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Frustrated Canadians looking for mortgage deferrals from big banks facing delays, denials

Mortgage holders say the process, criteria are unclear

With some people out of work during the COVID-19 outbreak, many are waiting for clear answers from their banks to see if they qualify for mortgage payment deferrals. (CBC)

Some Canadians looking to defer mortgage payments due to COVID-19 say they are facing delays, confusion and outright denials from the country’s big banks.

“My wife called the 1-800 number for Bank of Montreal, talked to an adviser on the line to see what we are eligible for,” said Evan McFatridge of Dartmouth, N.S., whose family is down to a single income because his wife has been laid off from her job at a restaurant.

“She was told that our mortgage was too new to qualify for a deferral,” he said.

As part of the government’s pledge to help Canadians suffering financially due to COVID-19, Finance Minister Bill Morneau asked the heads of Canada’s big banks to allow people to defer mortgage payments for up to six months.

The banks responded by issuing a statement saying they “have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; child-care disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19.”

Evan and Janna McFatridge of Dartmouth, N.S., were told their mortgage was too new to qualify for a deferral. (Evan McFatridge)

But some Canadians looking for relief from mortgage payments say they’re encountering a confusing, opaque and seemingly arbitrary process that is only adding to the stress of illness, isolation and lost income.

“I called in yesterday, spent two hours on the phone, and they required a full credit check and credit application in order to even see if I was qualified [for a deferral] and then didn’t even give me a time frame,” said one former BMO branch manager.

CBC has agreed to keep his name confidential because of his concerns that his comments could jeopardize his current employment situation.

“So, they had to speak to both me and my wife over the phone, get all our income, our jobs, our assets, our liabilities, said they had to send it to the credit department for review and that someone would contact us,” he said.

“They had no criteria for what they’re looking for. If they said to me, ‘One of you has to be laid off. One of you has to be in isolation. You have to sign a disclosure statement.’ Fine.”

The man’s wife is on reduced hours at home because she has to care for their kids, whose schools have been shut. Facing the loss of a large chunk of their family income, he said ,he wanted to get ahead of the problem and defer two or three months of payments.

When a BMO mortgage holder — who is actually a former BMO manager — called BMO to see if he could get a mortgage payment deferral, he was told it required a full credit check and credit application in order to even see if he qualified. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

“Even if I had to pay the interest payments during that time and they deferred the principal amount so the balance stayed the same, so be it, that’s fine,” he said.

“I’ve been through things in Alberta like the Fort McMurray fires where basically [all that was required then] was a call in to defer payments.”

Questions for banks unanswered

CBC News asked each of the big five banks for more information on the criteria for the case-by-case-based decisions on mortgage and credit deferrals.

We asked:

  • Who would qualify?
  • Is there an application process?
  • Does the entire household have to be off work?
  • Will they require documentation?

None of the banks answered any of those questions.

TD, CIBC and Scotiabank all responded by repeating their commitment to work with personal and small-business banking customers on a case-by-case basis. Each encouraged customers to contact their call centres directly or visit their websites.

BMO and RBC did not respond to emails from CBC News.

‘My family will run out of money’

RBC customer Elsie Mamaradlo of Edmonton said she was also denied a deferral because her mortgage was too new.

“I got so frustrated and at the same time worried,” said Mamaradlo, who lost her job when the public recreation centre she works at was shut down due to coronavirus concerns.

Mamaradlo said that without the mortgage deferral, she faces a grim future.

“My family will run out of money for food and essentials,” she said.

Mamaradlo’s mortgage is insured with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The government is purchasing up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the CMHC, which says that stable funding for the banks and mortgage lenders is meant to ensure continued lending to Canadian consumers.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau speaks during a press conference on economic support for Canadians impacted by COVID-19, at West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Wednesday. The federal government is rolling out $27 billion in new spending and $55 billion in credit to help families and businesses. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

In a tweet, CMHC said it “will support lenders in allowing deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months for those impacted [by the coronavirus].”

Alyson Whittle of Cochrane, Alta., said her bank, B2B, which is a subsidiary of Laurentian Bank, told her she could defer her next mortgage payment but then the following payment would be double.

“I was super frustrated,” she said.

Whittle, who works in sales for a home builder, and her husband, a utilities driller, are both out of work.

