The Thursday Blog: My Hero! Edition

In 2002 Patrick Rodgers bought a beautiful three-story Victorian home for $180,000. He got a deal on the house because it was close to some dodgy Philadelphia neighborhoods, but it didn’t seem to matter. He loved his home all the same.

Seven years later it was 2009 and Patrick sent to his mortgage provider (Well Fargo) for an itemized list of his mortgage costs. One thing that stuck out to him was the “forced-place home insurance,” which was a term of his mortgage. In order to satisfy the terms of the mortgage, the insurance must be sufficient to rebuild the house exactly as-is from the ground up in the even of a catastrophe. While it was certainly possible that his house was worth more in 2009 than it was in 2002, (even with the bottom falling out of the housing market) his mortgage total was for home and property, and there was no way that Patrick could figure rebuilding the house would rise to the cost of the one million dollar policy that Wells Fargo was charging him for.

So Patrick wrote to Wells Fargo asking if he could get switched to a more realistic insurance plan, and save some of the $2,400 a year he was getting charged for it. He wrote them four times over the course of the following year… and was soundly ignored. Eager for an answer, and paying on the inflated insurance policy every month, Patrick decided to hit the books and find out how to get a response out of Wells Fargo. He discovered something called the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA for short, which was a 1974 law forcing mortgage providers to respond to all written requests within twenty days or get slapped with some cash penalties. So Patrick went to the county courthouse and opened a RESPA case against Wells Fargo. His thinking was that someone would at least notice that they were being sued, and that he could then have someone to talk to and get his question about the insurance answered.

He thought wrong.

Wells Fargo did not even bother to send a representative to the trial, and Patrick won a $1,173 default judgement. Last January (almost another year later) the mortgage bank sent Patrick a pair of checks totaling $1,173… still without ever having answered his question concerning his insurance. Next Patrick went to the Philadelphia Sheriff’s office, where he learned that he could claim actual damages under RESPA and initiate a sale of the Philadelphia branch Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, effectively foreclosing on his bank for failing to answer his letter. The only “damages” Patrick has claimed are for the fifty dollar fee he had to pay in order to initiate the sale with the Sheriff’s office. His goal remains getting his insurance question answered.

In response to the sale, Wells Fargo spokeswoman spoke not to Patrick, but to the press. She said Wells Fargo considered the matter with Patrick concluded because they had payed him the $1,173. Wells Fargo didn’t even know why they had been sued. When someone asked her on Patrick’s behalf his question about the insurance, (the reporters knew why the bank had gotten sued) her response was that all mortgage holders were required to carry insurance. Well, duh.

As of right now, the sale of the branch location is pending an approval hearing, but the Sheriff’s office has indicated that this is largely a formality, and that they fully expect it to be waved through.

Patrick’s question remains unanswered.

33 Responses to The Thursday Blog: My Hero! Edition

    • Lena and I have had serious communication problems with our mortgage companies for a decade before the current problems. They just aren’t designed to do anything other than take in money. Anything else is a Big Fucking Problem.

  1. The identity of the company being foreclosed on does not surprise me one little tiny bit. Most banks are evil, but B of A and Wells Fargo are really in a category of 2 for sheer numbskull incompetence.

    • I haven’t heard of a mortgage bank that ISN’T poorly run on the customer end. If I find one I’ll certainly let you know.

  2. I see a business opportunity coming up… Or at least a way for Patrick to get his insurance without paying that much money 😈

    • Hmmm, suppose you offer to pay Wells Fargo customers to write to the bank with the same query on their behalf, on the basis that you recover your fee plus any costs for further action when they don’t respond. How many buildings do Wells Fargo own, and how many customers do they have?

  3. I hate bureaucracy and finance, they give me a headache, and I never even gotten into loans, mortgages, insurances etc yet. Maybe he he went all Fight Clubish on their asses and bombed their office buildings they’d notice him.

  4. So, let me get this straight.

    Because this company didn’t answer a letter, this guy is causing this branch of the company to close down

    • Alan, the guy is forced to pay a ridicilous ammount per month, he send 4 letters. One year later still no response, only wasted money.

      hell he seu’d them and they still didnt really respond. 😛

      I agree with the fore closure, atleast with this part of the tale.

    • Sort of, Alan. It might be more accurate to say that because the company wouldn’t answer his letters, he is going to lengths to catch their attention. Because they are CONTINUING not to answer his letters, the company is shutting their own branch down.

      • I do suspect that at this point they are just being un-fucking-belivable stubborn with a dash of bureacraZy pissed offedness added for good measure , though…

  5. I saw this guy give a live interview on the news. He’s a wierd vampire-looking dude, but clean-cut and obviously quite smart. I absolutely love it that he took the time to look up the actual laws and successfully navigated the beaurocratic red tape to make all this happen. This law may not apply to all situations in all states, but it at least shows that people CAN fight back when thier banks are being buttholes.

  6. Haha he actually read the fine print, awesome.

    But I have to wonder if he ever tried calling them?
    I have a mattress store credit card from WF National Bank and whenever I call them I find them quite pleasant and helpful. This is their credit service though and not their home insurance, so it is probably a completely different part of the company.

    • “Welcome to the Wells Fargo Customer Hotline. You will now be given a number of options. Please listen carefully to all the options before making your selection. Calls are charged at $2 per minute. Calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes. If you wish to make a payment online, please press 1. If you wish to make a payment in person, please press 2. If you wish to increase your scheduled payments, press 3. If you wish to donate money to our Christmas Party Fund, press 4. If you have any enquiry that does not involve giving us money, please put your enquiry in writing addressed to your local branch. Beeeeeeeeep.”

  7. The thing is that the mortgage company itself is under legal duty to maximize its pursuit of shareholder returns, and also other limits from property law and insurance company contract provisions. The people in that company are themselves drowning in red tape to the point that they probably can’t answer his queries because of contract obligations to their insurance partners.
    Remember: Most business inefficiency is caused by the perverse incentives of private industry itself and regulations are necessary to prevent this private sector waste. Deregulation is the goal of the asshole trying to get theirs at the expense of everyone else with very few exceptions.

  8. Since we’re only supposed to discuss serious stuff on Thursday Blogs, I’ll leave this comment here.
    I’ve finally grown tired enough of the bad mainstream press in my country to delete my Favorites link to the news site I frequented(and it’s not a matter of just changing to another, all the main ones are just as bad) and have gone without news for most of the week.
    However, while checking the satirical site of Latma(which you might recognize from several YouTube videos of them I’ve posted in the past) which basically revolves around news and how badly the media go about telling/lying/inventing them, I’ve come across an interesting story involving five members of a family, some guy and what I presume would have been a big, sharp steak knife. Anyway, a hilarious* link ahead *NSFW or weak stomachs/hearts/minds* . Because it’s time to see what’s really going on without doublespeak and codenames.

    I also just now heard about the big earthquake near Japan, news of the radiation leakage is quite alarming, to say the least, and it seems like we might have a tiny Chernobyl on our hands if it gets any worse.

    *I’m assuming it’s hilarious, why else would there be candy giveaways in the streets of Gaza?

  9. What saddens me about this article is the fact that my bank was recently Borged by WF. The good news is that I immediately switched over to IBM Credit Union and have been very happy with their customer service.