Homeowners lobby lawmakers for help fighting foreclosure

Jeanie Vance
Jeanie Vance
Jade Brown
Jade Brown
Gary Fujitani
Gary Fujitani

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Frustrated with all the runaround they get from banks, homeowners are asking lawmakers to help them out especially when dealing with bankers thousands of miles away.

Some homeowners already strapped for cash felt the need to pay the expense to fly in from neighbor islands just to testify before lawmakers.

"It's frustrating beyond belief and quite honestly it rendered me dysfunctional for a long time," said Jeanie Vance, Maui Homeowner. "I have battle fatigue for two and a half years I've lived under the threat that at any moment I'll get a certified letter that in any number of days my house will be auctioned off."

"More than 167 phone calls and 85 faxes, thick faxes because they kept losing my paperwork," said Jade Brown, Maui Homeowner.

"The loan modification process is a nightmare because homeowners like me in Hawaii do not have the rights we need in this process," said Eddie Amaral, Kilihi Homeowner.

They are some of the homeowners that testified that made the banks look like the bad guys.

"It's absolutely a myth that it's just a bunch of dead beat people there are so many of us that are in this situation and it's because of the economy," said Vance.

The State Office of Consumer Protection backs them up and says there are thousands of people just like them throughout Hawaii.

"I can tell you as the consumer protector that every day we get reports of the same kind of conduct and my associates on the mainland also see the same type of complaints," said Stephen Levins, Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director.  "A lot of time people come forward to the legislature and you have no context to whether it's an isolated incident or a small percentage but I can tell you from my experience here in Hawaii its a large number of homeowners here in Hawaii that are experiencing the problems you've heard here today."

The homeowners have a fight foreclosure wish list from lawmakers to among other things, require face to face mediation with a banker who has the power to modify loans, have the lender prove they actually owns the loan in order to fight fraud  and set a penalty for noncompliance.

"It would mean that the servicer absolutely must come to the table, look me in the eye and negotiate fairly with me," said Brown.

While they say mainland banks cause most of the problems, local banks also oppose the legislation.

"I think we're just in principle opposed legislation that just provides additional regulatory burden and overhead to the banks," said Gary Fujitani, Hawaii Bankers Association, which represents 11 FDIC banks in Hawaii, including nine that are based here.

"We're opposed to mandatory mediation which applies to all lenders," said Marvin Dang, Hawaii Financial Services Association.

Lawmakers are expected to tweak Senate Bill 651 over the next couple days and bring it to committee vote this Friday.

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