of all disputes reported to the agency by consumers are mortgage related – problems with payments, escrow accounts, servicing, FHA and conventional loans, home-equity lines, second mortgages, reverse mortgages, loan-modification delays, application foul-ups and the like.
The new database – accessible at www.consumerfinance.gov and updated daily with fresh cases – doesn’t provide the gory details of specific alleged misdeeds. Nor does it identify the consumers filing complaints other than by ZIP code and the general nature of their dispute. But it does identify the banks or mortgage lenders that are the targets of the complaints and whether they responded to the agency to try to resolve the matter.
In the vast majority of cases, lenders have responded within 15 days – often apparently to the satisfaction of their customers. When the CFPB receives a complaint, it verifies that the consumer is indeed a customer of the bank or mortgage company, but does not attempt to determine whether the allegations by the consumer have merit. It contacts the lender, provides a secure portal for a reply, then informs the consumer about the lender’s response using a separate secure portal.
When the case is posted to the online database, it’s catalogued as either in progress, closed, closed with an explanation, closed with monetary relief to the consumer, closed with nonmonetary relief or closed with dispute comments added to the file by the consumer indicating unhappiness with the lender’s response.
Does the hotline system really work? Bob Ogle of Tucson, whose case number and ZIP code are posted in the database, describes himself as a big fan. He filed a complaint about a mortgage-servicing company in Texas Feb. 8 protesting a pending foreclosure action against his mother. Not only was the CFPB’s response swift – the agency contacted the loan servicer immediately and obtained a response. The foreclosure was canceled and the entire dispute resolved.