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Dear Liz: We applied for a loan modification a year ago and submitted all the paperwork requested on time. Our lender claims we were denied because of missing papers. I had everything documented, so the denial was appealed, but as of now we’re still waiting to hear whether we were approved or not. What can we do? We haven’t made a payment since last March. We have the money on hand to make three trial payments, as we were originally instructed, but I’m so worried.

Answer: Unfortunately, your experience is all too common — and too often people waiting for an answer from their lender wind up losing their homes to foreclosure. Lenders’ poorly trained and poorly staffed loan modification departments have created endless nightmares for homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure.

You should immediately enlist the help of a counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can get referrals from http://www.hud.gov or by calling (800) 569-4287. The advice is free or low-cost. A counselor can help assess your situation, offer alternatives and guide you through the modification process — if a modification is still an option.

You also should read attorney Stephen Elias’ excellent book “The Foreclosure Survival Guide: Keep Your House or Walk Away With Money in Your Pocket.”

What you shouldn’t do is expect the lender to do the “right” thing, including honoring any promises or commitments made to you. The people who get loan modifications have to be tenacious, persistent and savvy about the process.

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I’ve gone through this same thing. It took us 27 months to get our loan modified through this program. At first we had to make the three trial payments, which we did, then they lowered our mortgage ‘temporarily’ while the modification was being reviewed – so we paid 1/2 the amount for 2 years, in which time we were able to pay some other bills with the extra, and in the mean time my husband was promoted and received a substantial raise just two months before our modification was final.

When all was said and done our mortgage was only dropped $100, our credit was ruined. The good side is my interest rate is only 2% for the next 5 years. It also bought us time to pay some other stuff.

I went through GreenPath – a non profit, no fee counselor to help like LIz suggested, but they just took all the information ‘passed it on’ and were really no help in getting it done, they did keep calling to check on the progress and were very informative in answering questions I could not get answered through my bank.

My bank was Chase, after researching online I found someone’s post that said to contact the “Executive Office” of chase. So I did, It took some time, but I was assigned a person, with a direct contact phone number, who worked directly with the underwriter’s on my case. After being told for months and months that I had “missing paperwork” but never being told what was missing, she figured out what was missing, something they never asked for before..and a couple months later I had my modification. My advice, be persistent, document every conversation and see if your bank has a similar group to contact. Never lose hope, we all work to hard to keep our homes!