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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Taking Mortgage Complaints Seriously

2 out of 3 who file grievances get some sort of satisfaction

By Ken Harney

A Realtor friend of mine recently asked me about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: “Do they really do anything when somebody submits a complaint about their mortgage company? Can I tell clients that it’s not a waste of time to complain to the CFPB?”

Here’s what I said: The CFPB puts out numbers and reports on its complaint resolution activities — the latest annual report came out March 31 — detailing complaint volume, the names of the companies that are the subjects of complaints and the current status of each case.

In its annual report for 2013, the bureau says that it has logged in 310,000 total consumer complaints since mid-2011, and that the volume is exploding — up 80 percent last year alone.

Nearly 2 out of 5 complaints (37 percent) come from homeowners. The total was 60,000 in 2013. Another 15 percent concern inaccuracies in credit reports of the type that often lead to loan rejections and higher interest rates and fees.

An astounding 85 percent of the mortgage complaints involve loan servicers, running the gamut from messed-up escrow accounts, botched transfers of accounts, payment amount disputes, short-sale foulups, loan modifications and foreclosures.
Eight percent involve issues with mortgage applications and 4 percent closings and real estate settlements.

What about performance? According to the CFPB, in 66 percent of all cases filed, consumers appear to be at least somewhat satisfied — they do not dispute the end result. In 23 percent of the cases, the consumer walked away unhappy about the response of the company. In 1 out of every 14 complaints, companies agreed to provide monetary relief or refunds. In another 1 out of every 9, they give nonmonetary relief — they fixed the problem that caused the complaint without actually handing over cash.

So if you take the CFPB’s data at face value, 2 out of 3 people who file complaints get some sort of satisfaction — they at least don’t go away unhappy. That doesn’t mean they’re ecstatic about the results. It doesn’t mean that their mortgage company folded and gave them everything they asked for.

But it does suggest that it may well be worth homeowners’ time to file a complaint if they think they have a good case. To do so, they can go or phone or fax or mail in their complaints. What’s to lose? It’s free.
Realtors and their clients might find themselves surprised at the results.

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