Monday, March 19, 2012
Also today, Francesca completed and FedExed a packet of info to Bank of America—their prompt response last week definitely means we made an impression! And they'll hopefully get cracking on modifying her loan agreement before it's too late. But the battle isn't over yet--they may be counting on our campaign to lose steam. We need to keep the pressure on them, so please continue your amazing work of posting the links, tweeting about the story, and spreading the word!
As a special thank-you to her supporters, Francesca wants to share some free writing videos with you—and you can sneak a peek inside the Faerie Cottage, too!
part 1: http://vimeo.com/7527405
part 2: http://vimeo.com/7528741
part 3: http://vimeo.com/7529744
(The password for all three videos is "pinkcottage," without quotation marks.)
Thanks again for all your amazing work helping publicize this cause--your support has made a huge difference. Onward!
Friday, March 16, 2012
(Read the rest at: http://occupywriters.com)
The other day I was leaving the market (blessed with bags full of groceries in my cart) when a woman came up to me. “Do you know of a church nearby?” She was missing teeth and her eyes were red-glazed. I gave her the cash I had and told her about a local church.
It seemed to be so insignificant.
I cried on the drive home to my lovely house and healthy children.
My high mortgage, health problems and anxiety suddenly seemed like small problems.
There is so much suffering around us.
Born in Los Angeles, where she still lives, Block’s work pulsates with the language and images of the city’s sprawling subculture. Lauds a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, “Block writes about the real Los Angeles better than anyone since Raymond Chandler.”
Block has described her work as “contemporary fairy tales with an edge,” where the real world and its trouble find solace through the magic of creative expression and love. She has received numerous honors, including the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award and the Phoenix Award, as well as citations from the American Library Association, The New York Times Book Review and the School Library Journal, Her work has been published around the world, translated into many languages.
Read more about Francesca's books & work at her website: francescaliablock.com/
Please let us know about any other stories, and keep spreading the word! We're doing good work here.
where you can like all kinds of music hip hop or rap or pop or experimental harp music
you can even like to smoke cigarettes in the yard
you can complain about food you can cry as much as you like if you swear you have to put a quarter in the jar but no one will stop loving you you can eat pizza or only kale and you will still be loved without condition
you can be a sober drug addict or a pre adolescent angry girl or a laker’s fan or a heat fan
you can wear black patent nike high tops or organic cotton there will be soup for you if you want it there will be a bed if you need it there will be a dripping faucet and messy closets and stacks of papers and a dog who will jump on you and possibly tear your clothes there will be scraps of old master paintings, lace and jewels to make collages there will be books to read and lemons on the tree and dust bunnies under the couch no matter how many times i swiffer
there is always a beautiful child singing in this house
sometimes there are children fighting there is always a dog barking when you are trying to meditate
i used to dance and write love poetry in this house now i melancholy fondle each day like a prayer bead and let it go
hoping you might come inside some time
to dine with us
For Jasmine during the mortgage crisis in America
I wish I could give you a palace overgrown with lilies
And a sky filled with flying horses made of stars
Outside your window the tree I planted
purples jacaranda as your eyes
All I wanted was to shelter you
but now they make your bed away
So much sorrow in such a small person
At night you grind your teeth in sleep as do I
Warm against me my deepest comfort
Why is it I cannot comfort you?
With pop star princes and sparkly t-shirts and gardens and stages with velvet curtains
You have been inside of me for all my life and now you are outside of me
But not really
I would go blind for you I would sleep in a box
I would go without the love of a man the rest of my life
I even tried to be with your father again
I’d do anything darling one but it seems as if there is nothing I can do
Except hold you beside me and read to you my stories
no matter where we may slee
Like arms I was contained
And in exchange
I put a roof on it
To keep out rain
Gave it all of what I’d earned
By making worlds
We keep each other warm and dry
It is my earth and sky
But one that holds me while I dream
brings me flowers in the spring
It costs me everything
And though I hope within its arms to lay
Be forced to walk away
Monday, March 12, 2012
Now is the time to put maximum pressure on Bank of America to step up their efforts. They need to be working closely with Francesca to refinance the mortgage, and they need to do this NOW, after months of foot-dragging. Please click on the following email addresses to send your DIRECT MESSAGE to BoA, and feel free to personalize the suggested message as you see fit. Don't forget, after you've done so, spread the word! If we can get a hundred fans and friends to email, we can get a thousand. Your email makes a difference!
Dear Mr./Ms. _____,
I am writing to express my outrage at Bank of America for failing to assist Francesca Lia Block with her homeowner's loan modification. Ms. Block, a highly-regarded author and single mother of two, has been trying for over a year to work with your bank on getting her loan modified, and during that time (and indeed, for the four-and-a-half years during which she has held the mortgage), she has not missed a single payment. She has repeatedly mailed packages of requested information, made phone calls, filled out paperwork, and been reassured again and again that your employees could help—only to be treated disrespectfully and ultimately ignored completely. Is stonewalling your most valued clients how you do business?
