A year or so ago, my mortgage was sold to Green Tree Servicing, a South Dakota financial concern owned by Tampa-based Walter Investment Management. Green Tree specializes in serving sub-prime, nonconforming or other credit challenged mortgages.
My mortgage is none of the above. It’s a conventional 15-year mortgage. My credit rating is solid gold. We have been homeowners since 1988, and in those 26 years we have never missed a mortgage payment.
Nevertheless, Green Tree still uses the debt collector tactics applied to people struggling to pay their bills.
This is exactly what happened one day after a mortgage payment was due sometime in early 2014. The calls came at all times of the day, starting at 7:30 am and not stopping until 8:00 pm. The spiel is always the same: “Your payment is due immediately. If you do not make a payment by phone, it will hurt your credit score.”
They’ll claim that the amount paid from escrow is insufficient. They’ll claim that your payment can’t be posted because of the alleged escrow shortage. They’ll claim to have made a “forced insurance” payment because your homeowner’s policy doesn’t fully cover the dwelling and that you owe the difference. All of this is bull hockey.
The callers are consistently rude, unprofessional, pushy and insistent. They simply don’t listen. The calls also come from offices across the country. I’ve gotten rude, harassing calls from Texas, Missouri, Florida, South Dakota and Georgia.
I’m not the only one getting the unprofessional and illegal tactics, either. In fact, there are four other people in my school parish that are getting the same thing. Google “Green Tree Harassment,” and watch as thousands of links appear. The BBB, with which Green Tree is not accredited (I wonder why), has to date fielded nearly 2,000 complaints.
So, how’s that working out for them? Well, have a look right here of how the parent company’s stock price has performed over the last two years.
If you’ve been a victim of Green Tree’s harassment, there are steps you can take.
Step 1 is to consult with an attorney. Most will review your case for free (for reasons explained below).
Step 2 is to write a cease and desist letter to the company’s registered agent in your state. You will need to use your state’s Secretary of State’s website or office to identify the agent. Here is the text of the letter I sent:
Your name and address here
Green Tree Servicing, LLC
c/o CT Corporation System
2 North Jackson Street, Suite 605,
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Re: Account Number — [enter account number here]
Sent via USPS Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested
Dear Green Tree Servicing:
Pursuant to my rights under federal law, I am demanding that you cease and desist telephonic communication with me, or about me to third parties (i.e. family, friends, neighbors, employers, etc) in relation to this account, including, but not limited to this list of telephone numbers:
[List numbers here]
Please direct future contact to me in writing only, addressed to my residential mailing address, which is shown above.
I would like to kindly remind you that Federal law requires collection calls to cease upon written request. See Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C § 1692 et. seq (“FDCPA”).
After effective written notice of request for telephone contact to cease has been received by your registered agent, financial penalties of $500 – $1,500 can be awarded per violation.
I will vigorously assert my rights under any applicable federal or state law, and I will seek relief in the form of monetary damages if these harassing calls are not ceased upon effective delivery of this letter.
If you continue to receive harassing phone calls after getting the return receipt on your certified mail, keep a record of each one. The FDCPA allows monetary damages for each call, and makes the offending company pay attorney fees, so all damages paid by the offender go straight to you, while the attorney working your case gets paid by the offender.
What’s cool about this is that it might take a while for your state’s registered agent to notify the company, which in turn means that it might take a while for the company to notify its field offices that they are in receipt of a C&D letter and that they must stop calling. So it’s likely that even after you get your receipt from USPS, some calls are going to continue.
While this process can be a general pain in the ass, it is effective. It also works with other debt collectors. Say you have a kid with a delinquent student loan whose debt has been sold off to a debt collector. Write them the letter above and your phone goes silent.
One caveat: FDCPA does not prohibit a lender from seeking to collect its own debt. So if you borrowed money from Hometown Bank, NA, that bank has a right to attempt to collect on delinquent debt. However, once Hometown Bank sells your loan to a sub-prime servicer or debt collector, the terms of FDCPA apply.