Cases of homeowners struggling against their banks to fend off foreclosure are a dime a dozen these days. But Michelle Hansen of Aurora, Colo., is upping the ante against JPMorgan Chase, which she says is refusing to grant her a loan modification after she became delinquent on her mortgage. What's her tactic? She's using her own house to publicly shame the bank, scrawling a message across her garage door that says: "JPMorgan Chase is stealing this home."
"They think everyone's just going to go away," Hansen (pictured below) told KMGH-TV in Denver of her bank. "I think they picked the wrong house." Hansen is doing anything but going away -- she's fighting back. The entirety of the message addressed to JPMorgan and its CEO, Jamie Dimon, that Hansen spray painted on her home reads: "Jamie Dimon & JPMorgan Chase, JPMorgan Chase is stealing this home. Ignores homeowner for 21 months!! I will not violate federal law on your behalf as a condition of communication from you! Call me. Chase Me!!" Hansen ends the note with a heart sign.
According to Hansen, she notified JPMorgan in May 2011 that she had fallen on hard times and would not be able to pay her mortgage payments. She said the bank promised to work with her on getting a loan modification, then refused to do so two months later. "You're told, 'We need A, B and C,' so you give them A, B and C, and then, 'No, we need this and then we'll talk to you,'" Hansen said. "So you did it, and they keep lying."
JPMorgan Chase said in a statement, "Chase does not own this mortgage but services it on behalf of its investor, Fannie Mae, and must follow all investor guidelines." It's easy for distressed homeowners in these types of situations to view the banks as the bad guys, but to be fair, Chase recently began refinancing thousands of loans. Last year, as part of the $25 billion mortgage settlement, Chase offered $4.2 billion toward mortgage relief to slash the interest rates and principal loan balances of thousands of underwater borrowers.
Hansen's attorney, Keith Gantenbein, said many Colorado homeowners find themselves in situations similar to Hansen's because the state's foreclosure practice is "very one-sided for lenders." He told KMGH, "There isn't a lot of due process protections for borrowers to say, 'Hey, I don't feel like I'm being treated fairly.'" The Gantenbein Law Firm estimates that about 20 percent of borrowers are underwater in Colorado. Nationally, 28.2 percent of borrowers were underwater in the third quarter of 2012, according to Zillow.
Hansen said her message to Chase was a last-ditch effort to save her home. "Doing this and making it personal, writing to Jaime Dimon was hard," she said. "I never wanted to pick a fight with the bank, but you can make a choice. You can make a choice to stand up for what you believe in."
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