Originally published: July 12, 2012 8:48 PM
Updated: July 12, 2012 9:52 PM
By MAURA MCDERMOTT firstname.lastname@example.org
Fewer homeowners than expected turned out Thursday for a Bank of America event aimed at helping people who are struggling to pay their mortgage bills.
Only 273 people -- less than 3 percent of the 10,000 who received invitations -- had registered by Thursday afternoon for the gathering that runs through Saturday at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale. Homeowners who bring a complete set of documents can expect to get a decision about a loan modification or other assistance at the event, officials said.
The bank typically gets 4 percent to 6 percent of homeowners it invites to such events in New York, and 3 to 5 percent elsewhere, Sheila Sellers, a senior vice president at the bank, said earlier this week.
"We would prefer to see a much greater participation," Sellers said.
The bank has made its procedures more customer-friendly, held mortgage-help events and opened in-person customer assistance centers in West Hempstead and elsewhere, she said.
The $25-billion settlement Bank of America and four other lenders reached in February with federal and state officials over alleged foreclosure abuses requires the lenders to do customer outreach.
Kristen Burke said she initially tore up the invitation to the event, since she has been "thoroughly disgusted" by the bank in her previous efforts to get help. Burke, a nurse who lives with her husband and three children in Ridge, said the family has tried to get a loan modification since early 2010, when her overtime hours at a hospital were cut and it became increasingly difficult to make the mortgage payments.
At her father's urging, she attended as a last-ditch step before hiring a lawyer. "I'm kind of glad I did, because they're very helpful," she said. Five and a half hours after she arrived, she learned that she had received conditional approval, although a title search was needed and it would take up to 10 days to get a final answer.
Carol Yopp, a program manager with the Long Island Housing Partnership who counseled homeowners at the event Thursday, said three of her clients attended a similar event last summer. It took from six months to almost a year for them to get answers, she said.