A refinance was opened at the end of November 2011. Upon receipt of the title report, the assistant escrow officer asked the mortgage broker to provide payoff information for the three loans reflected on the report. The broker skirted the question and demanded a fee quote. The assistant provided the fees and then shortly thereafter was informed the loan was on hold.
In January 2012, the mortgage broker requested an estimated settlement statement for this loan. Sarah Haberthur, the assistant escrow officer handling the file for Fidelity's Santa Rosa, Calif. office, again requested the payoff information for the three loans reflected on the title report, one of which was an old equity line of credit from 2003. The broker provided the payoff information, lender and loan number for two of the loans, both of which were with Chase Home Finance.
Sarah ordered the payoff demands, however, she still had no payoff information for the old equity line of credit from 2003 which was in first lien position. Sarah consulted with her escrow officer, "BJ" Woods, and they both thought it should have been paid off in 2005 when Chase Home Finance issued the new first and second loans. Since the lien was still showing, however, it was evident no release had been recorded. The lien had to be released prior to closing this new refinance.
Sarah asked the broker a third time for the payoff information on the old equity line of credit and her response was, "This old loan is a 'BOGUS' loan against the property and there is no balance due. It is old and has been paid off." Sarah replied it could very well be old and paid off, but she still needed to obtain a release to remove the lien from the property. The broker responded that the borrower is, "…an attorney and he used to be a mortgage broker so he would not have let this happen to his property; it has to be a BOGUS loan!"
The broker suggested Sarah find the title company's settlement statement that showed it was paid in full and no longer existed. Sarah responded that it might have been paid in full, but that did not mean it was closed, frozen or released from this property. Sarah asked the broker to have the borrower contact Chase Home Finance for a release, since they were also the lender on the equity line of credit from 2003.
The broker called back to let Sarah know the borrower was calling Chase, but was not having much luck getting through. He would call her later that day after he was done in court to let her know what he found. Sarah received no call from the borrower that day or even that week.
A week later Sarah received the loan documents and, of course, a RUSH SIGNING was needed. She asked the broker what the outcome was from the borrower's call to Chase regarding a release of the lien. The broker said, Chase told him the loan was so old (2003) they could not find it in the system any longer and it does not exist! And…it was BOGUS!"
Frustrated beyond belief, Sarah called Chase Home Finance herself and explained the situation to their customer service representative. She indicated that their mutual customer currently had two loans with them – a first and second. She shared that the second was open since 2005 and had a balance of $52,000, but there was also another equity line that recorded in 2003 for $150,000 which should have been paid off and closed, but was never released.
When she pleaded with them to help her obtain the release, the customer service representative gave her the same answer a settlement agent always receives: "Sure, but we need the authorization from the client to speak to you, can you fax it? Within 24 hours it will be processed and we can discuss the account details."
Sarah knew the timing of the new refinance would not allow for another 24 hour waiting period, so she asked if she could get the borrower on the phone in a conference call with the customer service representative. The representative from Chase agreed.
Since he was a "very busy" attorney Sarah was not sure the borrower would be in the office. She called and let the receptionist know who she was and where she was calling from. The borrower picked up the phone and said, "Sarah, I have a client in front of me and I am very busy. I have had no luck with Chase. The account was paid off and there is not much more that can be done on my part."
Sarah asked him if he would be willing to do a conference call with Chase to authorize her to speak to them and he agreed, but indicated it must be fast. The Chase customer service representative got the information they needed from the borrower and he hurried off the phone.
The Chase representative then let Sarah know they were able to answer any and all questions she had on his accounts. She asked if the 2003 equity line of credit was closed. The customer service representative told Sarah the loan WAS an open line of credit, it DID have a balance and the borrower had JUST made a payment on January 17, 2012. What a lying sack! Sarah was flabbergasted! She had a feeling that was the case, but to have it confirmed was a shock.
Not only did the purportedly closed, paid off and bogus loan have a balance – but it was $150,210.00! The new refinance loan was dead as there was not enough equity to support a loan increase of more than $150,000 needed to pay the line of credit.
The borrower said the account was paid off in 2005 but the bank must not have completely closed the account as he was able to draw the available $150,000. Sarah called to notify the borrower of her discovery, who did not even seem upset or try to argue. She proceeded to tell her title officer all the details so they could document the plant records in case the loan was re–opened with another escrow office within the Fidelity Family of Companies.
For Sarah's diligence, and ultimate discovery of the unpaid balance on the equity line of credit, she has been rewarded $1,000 by the Company.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Double and triple check that equity lines are closed and released! This could have been an expensive mistake.