Credit dings, past-due notices burden consumers who took advantage of mortgage deferment programs amid COVID

Better Call Behnken

CFO Jimmy Patronis sends letter to three major credit bureaus asking for "game plan" for fixing mistakes

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) – Drew Eichelberger was thrilled to learn he qualified for Bank of America’s coronavirus payment deferral program this year.

“I’m an independent business owner – 1099, commission representative – so seeing that there was an opportunity there I wanted to keep the cash liquidity, take advantage of that opportunity,” Eichelberger said.

He and his wife were able to skip three monthly payments. The money would be tacked onto the end of their loan. Instead, he says payments were applied incorrectly and the bank’s records reflect they’re behind.

“I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve said, “We’ll have this cleared up, next week we’ll send you a certified letter that it’s all taken care of. The only letter that showed up was that we were in default and at risk of losing our home,” Eichelberger said.

Eichelberger is worried about his credit – and for good reason. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis tells Better Call Behnken he’s getting complaints from consumers that their credit scores dropped just because they took advantage of deferring payments.

The CARES Act is supposed to offer protections for consumers, so Patronis is going after the three major credit bureaus.

“We immediately jumped into action, sending letters to all three major credit rating agencies, demanding them [to] change their course, understand we’re in the middle of a pandemic and, by Jan. 4, show us their game plan of how they’re going to ensure that Florida families aren’t harmed by this mistake, oversight, whatever you want to call it,” Patronis said.

Meanwhile, Eichelberger wishes he’d never signed up for mortgage deferral.

“Emotionally – regardless if they’re telling you all’s OK – when you’re getting a letter saying you’re in default and risk losing your home, that’s pretty upsetting scary stuff,” he said.

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