Wells Fargo Va Refinance Rates – A masked passenger walks out of a Wells Fargo bank branch in New York on July 9. Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Troy Harlow made sure to make his monthly mortgage payments on time, even after filing for bankruptcy protection in late 2017 after a kidney transplant left him permanently disabled.

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“I had to find a place to live,” Harlow said in an interview. “I paid everything because I know it has to be paid.”

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On April 29, without Harlow’s consent, Wells Fargo took notice of his payment plan and told the bankruptcy court that he had asked the bank to suspend his loan payments because of the impact of COVID-19. . Harlow, 48, of Buchanan, Virginia, made no such request and continued to pay Wells Fargo the full amount owed, according to court documents.

The bank said it placed Harlow in the forbearance program, a temporary provision under the CARES Act aimed at helping borrowers who are guaranteeing financial difficulties related to the coronavirus. Under the program, borrowers who take out loans through government-sponsored institutions such as Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae can freeze payments for up to a year. Harlow’s mortgage originated from the Federal Housing Administration and was included in a pool of loans that Ginnie Mae sold to investors.

Forbearance programs do not reduce your mortgage balance, and under the CARES Act, no additional fees are charged during the forbearance period.

Harlow’s attorneys learned of Wells Fargo’s move in mid-May and immediately rushed him to bankruptcy court. The bank’s demand disrupted the settlement plan approved by the Harlow court.

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“I was surprised how this was happening behind me,” Harlow said. “I hope we can fix this because I don’t want to lose my house.”

Troy Harlow, a disabled former railroad worker from Buchanan, Va., said he always made sure to pay his mortgage on time. Courtesy of Troy Harlow

Harlow’s lawyers say he is not alone. They found more than a dozen lawsuits in Virginia, as well as lawsuits in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas, where Wells Fargo claimed to not give borrowers a break. Mortgage payments in patient plans. The lawyers found that the bank submitted a second forbearance request on behalf of the homeowners who were initially asked to participate in the program but did not want to.

In some cases, banks have withdrawn improper forbearance notices after borrowers’ attorneys alerted them to the errors. But Wells Fargo has pleaded not guilty, according to court documents.

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Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases can put borrowers at risk of foreclosure and represent fraud in bankruptcy court, said attorney Thad Bartholow of Kellett & Bartholomew, who has sued the banks on behalf of them. borrowers. Inaccurate files can damage consumers’ credit reports, which are trusted by some lenders and potential employers, and lead to unnecessary legal costs.

“During this unprecedented time, we are focused on ensuring that our customers who need help continue to benefit from the existing relief programs,” the statement said. “At the beginning of the outbreak, we provided emergency assistance to clients in bankruptcy if the analysis of the documents in court showed that they were affected by COVID-19 or had a loan review in the system. In these cases, We have informed them. Customers. or their lawyers have filed a statement in court. In such a situation we follow up with customers after we have brought some issues and in most cases those we contact need flexible payment, if the customer does not want Sorry, we have to remove it and go bankrupt. Court. Let’s know.”

None of the borrowers in the case contacted by NBC News told the bank that they were affected by COVID-19, so no one sought the bank’s help. When Wells Fargo said they wanted forbearance, they weren’t asking for a loan modification. In addition, neither the borrowers nor their attorneys said they were contacted by Wells Fargo.

When asked about the discrepancy, Wells Fargo said it apologized for the borrowers’ court case that cited COVID-19.

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Wells Fargo is the fourth largest bank in the country with $1.95 trillion. On Tuesday, the bank reported a second-quarter loss of $2.4 billion and cut its profit.

NBC News was unable to determine the exact amount of Wells Fargo’s actions; Until now, the issue has been for debtors whose payments are being handled by the bankruptcy courts.

Wells Fargo does not appear to be getting significant financial benefits from the benefits, mortgage lender experts said. But banks that administer loans in patient programs under the CARES Act receive premium fees for certain services.

A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo declined to say whether the bank benefited financially by filing unsolicited foreclosures.

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Implementing resilience plans without customer approval is reminiscent of some troubling practices at Wells Fargo in recent years.

In 2016, the bank was found to have opened millions of accounts that customers didn’t apply for, and a year later, it admitted that it was forcing car buyers to get car insurance they didn’t need.

Also in 2017, the bank was accused of making unauthorized changes to some loans, extending the term of the loan and increasing the amount of money that the owners of the houses owe to the bank. The case netted about $14 million, according to court records.

Compensation and regulatory actions followed, as senior Wells Fargo executives resigned. In 2018, in response to consumer abuse of the bank, the Federal Reserve Board limited Wells Fargo’s growth until it “improves its governance and controls.” The limit still exists.

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Earlier this year, Wells Fargo agreed to a $3 billion settlement with the U.S. government and deferred prosecution over the savings account scandal. The establishment of fake accounts was encouraged to ensure that the bank could sell a line of financial products to customers, the balance of investors was watching.

News from Wells Fargo that Chapter 13 borrowers have sought forbearance programs could have consequences for borrowers and others.

First, Wells Fargo’s claims raise costs for borrowers because their attorneys must work to fix the problem. In addition, the bank’s operations increase the workload of judges and Chapter 13 trustees who oversee consumer bankruptcy payment plans.

More importantly, such a move by Wells Fargo could disrupt consumer debt repayment plans, which are designed to give them a fresh start through court-approved repayments. Chapter 13 trustees monitor plans closely.

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In a Chapter 13 plan, the debtor makes a commitment to repay the debt that is approved by the court. When he or she doesn’t pay, the bank can start foreclosure.

When debtors are in Chapter 13 proceedings, forbearance arrangements can be complicated and difficult. Under the plans, lenders share a fixed amount that borrowers agree to pay each month, and if the mortgage is not repaid, the money can go to other borrowers. Because borrowers will later repay the mortgage, forbearance requests mean paying more than what borrowers agreed or could afford under their Chapter 13 plans.

In some Chapter 13 cases, court-appointed receivers collect settlement funds from debtors and give them to creditors. In some jurisdictions, borrowers pay their bills directly, as Harlow did.

Harlow attorney Melissa Lambert Giles of Giles & Lambert said, “13th grade borrowers are under enough stress — they want to know what they’re doing and know they have to be treated as the court orders.” Roanoke, Virginia. Wells Fargo’s actions were “a complete disregard for the court system and how the system is supposed to work.”

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Enrollment in the patient program also shows up on the consumer’s credit report. Reports can be especially harmful to borrowers if they are filed incorrectly.

“If the borrower is looking to refinance, the lender may say, ‘You’re in forbearance – I’m not going to get any more money,'” said civil rights lawyer Chi Chi Wu. The Consumer Law Center is a non-profit organization that provides advocacy for low-income families. “Or an employer can say, ‘You’re welcome, I don’t want to hire you’.”

Kimberly Fewell, 50, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a borrower who Wells Fargo claims incorrectly applied for a forbearance program. The credit report was affected, she said, because it incorrectly stated that she had not paid the mortgage.

On April 28, the bankruptcy court confirmed Fewell’s Chapter 13 plan. Two weeks later, Wells Fargo filed a notice with the court asking it to suspend mortgage payments due to the financial crisis of COVID-19. Fewell made no such request; She was considered an important worker, and her income continued throughout the crisis.

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