As a friend of Ms. Block's, I am unbelievably disappointed in your failure to work with her. Do you not realize that a foreclosure will cost you money, and that by losing her, you would be losing a loyal, reliable customer? Recently your bank has been in the news, under media scrutiny for its repeated failure to help consumers access the federal bailout funds to which they are entitled. I believe it would go a long way toward restoring your public image if you were to work with a homeowner who has been trying to work with you, in good faith, for many months now. I urge you to reconsider your treatment of Ms. Block, and to work with her immediately on coming up with a solid solution so that she and her family will be able to keep their home.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
INEFFICIENCY IN PROCESSING LOAN MOD PACKAGE, HAD TO RESEND NUMEROUS DOCUMENTS NUMEROUS TIMES
NEVER TOLD ME I WAS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PROGRAM WHEN I APPLIED (ESTATE OF)
HAVE STILL NOT CONTACTED ME TO SAY MOD REJECTED (SINCE JUNE, 2011)
HAVE CHANGED PHONE NUMBER OF MY CONTACT PERSON SO I CANNOT REACH HIM. HE DOES NOT RESPOND TO MY EMAILS EITHER. HE TOLD ME THERE WAS AN ALTERNATIVE FOR ME BUT I WAS TOLD BY OTHERS THAT THIS WAS NOT TRUE. THEN TOLD BY SOMEONE ELSE THAT IT WAS BUT NO ONE COULD DIRECT ME TO CORRECT DEPT.
EXTREMELY RUDE SUPERVISOR WHO TOLD ME THE HOUSE IS NOT MINE AND THAT “YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD”
NO WAY TO MOVE FW. WITH ANOTHER TYPE OF IN HOUSE OR TRADITIONAL LOAN MODIFICATION OR ANY OTHER OPTION. I HAVE BEEN TRYING FOR ONE YEAR.
LETTER I SENT TO BANK:
December 19, 2011
To Whom It May Concern:
I, a working well-known author of over twenty published books (www.francescaliablock.com) and a single mom with good credit and an up-to-date mortgage for an over-encumbered property (that has declined due to current market conditions and the recession), respectfully ask your help with a modification at a fair market rate. I have been told I must first assume the loan that was originally in my late mother’s name, although I have always been on title and have made all the payments from the beginning and I believe this packet includes all the materials requested in order to do so.
In August of 2007 my mother and I purchased my home in Culver City CA 90230 using two Countrywide loans (30 year fixed interest only 7.25% interest rate and interest only 3.25% interest rate.) My mother, Jill (Gilda) Block signed for the loans and I assisted her with the down payment and have made all subsequent payments before and after her passing. I was also on title as Joint Tenant. In Sept. 2008 my mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer, that had metastasized to her colon, and she passed away as a result in September 2010. After her death, I became the sole titleholder of the property. Notice of my mother’s death was recorded in the real property records per the attached Affidavit, to which her death certificate is also attached.
In January, 2010 I also developed a spontaneous perforated retina and underwent emergency surgery. During my recovery I lost some work and due to the above hardships (my mother’s cancer and my eye), my income was lower. In spite of this I was able to keep up all of my payments to Bank of America on time. I am now back on my feet with a three-book contract from Henry Holt publishers as well as many other teaching and writing projects.
I ask in good faith (proven by four and a half years of mortgage payment stubs and the new roofing, wiring, plumbing, dry-walling etc. I have put into the house) that you give this responsible customer the opportunity to assume the loan and then pursue a modification so that we may all avoid the ensuing costs (financial for you, emotional for me and my two children) of foreclosure.
Francesca Lia Block
IRS form 4506 T
Identity Affidavit notarized
1099’s (minimal as I am mostly self employed)
2008-2010 personal tax returns
Bank /Asset statements Chase, ING, Merrill Lynch, Adams Express, PayPal
Property tax statement
Original Deed of Trust
Sale Escrow Instructions
Death Certificate, Jill (Gilda) Block
Affidavit—Death of Joint Tenant
Sept. 2008: Mother diagnosed with bladder cancer that had metastasized to her colon.
Jan. 2009: I suffered spontaneous perforated retina. Had emergency surgery and have permanently lost half vision in one eye.
Sept. 2010 Mother passed away.
April 2011: I assumed the full title on property. Applied for Making Home Affordable program.
I was repeatedly told to resend and that bank had not received my documents. I sent at least three times from my brother’s fax and local Bank of America fax at two branches.
May-June 2011: Assigned to work with RC who said my package was accepted, though not approved. I asked him how long it would take and he said about ten weeks maximum before I heard.
July 2011: I still hadn’t heard and called. RC said to wait.
