Oregon Dad Facing Foreclosure as Senator Tries to Help in Time for Soldier's Homecoming

PHOTO: Tim Collete stands with his son, Aaron.
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Chase bank is scheduled to foreclose on Tim Collette's home in Bend, Ore., in about a week. All Collette wants to do is keep his home until his son visits in August from serving in Iraq.

With time running out, public officials are helping Collette, his son and thousands of others navigate the often frustrating mortgage modification maze in a shaky housing market.

"I spoke to my son this morning and told him that people are working on it and there could be a way we could have the home when he visits," Collette said.

Son Aaron, 20, has been deployed with the Army in Iraq since February and is scheduled for a temporary visit home in August for 15 days. "All he wants is to rest and sleep in his own bed," Collette said.

Collette, a specialty contractor, said he had always paid every bill and mortgage payment on time, with a credit rating of 810, just below the highest possible score of 850. When Collette bought his home in June 2006, he even put down $100,000 as a down payment to avoid borrowing too much.

But after the economy and the housing market took a turn for the worst, he lost his job in 2008. Unsure how long he would be unemployed and trying to prevent future problems with his mortgage, Collette said, he sought the advice of his bank, Chase.

Collette, 59, said bank staff advised him to miss two mortgage payments in order to qualify for a loan-modification program. In 2009, Collette said, he and Chase entered into a forbearance agreement, which is a temporary solution to delay foreclosure.

He said Chase had him jump through hoops for a year and a half before ultimately rejecting him for a modification. The banks also demanded the full payments that he would have made.

"You send information to the bank, then they lose it," Collette said. "By the time you send it again, they ask for an update. Every time you try to start the modification process, it drags for months and months. You feel like the information is going straight to the paper shredder."

A Chase representative Thursday said the bank is working with the Collette family on a solution.

Collette received a notice of foreclosure in October 2010 and the foreclosure will officially take place on June 20.

But Collette said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the Oregon attorney general and a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, Economic Fairness Oregon, have tried to assist him.

Merkley spoke during a Senate debate Thursday about Collette's situation and offered an amendment with other senators to the Public Works and Economic Development Reauthorization Bill.

"For Tim and countless others, it didn't need to be this bad," Merkley said on the Senate floor.

The bill would require banks and other mortgage servicers to create a single point of contact for borrowers, end the dual track process of foreclosing homes while homeowners are negotiating a modification, and provide an independent, third-party review before sending a family to foreclosure, according to a statement from Merkley, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

A record 2.9 million properties received foreclosure filings last year. Nevada, Arizona and California had the highest state foreclosure rates in April, according to RealtyTrac.

Collette would be grateful if he could at least stay in his home until September, for his son's visit, but he hopes legislation will lead to a less frustrating mortgage process for others.

"This isn't just about me," Collette said. "Hundreds of thousands of people are in the same situation."

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