Vera Johnson took her case for a loan modification for her home and business to the Bank of America on Aug. 9 along with 10,000 signatures gathered through a Change.org online petition. The owner of the Village Green Nursery near White Center has been facing foreclosure and is appealing to the bank to modify her loan to allow her to stay.
UPDATE: Vera Johnson delivered 10,000 signatures to Bank of America in support of her cause Aug. 9
Decision will be announced in approximately ten days
Vera Johnson of Village Green Nursery in White Center who launched a viral Change.org campaign calling on Bank of America to grant a loan modification on her home loan delivered 10,000 petition signatures to the bank today, Aug. 9. As promised she brought along a maidenhair fern as a gift. The West Seattle Herald has been following her story.
She was accompanied by Joe Mirabella, an Organizing Maanger at Change.org and her close friend, Betsy.
In a surprise move, Johnson did not meet with Michael Kuehner, Bank of America’s Office Manager at the Washington State Customer Service Center. He has left Bank of America. Instead, she met with Dennis Day, Vice President of National Mortgage Outreach - Regional Manager -Customer Assistance Center Outreach.
She had a prepared statement she read to Mr. Day. "Here we are in a system where we are all looked at as numbers. Account numbers, risks, losses. Anything but people. So I'm going to give him this plant as a reminder that attached to every number is a living, feeling human being who needs nurturing. We are the people who get up every morning take care of our families, go to work and work towards our dream."
Johnson went into the meeting with some questions.
How long does a typical loan modification take?
What are the next steps?
What do you think about the 10,000 signatures on the petition?
What can you do make sure my case is handled fairly and efficiently?
What are the next steps if I'm denied a loan modification?
What happens if they come back to me requiring a large amount of money upfront to start the modification?
She was told last week that there's a 72 hour window for all documentation to be sent. That means whatever she sent previously meant little or nothing. It has to be sent within that time frame.
According to Mirabella,"You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. It was clear to them that they are being watched very closely. They sent a regional manager who was at the meeting which isn't standard. He was observing every dot and every cross of every T to make sure that the process was being done properly. In their best interests they wouldn't let her record her own meeting. He said he was more concerned about the message that Bank of America was sending out than her ability to record the meeting for her records."
Johnson reported after the meeting that she was told she is not currently in foreclosure. "I can say that he just seemed annoyed by the signatures on the petition," Johnson said, "He didn't even look at the petition."
Mirabella said, "She asked who owns her loan, who the investor was and they said they would not tell her, that it was Bank of America policy because they didn't want the customer going directly to the investor because the investor couldn't really help them anyway."
After the meeting Johnson reported that "It was a lot of paperwork (...)It was confusing. I still don't know. I'm not going to know until maybe the end of next week. But the lender could still turn it down. Even if I get turned down there's still yet another process I could go through."
Johnson has been trying to convince Bank of America to grant a loan modification on her home loan for more than 18 months. Despite meeting the eligibility requirements for a permanent loan modification, Bank of America continues to delay Johnson’s modification request, repeatedly misplacing her application documents and inaccurately updating her about her case for hardship.
Frustrated and in fear of losing her home, she took matters into her own hands, mobilizing a network of community members to help build pressure on the bank to do the right thing and grant her a permanent loan modification in a fair and efficient manner.
“Facing foreclosure on my home and business, I felt frustrated and alone in dealing with the bank,” said Johnson. “But then I found a petition on Change.org by another Chase bank customer, Tim Collette, in Oregon. That's when I realized that banks are doing the same thing to thousands of homeowners across the country. We've got to join together and fight these practices."
While raising two children and running her nursery business, over the last month Johnson has taken her story public, organizing several house meetings for neighbors facing foreclosure, bringing her story to local media, and launching the Change.org petition that generated more than 10,000 signatures in support of her case.
Johnson’s advocacy efforts are working. After receiving hundreds of messages from Change.org members, Bank of America provided her with a single point of contact and agreed to halt foreclosure proceedings on her property. However, Johnson still faces the ultimate battle of winning a loan modification that will allow her to stay in her home.