Mortgage modification mess

Seven On Your Side
April 8, 2009 3:03:47 PM PDT
It's the hottest word in the mortgage business: modification. It's a way overburdened homeowners can get their monthly mortgage rates reduced and their payments paired down. But consumers should beware. New Jersey's Attorney General alleges one south Jersey company deceived scores of homeowners, took thousands and did nothing. Jim Gentile tells 7 On Your Side's Tappy Phillips, he's on the brink of foreclosure, "Now I'm fighting to hold onto my house. This house I grew up in. It was my first house."

And he says a south Jersey company, Hope Now Modifications, is partly to blame for his predicament.

Back in January, the Lake Ronkonkoma homeowner paid $3000 to Hope Now Modifications and a south Jersey law firm to get his mortgage modified. Jim says they told him, "We can get you a fixed rate for 5 years.(And reduce it) down to 5.25% (interest rate) which is great, cuts my mortgage in half."

But Jim says all Hope Now Modifications did was tell him to stop paying his mortgage. He fell three months behind on his payments. Jim says his current mortgage company said it had never even heard of Hope Now Modifications.

Jim says Hope Now Modifications led him to believe they were a non-profit agency.

When the New Jersey Attorney General heard from others with similar problems, she sued Hope Now Modifications saying they took money from clients and then "failed to take any action." And that their "deceptive practices" misled customers into thinking they were a non-profit organization with a similar name.

"They misrepresented themselves," said Anne Milgram, New Jersey's Attorney General. "By making it seem like they were aligned with Hope Now Alliance which is a federal program."

7 On Your Side went down to Hope Now Modification's Cherry Hill, New Jersey office. But found it shuttered with a sign on the door, saying it was still open and vowing to finish their clients modifications.

By phone a company rep conceded they did have "issues" with their salesmen tactics but that the company had successfully completed more than a hundred modifications.

But after our calls went out asking for a refund?

A full refund was received by Jim. A check finally arrived for three thousand dollars made this cash strapped homeowner very grateful, "Thank you, thank you for your help."

New Jersey law says "only non-profit companies can be debt adjusters" in that state. And the Federal Trade Commission said it's getting restraining orders against Hope Now Modifications and other allegedly deceptive companies.

--- Free information on non-profit mortgage modifications: CLICK HERE
STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Tappy Phillips