“My mom came to visit us and she had just come back from Las Vegas and developed a respiratory illness,” she said.

After that visit, Whittle says both she and her husband started feeling similar symptoms. They’re now both off work in isolation but haven’t been tested yet.

Laurentian Financial Group’s assistant vice-president of communications, Hélène Soulard, said it’s possible Whittle called before they were able to inform their call centre representatives about the deferral options.

“Rest assured we are committed to helping our customers who are facing hardships if they are not able to work due to illness, job loss or other reasons related to the COVID-19 crisis,” she said.

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CBC FORUM House keys sent to the bank? Your thoughts on mortgage defaults

The federal government is worried about Albertans making strategic defaults on their mortgages.

 

Some Albertans are walking away from their mortgages by putting their keys in the mail and sending them back to the bank.

It’s a phenomenon known as jingle mail — sparked by a combination of high debt and lost jobs — and was a big problem in Alberta back in the 1980s.

As a result, the federal government is watching the Alberta market closely. Jingle mail, or strategic defaults, weaken the housing market and increase loan losses among Canada’s banks, say experts.

We asked what this means to you: Does your mortgage keep you awake at night? What would make you send your house keys to the bank? Any personal mortgage anecdotes you want to share?

You weighed in via CBC Forum, our new experiment to encourage a different kind of discussion on our website. Here are some of the best comments made during the discussion.

Please note that user names are not necessarily the names of commenters. Some comments have been altered to correct spelling and to conform to CBC style. Click on the user name to see the comment in the blog format.

Many chimed in with their own mortgage advice.

  • “Sending house keys back to the bank seems very irresponsible. The banks are not going to absorb the costs — customers will be on the hook in the end.” — EOttawa​
  • “People who buy the McMansions in the hopes that someday they will become part of the upper class are the ones who should worry. Big risks have serious consequences. Good luck with it.” —Chris K
  • “No, it doesn’t keep me awake for the simple reason that we bought a home well within our means with a mortgage way lower than what the banks said we could borrow … It’s a question of common sense and priorities.” — docp

There was some discussion on who should be blamed.

  • “Lots of blame and finger pointing to go round. Bottom line, as many others have said, it falls on personal responsibility to make good decisions and sometimes circumstances outside our control force us to make tough decisions to survive — like using ‘jingle mail’ in Alberta.” — Don Watson

Several commenters even had their own jingle mail stories.

  • “My ex-husband and I returned the keys to the bank when it became clear that he was unable to maintain the mortgage payments on the home he had bought before we were married. This happened in the first year of marriage and it was a terrible blow to him. Later he declared bankruptcy.” — LinneaEldred
  • “We purchased our home within our means and have been able to keep up with the payments. We lived in Fort McMurray for four years, after they went through the downturn of the economy in the early 80s. Folks were turning in their keys then and walking away. People still don’t learn from past mistakes.” — Leslie Riley​

There were even some thoughts on the future … or lack of it.

  • “I have a mortgage and I also have a full-time job, yet I still worry about the future of my mortgage. I don’t believe that we need to point out the fact that even if you were or are smart about your money, you cannot predict your future.” — Samantha R.

You can read the full CBC Forum live blog discussion on mortgages below.

Can’t see the forum? Click here

Source: By Haydn Watters, CBC News Posted: Feb 09, 2016 12:26 PM ET

 

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Five things to do if you are over-extended on your mortgage

Mortgage default may be rare in this country, but nearly 9% of indebted households need 40% or more of their gross income to pay their debt service charges, says the Bank of Canada Financial System Review.

If you can see problems coming, then you can take action to avoid foreclosure, which happens when lenders run out of other alternatives and borrowers can do no more to pay their debts. Here are five options to consider when you are being crushed by mortgage payments:

1. Extend amortization: If the mortgage has been paid down to 10 or 15 years, then extending it to 20 to 25 years or even to 30 years will decrease payments. In a lot of cases this will work, says Elena Jara, director of education for Credit Canada Solutions, a Toronto-based non-profit organization which offers free credit counselling.

