Four years ago, Stanley and Kelly Kinney’s lives were turned upside down when their family started receiving death threats from a man Kelly worked with. The costly legal battle that followed — combined with Stanley being laid off during the process — dealt a massive blow to the Kinneys’ finances.
The family’s home loan was sold to a servicer called Carrington Mortgage, who Kelly says was incredibly difficult to communicate with as she tried to avoid foreclosure on her Saugus home of eight years.
“We couldn’t get them to talk to us,” Kelly told KHTS last week, with a foreclosure date of July 17 looming over her. “They were telling us they had no records of our stuff; they had no payments, (but) they weren’t sending us payment notices… It was really just confusing.”
When all hope seemed lost, what Kelly called a “godsend” came into their lives: the help of a Santa Clarita realtor who provides free loan modification and foreclosure defense services to the public.
Rich Szerman of Alta Realty Group promptly got to work on submitting a loan modification request to Carrington Mortgage, and quickly realized this seemingly simple task would be nearly impossible.
While Szerman claims he’s been attempting to submit the Kinneys’ completed file since May 15, Carrington officials have allegedly put up obstacle after obstacle, ranging from losing paperwork to requiring a “special code” that no one seemed to know before any action could be taken.
“They have lied and cheated and done everything they possibly can to avoid doing this loan modification since the day we got the file,” Szerman said.
This cycle of what Szerman called “ridiculous” incompetency continued until the morning of the interview with KHTS on July 6, when he finally received the call his office had been waiting for.
Szerman says the Carrington official he spoke with confirmed the file was complete and that the foreclosure would be postponed while the loan modification request was considered. However, when Szerman followed up with the trustee — who conducts the foreclosure sale at the orders of the bank — he was told the foreclosure was still on their books.
“So we called the bank back to say, ‘Hey, it’s still on the calendar — you need to take this off,’” Szerman said. “And the bank’s response was, ‘Oh, did we say we were going to put it off? Oh we can’t, maybe, I don’t know — we’re missing this other piece of paper.’”
Similarly, in the days following the interview with KHTS, Szerman alleges he has been told multiple times the foreclosure is “on hold,” only to follow up with the trustee with the same results.
“When we check with the trustee, they tell us it is going forward,” he said. “Then we call Carrington back and they say, ‘We can’t guarantee it’s on hold or will not occur, but we think it should be put on hold.’ This is obviously not the same as ‘on hold.’ In short, Carrington has lied to us repeatedly and when caught, they back-pedal.”
At the time of the interview on Thursday, Szerman didn’t even know if the Kinneys would file for bankruptcy on Monday to save their house — which they were, in fact, forced to do –, let alone if they would have to shortsale it, or become the next victims of the foreclosure crisis.
“After two and a half months of working on a file on a daily basis, I should have answers to these questions, and it’s not for lack of trying,” he said. “These lenders just don’t care.”
For Kelly, who grew up as a “military brat” having to move almost constantly, being able to provide her son with a stable home has been her top priority, making the situation even more difficult on her as a parent.
“He’s grown up with the same kids in this neighborhood, he went to the same schools, he knows everyone,” she said. “It’s a huge, huge emotional hit to lose that.”
While Szerman is confident that sharing the Kinneys’ story will force Carrington officials to “listen,” he noted he doesn’t believe for a second the long list of mistakes allegedly made by the servicer’s employees are an accident.
“The more of these things that we bring to light, the more the banks suddenly behave themselves,” he said. “I promise you, Carrington, like all the other banks, will do exactly what the other ones have done. The minute they get media scrutiny, the minute that their malfeasance comes to light, they immediately run backwards and say, ‘Whoops, didn’t mean it — we didn’t do that — I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ As if we made all this stuff up.”
Szerman clarified he has carefully documented proof of every attempt at communication on behalf of the Kinney family, calling the behavior of servicers like Carrington Mortgage “immoral and outrageous.”
“It’s not like we’re not trying to pay for our house — we just need help getting back on the right track,” Kelly said. “(We’re) just trying to get someone to listen.”
Carrington Mortgage officials declined to comment for this story Monday due to confidentiality reasons.
To contact Richard Szerman of Alta Realty Group for free loan modification and foreclosure defense services, call 661-714-1400, email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.