Local family and organization fighting mainland bank

Melba Amaral and her husband
Melba Amaral and her husband
Kim Harman
Kim Harman

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Talking about foreclosure can be tough, especially for a community leader, but a Kalihi family is making their fight with their bank public in hopes of helping others.

Frustrating, suffocating and terrifying, those were words used not to describe a criminal, but a bank.

The Amaral home is filled with photos and they want it to stay that way, but they say Bank of America is fighting them.

"Deep down inside you feel this despair and hopelessness," said Melba Amaral, Homeowner.  "I'm not asking for the bank to give me my house for free, I'm just asking them to give us that modification that the federal program is actually offering."

Melba Amaral is a neighborhood board member, church leader and small business owner. Her home loan was with Countrywide but when it went under Bank of America took it over.  Mix in an injury from a car accident and her husband's loss of wages and benefits from the Star-Advertiser and they fell behind on their adjustable rate mortgage, which has an interest rate of 9.75 percent.  They applied for the Making Home Affordable loan modification but say dealing with Bank of America for a year and a half has been a nightmare.

"I refuse to let Bank of America take my home because they lost the paperwork," said Amaral.

She says she sent everything the bank asked for to the 11 addresses they provided but claims Bank of America is so big the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

"They are ruthless. They will do anything to just not work with you. It just begs the question if they have a vested interest in the community," said Amaral.

Now a group called FACE, which stands for Faith Action for Community Equity, studied the forecloses in Hawaii and found 97 percent of people losing their home have a mainland lender.

"We were just blown away how many were out of state," said Kim Harman, who wrote the study for FACE.

FACE plans to lobby the state to pass a new law requiring banks to meet face to face with people after they've been denied a loan modification to help work out a solution.

"Melba you can tell she is angry about what's going on and the threat against her family, if she wasn't on an island she'd drive to the nearest Bank of America branch and talk with somebody she can't do that from here.  We need a chance for our families to get that face to face discussions and some standards on what these lenders have to do when they're talking about taking away someone's home of 14 years," said Harman.

"I will fight tooth and nail for this because I'm not ready to give it up. It's been a battle," said Amaral.

Bank of America spokesperson Rick Simon says all major loan servicers are based on the mainland. He writes, "Bank of America and Wells Fargo, the two largest mortgage servicers, handle about two of every five loans in the country. JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup probably share another 20% of the servicing market, so about 60% of the loans in America are in the servicing portfolios of four companies. Probably 90% of loans are in the hands of 20 servicers, all mainland-based."

As for the Amaral's situation, they have referred the case to the bank's president for follow-up.

Simon added that Bank of America has helped 725,000 people modify their loan in the past two years.

"With unprecedented numbers of homeowners in economic stress today, mortgage servicers, in partnership with the government, non-profit organizations and others, have geared up as quickly as possible with new home retention/foreclosure prevention programs and greatly expanding staffing. All is not perfect, but we're doing pretty well for thousands of customers every month; and we continue to make improvements," wrote Simon in an email.

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