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.