Oct. 2011: I still hadn’t heard. I called RC who told me that my application had been summarily rejected because, due to the death of my mother, the mortgagor of my loan was now an ”estate of” property. This type of property was not entitled to modification under the Making Home Affordable program but I had not been informed of this. RC told me to wait until I got a final rejection from the bank to move to the next step and assured me there WAS a next step and that someone would be assigned to my case to help me with it.
Late Oct. 2011: Called back. RC was out of town. I emailed him but he didn’t respond.
Nov. 2011: Called for clarification about my situation. The customer service representative told me no one was able to help me. I asked for a supervisor. She told me, “You do not own the house. It is in your mom’s name and she’s dead.” (Direct quote). Our conversation escalated to raised voices. I asked to speak to someone else and she again told me there was no one else to speak to. I insisted and she put me on hold. Finally, not having any response, I hung up distraught and crying. Her rudeness was inexcusable, not to mention that she was wrong—although the mortgagor of the loan is now in the form of an estate of, the title of the house is fully in my name as sole survivor of the Joint Tenancy.
I have never been treated so badly by anyone in customer service in my life.
Nov. 2011: Called RC again but he no longer had a direct contact number. The customer service person this time said that he did not know who R. was or how to reach him. Finally I was able to have the customer service person email him. RC called me back and I found out that even though I still didn’t have final word from BofA I could try a traditional or in-house type of modification and he gave me a customer service number to call and try to work with them to get this.
A few days later I called to speak to someone about this. I spent two hours on the phone being rerouted to different people. One man said there were no other type of mod programs besides the Making Home Affordable mod. Also, he had “never heard of” an in house or traditional mod. Someone else said that this wasn’t true, there was a modification that came along with assuming the loan but at a fair rate for the loss in value. She sent me to another dept. but it turned out to be customer service again. I went round and round all morning. In the afternoon I spent an hour trying to reach RC, asking two different people to email him for me, which I did, but he never responded.
11/9/2011, 2:15 PM: Having been advised by an attorney to keep track of all my exchanges going forward, I called Customer Service and spoke to J who tried to put me through to Modifications. He said, “They are not available, call back.” I asked to speak to the president’s office. He tried to put me through to Modifications again. The phone disconnected at 2:36. At 2:41 I called again. M answered. I asked for the president’s office and told her my story. She said she could not put me through and finally gave me this address and fax.
11/22/11, 9 AM: Called office of President and complained, threatened to go to press. I had written attached letter* but didn’t send it since I was able to speak to someone on the phone and convey my concerns. Was put through to LA who said he could help me and asked for relevant paperwork, which I sent. PD was assigned to my case. The plan was to assume the loan and then modify it.
11/30 Phone tag with PD
12/12 Left message for PD and called his supervisor and left word.
12/13 Called PD and supervisor, BW.
12/14 Called PW and BW and left word. Called AB. Left word.
12/15 PD called me and said he was no longer my point person but it had been assigned to JA.
12/20 Mailed package to bank to try to assume loan.
12/21 spoke to JA who asked where I had sent package.
12/21 Charged two times for mortgage because I had sent an unsigned check that was sent back to me so I replaced it with a signed check. The unsigned check was returned but also deducted and replacement check was also deducted.
1/3/12 S in Accounting explained I was paid up. They had applied unsigned check that they sent back to me to next month’s mortgage
January ? Received notification packet had been received by bank with paperwork to try to assume loan. Was advised by attorney, realtor, broker and friends not to assume loan at current high, interest only rate but request modification to fair market rate to avoid future foreclosure.
1/4 Called JA.
1/5 Called JA.
1/8 Called JA
1/9 Missed JA’s call and called back, left word
1/10 spoke to LA and asked, as a customer in good standing who is trying to avoid the eventual loss of the property, to assume loan at modified, market rate. We spoke for twenty minutes and I explained the complex nature of my situation. He denied my request. He told me I should try refinancing. I did not think I would qualify due to underwater nature of property. He assured me I could and gave me number of someone in refinancing, MP. I called MP who told me I would need about 150,000 to refinance and over the next few days did not return my calls to check on any other options. JA did try to call me back a few times on this day but after speaking to LA I realized any discussion with JA would be useless.
Feb ?? Called to speak to someone about Obama program. Put through to my account supervisor and then disconnected
Feb. 29th, 2012 Received call from W at Bank of America Qualified Assumptions to see if I wanted to go through with assumption. Was told I would have to qualify for original loans with very high income and 12 months mortgage set aside if I wanted to assume the loan. He didn’t think I would qualify based on my income and I do not have 12 months mortgage set aside after being hit with a huge tax bill this year.
March 7: In last ditch attempt, called office of president and complained, threatened to go public with this. Was put through to AR and told her the story. She promised to get back to me Friday, March 9th at @2:15 PM and told me to continue to pay my mortgage.
