Agencies intervene with lenders

MAILBAG

May 16, 1999

Dear Mr. Azrael:

I am writing to ask for a more complete response to the question posed by Bill Sharp in the March 21 column. He asked what recourse one has concerning a mortgage problem when it is not possible to get help from a mortgage company's customer service line.

Gillian S. Moore

Columbia

Dear Ms. Moore: Here is my advice for handling problems with your mortgage company.

Put your complaint in writing and send it to the mortgage company at the address listed in your mortgage owner book. Most lenders have an address for "customer service" that is different from the address to which mortgage payments are sent.

Describe the problem clearly, include relevant documentation (such as canceled checks), and state what relief you want. Keep a copy of your correspondence for reference.

If the mortgage company does not respond, or the response is unsatisfactory, several government agencies can assist consumers. Each agency has "jurisdiction" over different lenders, depending on whether the lender is a national bank, a federal savings institution or a mortgage company.

* National banks. These lenders are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency. Your lender is a "national bank" if it has those words in its title or if it has the letters "N.A." after its name (e.g. NationsBank, N.A.). You can obtain information about filing a complaint by calling the Comptroller of Currency at 800-613-6743.

* Federal savings banks. These lenders are regulated by the U.S. Treasury's Department of Thrift Supervision. A federal savings bank has the letters "F.S.B." or "F.A." after its title. You can complain by writing to the Compliance and Consumer Affairs Division, Office of Thrift Supervision, 1700 G St., N.W., Washington, D.C., 20052. You can also lodge a complaint by calling 202-906-6000 during normal business hours.

* Mortgage companies. Other lenders making loans in Maryland are regulated by the State Commissioner of Financial Regulation. Complaints can be sent by mail to the commissioner at 500 N. Calvert St., Suite 400, Baltimore, Md. 21202. The state regulators will also accept complaints by telephone at 410-333-3866 or by fax at 410-333-0475.

In every case, complete documentation -- including your letter to the bank or mortgage company -- will help the federal or state agency handle your complaint more efficiently. Nerry Mitchell, assistant commissioner for financial regulation, and his staff work hard to help consumers, and this state agency provides a welcome resource for consumers when a mortgage company's customer service department is unable or unwilling to solve mortgage-related problems.

Questions?

The Sun invites you to send real estate questions to Mailbag. Questions are answered by Jonathan A. Azrael of Azrael, Gann and Franz of Towson.

Questions -- including name, address and daytime telephone number -- may be sent in the following ways:

Mailing address: Real Estate Mailbag, Fifth Floor, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278-0001. Fax: 410-783-2517. E-mail: real.estate@baltsun.com

Call our Sundial audio-response number, 410-783-1800. Enter code 6170 after the greeting.

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