No good deed goes unpunished, they say. For Michael Bachich of Sewell, the punishment has lasted more than 18 months and has cost, by his reckoning, $15,000 in legal fees, his credit, and his good name.
His good deed: He paid his mortgages on his primary home and his place in Cape May on time.
In October 2007, the two mortgages he had with Coldwell Mortgage were sold to Chase Finance. Bachich says he and his wife, Anne, were notified only about the change in the mortgage on the Sewell home.
"I immediately went online and changed the billing information at my bank's [Web] site so the payments would be automatically sent to Chase Finance," he said. The payments on the Shore house continued to go to Coldwell.
To celebrate their wedding anniversary, the Bachichs headed to the beach house in March 2008, for the first time since the previous October. They found the mailbox there overflowing with letters - most from local lawyers offering to help stop Chase from foreclosing.
"Needless to say, my wife and I were in disbelief," Bachich said.
The Bachichs called Coldwell and Chase that day. The only response from Coldwell was a taped message that "if your mortgage was sold and Coldwell received payments, they would forward those payments to Chase Finance," Bachich said.
When Bachich reached a real person at Chase Finance, "I was very upset, and the woman indicated to me that my house was in foreclosure for nonpayment. I immediately told her that there was some sort of misunderstanding, and that we had been paying our mortgage every month and never were late on payment."
Though the woman sympathized, she suggested that Bachich call Chase's attorneys. When he did, he said, the attorneys told him they "could not discuss the case with me and I needed to retain a lawyer."
Bachich retained one, expecting that "this should take five minutes to resolve once the bank understood that payments were being made - albeit to the wrong place."
Five minutes has now become October 2009. The couple has spent $15,000 in legal fees.
"Our credit rating has been shattered, creditors have reduced our credit lines, we had to raid our 401(k) to pay for college tuition" because no one would lend them money while the foreclosure was an issue. "My wife and I live with this over our heads every day."
A settlement appeared likely in May, after the Bachichs met with a third law firm handling things for Chase, but they were told the lender found the proposed solution unacceptable.
I called Chase, and spokesman Michael Fusco told me the company could not discuss pending litigation. In the interim, though, Chase called the Bachichs' attorney, and Bachich reports that the case appears to be nearing resolution.
What prompted Bachich to seek my help was a Sept. 13 column about Clark Linderman of Swarthmore, whose home equity line of credit was withdrawn by Chase for no apparent reason. That credit line was restored Sept. 14.