March 9: Called AR At 2:15. No answer. Called again at 3:09. No answer. Left word both times.
Thank you so much for your support. You can't imagine how much it means to me right now. Here's my story so far, with regards to my struggles to keep my home:
I have been in the Faerie Cottage for almost five years. Here is where you have come to share cupcakes and read your stories and laugh and cry. Here is where my children play and snuggle and sing and where my dog barks at you one second and the next is kissing your face. Here is a mermaid bathroom, an apricot tree with tiny pink blossoms, a pond with purple flowers, a jacaranda that I planted, roses tall as a man in spring, a pot of mung beans and rice on the stove, my father’s paintings, my mother’s books, lots of little goddess statues and other charms from you, my friends and readers. My kids can walk to their school, which is great since my ability to drive is getting more and more uncertain (due to the loss of most of the vision in one eye due to a perforated retina and the cataract in the other). Their friends are also within walking distance. It is a safe, lovely neighborhood with a park and a library nearby. I planned on living here until I died, in my bedroom overlooking the garden with my children on either side of me, and everything would be okay. All the heartache and pain and stress would be worth it if I could own this home and pass it on to my kids.
I bought the house as joint tenant with my mother in 2007. The Countrywide loan was in her name but I made all the payments. The cost of housing was continuing to rise and I was trying to get in while I still could, afraid I would never be able to afford a home for my family. I got an interest-only loan which does not pay off principal until later, after having been reassured by my broker and realtor as well as accountant that I could refinance in a year or two and start paying off principal. Then the market crashed, the value of the home has continued to decline (to $150,000 less than the original cost) and the bank (now Bank of America, who bought out Countrywide when it went under) refuses to refinance on an over encumbered or “underwater” property so refinancing is no longer an option. This is exactly the type of situation President Obama is trying to address with his new legislation since so many homeowners are in this position.
After having a very low income year in 2010 due to my retinal surgery and my mother’s death from cancer, I realized I would not be able to afford the loan, especially when it balloons in a few more years, so I tried to modify. After almost a year I was told that I could not qualify for a modification because the loan was in my mom’s name, even though I had made all the payments on time since the beginning and am now the sole owner. I am unable to assume the loan because I don’t qualify, in spite of having a good year in 2011—you need a year’s worth of mortgage set aside to even assume the loan at the high-interest interest-only rate. I have been told by experts in the field that only by stopping paying may I be able to get the bank’s attention so they will let me assume the loan at a modified rate. I do not want to do this for many reasons, including the risk of foreclosure. If someone else came along to buy this house, they could get it at a very good price and get a loan at a very low rate. I tried to explain this to the bank, suggesting they could avoid the costs of foreclosure and I could avoid the heartache of leaving my home if they would just work with me, but they have definitively refused.
These banks have been bailed out by the American public and yet are not working with us. The interest-only loan from Countrywide was egregious in the first place (although my broker, realtor and accountant reassured me it was standard for the times and quite safe, especially with the expected ability to refinance in a couple of years) and Bank of America knew this type of loan was unfair when they bought out Countrywide. Bank of America’s behavior toward a customer who has never been behind on a single payment has been inexcusable. Please read the timeline (see sidebar) for the details.
I ask that you let as many people as you can about this situation in the hopes that it will help others who have gone through what I am going through and perhaps, in some way, help me save my home for my family.
Thank you for your time, as always.
With love and gratitude, Francesca Lia Block
Dear friends of Francesca Lia Block,
We've decided to create this website to put as much pressure as possible on Bank of America, who are dragging their feet on working with Francesca Lia Block on refinancing her home, threatening her with foreclosure instead. You know Francesca as a highly respected working author, teacher, and single mother of two. And if you're a fan of Francesca's books, or one of her many students who've spent time at her home, the Faerie Cottage, you know how important that home is to her work, and you will want to know what's going on, and how you can help.
The story in brief: Francesca has good credit and an up-to-date mortgage for an over-encumbered property (which has declined in value due to current market conditions and the recession). In other words her house is, as they say, "underwater." In order to avoid foreclosure, she has been trying for an entire year to get the bank to modify the existing (and incredibly unfair) interest-only loan on the property, since it has declined so much in value.
You may have heard about Obama’s plan to help people in a similar situation with Bank of America, or read various articles about this situation on the Internet (with Bank of America claiming they are trying to help their customers), so some of what follows will probably sound familiar to you. Click on the sidebar for more information, a timeline, and a direct link so that you can contact Bank of America yourself to voice your dissatisfaction with how they are treating their customer and our friend.
And above all, please help in spreading the word about this situation! Link to this website and tell other Francesca friends, so we do everything we can to help save the Faerie Cottage for her, her children, their friends, and all of us who love her.