2. Seek better terms: You can go for lower interest rates with the same or a different lender but with a potential penalty, says Bill Evans, a mortgage broker with Mortgage Architects in Winnipeg.“If you are having trouble with payments with one lender, another may not want to take you on. But if you can present a case for a new income, you can go to a so-called specialty lender such as Home Trust or Optimum Trust for a fresh look at your problem and potential solutions,” Evans says. “If you just want to alleviate the problem, timing is crucial.”
3. Renew at a floating rate: There is more risk but lower interest cost in floating rate mortgages. If you are on a fixed rate mortgage with relatively high rates and want to go to a lower floating rate, perhaps by taking the mortgage to another lender, then there may be relief when it is time for loan renewal. The present lender may add a penalty, but over time, floating rates and the often attractive rate on a one-year closed loan can offer relief, Mr. Evans says.

4. Sell it and rent: In markets with high home prices as a result of speculative building, absentee owners will often rent at relatively low cost. That makes for good deals for renters.

5. Discuss a consumer proposal: The homeowner can avoid outright bankruptcy and foreclosure of the home by talking to creditors, suggests Bruce Caplan, trustee in bankruptcy for BDO Canada Ltd. in Winnipeg. “The homeowner can make a consumer proposal in which a settlement plan is devised for the creditors. Secured creditors such as the banks or private mortgage lenders can work out new terms such as reduced payments or a payment bridge for a period of time with the homeowner,” he suggests.

And number 6; Don’t suffer in silence until you lose control of the situation. Contact a mortgage professional who can review your circumstances and possibly offer you a solution to get back in control.

Source: The Financial Post Andrew Allentuck | November 21, 2013 12:40 PM ET

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Cyrilla Hamlet, who had her credit ratiing destroyed after moving out of an apartment because the landlord falsly claimed they owed money. One of the city's biggest corporate landlords, Metcap Living, also runs an in-house collections agency, Suite Collections, to go after clients for backed rent. But tenants report that years after moving out, they are pursued for ficticious debts due to "lack of proper notice" to move out.

The Liberal government has committed to ending the practice that allowed landlords to evict tenants and then pursue them for not giving proper notice.

One day after the Star published an investigation into how MetCap Living Management Inc. and its in-house collections agency, Suite Collections, go after evicted tenants for two months’ rent, Ted McMeekin, minister of municipal affairs and housing, said he would put a stop to it.

“This practice is unacceptable to me. I’m committed to putting an end to it,” said McMeekin.

“If somebody gets an eviction notice and they move as a result of that notice . . . the tenant is no longer responsible beyond the date of the eviction notice,” he said. “That’s the law of the land.”

Brent Merrill, president of both MetCap and Suite, maintains that the practice is legal. He provided the Star with a copy of a divisional court decision from 1993 that ruled a tenant was responsible for two months’ rent even after they had been evicted.

But the law governing landlords and tenants has changed since then. The Star found a 2013 small claims court decision that rejects the 1993 decision.

“At this time the divisional court decision that we have provided you and are relying on here trumps the more recent small claims court decision,” Merrill wrote in an email Monday evening. “As of today, our counsel feel that we are in compliance with the law. If the Minister of Housing feels otherwise then he or a member of his staff should pick up the phone and call us.”

When informed of the Minister’s statements, Merrill agreed to temporarily suspend the practice for any future evictions until the law has been clarified.

“If the law changes, of course we would have to reassess our position and we are happy to do that to remain in compliance,” he wrote.

Even though the legislature has risen for the summer, McMeekin was confident that an immediate change could be made using regulations that would not require an amendment to the law. But if a formal amendment is required, he committed to seeing it through once the house returns in the fall.

Cyrilla Hamlet, who was evicted by MetCap in 2012, was happy to hear that the practice that saw her get saddled with more than $2,700 in debt would end.

“It’s just wicked, very wicked,” she said. “I’m glad a lot of people won’t have to go through this anymore.”

Hamlet’s debt was reduced to $1,400, but it was also registered on her niece’s credit report. Today they’re both unable to borrow money because of their bad credit ratings. She says this won’t be over until they can clear that debt.

NDP housing critic Percy Hatfield said the practice has to be ended as a matter of fairness.

“I don’t think they should be penalized for following your order to get out,” he said Monday. “(Landlords) shouldn’t be attacking and going after the people who can’t pay your rent because now you’re tacking on more bills on and they’re never going to be able to pay you.”

Progressive Conservative housing critic Ernie Hardeman did not return request for comment.

Source: Toronto Star  Staff Reporter, Published on Mon Jun 22 2015