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Join Date: 11-07-05
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Homeowner forclosed on Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo is meeting today at noon with the Philadelphia homeowner who
"foreclosed" on them, The Consumerist has exclusively learned. Patrick says
he "received a call from upon high" late yesterday and that he now has an
appointment, "with a very senior Wells Fargo person." It will be interesting
to see how this plays out. But how did Patrick go from embattled and ignored
homeowner to seated across the negotiating table with leverage? I spoke with
him to find out more about both how and why he did what he did. His story is
an inspiration to anyone who's dreamed of going toe-to-toe with the big
banks and winning. Turns out that armed with persistence, and a little legal
know-how, Davids can take down Goliaths.
All Patrick, pictured above along with his house, wanted was for someone
from Wells Fargo to talk to him. A single, white, goth and industrial music
event promoter who declines to give his age, he wanted someone to explain
why they were doubling his premiums and requiring him to insure his
century-old house for its full replacement value instead of the market
value. Wells Fargo wanted him to take out almost a million dollars worth of
insurance His broker told him full replacement value would cost about $1
million to insure in the event his house, a 6-bedroom, 3 bath Tudor he paid
$180,000 for in 2002, was reduced to rubble and needed to be rebuilt stone
by stone to standards from over a hundred years ago. Though he's diligently
paid his mortgage on time for the past seven years, he couldn't afford the
jack-up in premiums, nor did he see a reason why he should have to accept
Besides the increase in premiums, Wells Fargo was also tossing extra and
inexplicable fees on his account. For instance, they charged him for two
home inspections in one month, even though no inspectors had come out to
Throughout the process, Patrick admits there was "about 10% revenge"
motivating him, but with each escalating step he took he really thought that
okay, this is the one that will catch their attention and make them talk to
HOW IT STARTED
About two years ago, after Wells Fargo stopped responding to his letters
requesting more information, Patrick boned up and learned about a law called
the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The law was enacted to
safeguard homebuyers from anti-competitive and collusive behavior among the
companies and agents involved with buying and selling real estate. One of
the protections involves the "Qualified Written Request," or QWR.
WHAT'S A QWR?
The Qualified Written Request is a specific kind of letter that you can send
to your mortgage servicer when you believe there is an error on your
mortgage account. You have to make sure to follow the rules for formatting
it, but the servicer is bound by federal law to respond within a certain
period of time. If they don't, you can go after them for actual damages,
costs and attorneys fees, plus $1000 of additional damages if there is a
pattern of noncompliance.
This is a sample QWR as found on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
"Do your research," says Patrick. When drafting it, besides getting tips on
writing one from various consumer sites, he also went to banking sites and
saw how bankers were talking about ways they had rejected various QWRs. He
made sure to craft his so it couldn't get disqualified. "Use the internet as
your law library," says Patrick. With a little Googling, he was quickly
about to find official resources and templates that guided him, step by
More than any site, blog or message board, "Looking at the actual law was a
big help," he said. A lot of websites offered bits and pieces, or their
(mis)-interpretation, of the law. The best resources came from going to the
official US Government pages and looking at the actual statutes in full. "It
took a little bit of time to sit and process the legalese," but it was worth
Within 20 days, the company must say they got the QWR, and they have 60 to
take action on it. That action must be to either correct the problem or to
respond back with why they think they're right. They must also give a name
and phone number for the borrower to contact with questions about their
Wells Fargo did none of these, says Patrick. So he moved on to the next step
provided by RESPA: statutory damages, aka, cash money.
DO NOT PASS GO
If a company fails to respond to a QWR, the borrower can take them to court
and claim damages. Patrick contacted several attorneys but none wanted to
take it on because of the low payout and what they said was the unlikelihood
of him winning. So he became his own advocate.
Patrick filed his claim in local municipal court, also known as small claims
court. Most of the time it costs less than $100 in filing fees. This post
tells you how to get started with your small claims filing. Patrick admits
he's no legal genius. "I couldn't pass the bar if my life depended on it,"
he said, but he found the process wasn't that hard and it helped that "the
courts look kindly on plaintiffs representing themselves pro-se." If you get
in touch with the clerk's office they can get you started with all the forms
and filings you need.
At trial, Wells Fargo didn't send anyone to represent themselves, so Patrick
got a default judgment against them for $1,173. They eventually sent him the
amount, but they had still had not responded to his letters or agreed to fix
his premiums, as required by law. So he filed for a sheriff's levy. This
directs the sheriff to seize and sell the debtor's property to pay up. In
this case, it was the local branch office of Wells Fargo mortgage, the ones
who had been ignoring him all these years.
To get the levy, he presented the court clerk with his default judgment and
got the Writ of Execution and the Instructions for Levy which he delivered
to the sheriff's office. He paid them a $50 deposit to cover their
administrative costs. A local sheriff then went into the Wells Fargo branch
office and took an inventory and posted notice that nothing could be
removed. The court also gave him several posters which he was expected to
xerox and post around town.
As a music event promoter, he says he's put up a lot of posters, but these
were the most satisfying he's ever hung. One is reprinted below.
USE THE MEDIA TO TELL YOUR STORY
But far more effective than hanging the posters was emailing the posters
along with his press release to local media outlets. Within a day of doing
that he had local tv stations and the Philadelphia Inquirer covering his
story. Based on his "16 years as a promoter," Patrick instantly knew the
power of "working the PR angle to publicize the sale."
WHERE IT STANDS
On Tuesday, the court put a temporary hold on the sale and has ordered a
hearing on February 23 to figure out the final result. ABC and USA Today
have also now picked up his story. Patrick says he's still owed $50, the fee
he paid to initiate the levy, and he's still in disagreement with them about
his premiums being doubled. Wells Fargo is meeting with Patrick today at
noon to discuss his situation.
"It does seem to tentatively indicate that someone in the very high ranking
position of authority" has finally taken an interest in his case, says
"We could have handled Mr. Rodgers very unusual situation better," said a
Wells Fargo spokesperson when reached for comment. "We're doing our best to
resolve everything to everyone's satisfaction."
A message left with the Wells Fargo branch manager was not returned.