Siblings who inherited house face rude, uncooperative lenders

October 7, 2011

Q: I know that you are used to people having problems with loan modifications in which the banks lose stuff. We have that problem with two different banks on the house that my sister and I inherited, although we’re not having trouble making the payments.

The house has been put in our names, and we notified both the primary and home equity line of credit lender. Both banks sent paperwork to fill out, which we completed and sent back.

Then the primary lender stopped accepting electronic payments, and its collections department started calling. My sister, who is the executor of the estate, keeps getting bounced between the collections department and customer service. Both departments say they do not have the paperwork.

We tried to go higher up and find a manager we could talk to, but that hasn’t worked. The last time my sister called to ask about the account, she was chewed out for “not having the correct information” and hung up on. The lender is at least accepting payments, so she is concentrating on the primary lender first.

Any ideas on how to get this resolved? My sister is keeping notes of every phone call, although sometimes she cannot get the name of the person on the other end of the line.

A: First, the representative at the bank should not have been rude, nor should he or she have hung up on your sister. It’s appalling how badly customers have been treated by their lenders in the past five years. It’s as if every customer-service rule has been thrown out the window. All you’re trying to do is make a payment.

Let’s start with the inheritance issue. You and your sister inherited a home that had two mortgages on it. Both lenders are big megabanks that are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

These days, it’s hard enough trying to deal with lenders on any issue, but your first issue is to try to have these lenders recognize you as the new owners of the home and to have statements and other documents sent to you. The first question you need to answer is whether you were successful in having either bank recognize you as the new owners of the home.

When you inherit a property, most lenders agree to allow you to take over the loan or loans associated with that property. This is especially true if you are inheriting your parents’ property.

If you can’t get a customer-service representative to answer these questions for you, then you should call the national headquarters of the bank and talk to the senior vice president in charge of operations.

You also can file a complaint with the OCC’s consumer help Web site, HelpWithMyBank.gov. Your state’s department of banking and finance may also have an ombudsman who can help connect you to the right department at both banks.

Finally, you can always file a lawsuit in small claims court. Legal action always gets attention.

Good luck. Let us know what happens.

Ilyce R. Glink is an author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In!” Samuel J. Tamkin is a real estate lawyer in Chicago. If you have questions for them, write to Real Estate Matters Syndicate, P.O. Box 366, Glencoe, Ill. 60022, or contact them through ThinkGlink.com.

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