When a Philadelphia man became fed up with his bank for failing to respond to his mortgage questions, he took them to court and won. In a twist that will warm the hearts of millions with underwater loans, he moved to foreclose on Wells Fargo's local office.
The saga began in 2009, when Patrick Rodgers first wrote to Wells Fargo, requesting itemized information about the mortgage on his home in Philadelphia. His homeowners' insurance provider was forcing him to take out a $1 million policy on his home, which he maintains is worth far less than that.
Over the next year he sent at least four letters to Wells Fargo from June to September and got exactly no replies.
The bank, he said, insisted on what's known as forced-place home insurance, which cost $2,400 a year.
"They insist people insure for the replacement value of the home which is what it would cost to rebuild home exactly as it was," said Rodgers. "I live in a lovely house that is 100 years old and the craftsmanship is absolutely beautiful."
But Rodgers said the market value of the home is not $1 million because his neighborhood is "not too far from the wrong side of the tracks" in West Philadelphia. He bought his 3-story Victorian home for $180,000 in 2002.
Rodgers did some research and learned that the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, passed in 1974, requires that a mortgage company acknowledge written requests within 20 business days, or face damages or penalties.
So he went to court, citing the law, and received a $1,173 judgment against Wells Fargo. The bank did not respond to his action and he won a default judgment. Then Rodgers placed a sheriff's levy against Wells Fargo's local mortgage office for the judgment, plus interest.
"I think it's important for people to know this RESPA law exists and if their mortgage company is doing something irregular or shady, you can send a letter," said Rodgers, who said he did not hire a lawyer. "And if they don't acknowledge your request, they face damages or penalties."
He said he was surprised that Wells Fargo has still not responded despite media attention about his story, as first reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Wells Fargo finally responded with two checks – $1,078 on Jan. 14 and $95 on Jan. 26 – but he said he still had not received a response to his letters.
So he turned to the Philadelphia sheriff's office to initiate a sale of the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office in Philadelphia.
On Tuesday the court placed a temporary stay on the sale, and ordered a hearing on Feb. 23 to determine the final status.
Rodgers said he is now awaiting $50 from Wells Fargo for the cost of initiating that sale. He said the sheriff's sale can continue until then, barring an unfavorable judgment from the hearing, which he does not expect.
"Why Wells Faro doesn't pay $50 is beyond me, but you never know what's going on in the mind of these big companies," Rodgers said. "They've just been nonresponsive."
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Vickee Adams didn't speak to why Rodgers' inquiries went unanswered, but said that the obligation of the mortgage contract is that the homeowner carry insurance.
"We were surprised to learn about the sheriff's sale because we sent him the funds and we thought the matter was resolved," she said. "We fully expect this to be concluded later this month."