Letter: 'I'm Honestly Scared About Losing My House Because Of An Essay ' : Planet Money A listener writes about appealing to his lender for a mortgage modification. The scariest part of the process, he says, isn't the paperwork or promising not to be late, it's writing a "hardship letter."
NPR logo Letter: 'I'm Honestly Scared About Losing My House Because Of An Essay '

Letter: 'I'm Honestly Scared About Losing My House Because Of An Essay '

Chris S. writes:

I had something happen to me that I thought might seem interesting to you. A long time ago you put it out on your podcast that banks and financial institutions were not the only ones who were to blame for the misfortune a lot of people found themselves in with this faltering economy. You encouraged people to write/call in with their apologies as you tried to find those who would apologize for the mess we've got on our hands. It was brilliantly funny.

Fast forward to last week when I found myself at the start of the process of having to apply for a Help for Homeowners program through my lender, Chase, in order to hold on to my house which is set for a balloon reset in about 2.5 months. Now, I'm fine with filling out everything they need to, showing proof that I have been making every monthly payment on my house for the last 12 months, on time, in full, without ever being late, and I am certainly OK with jumping through the documents hoop by showing my pay stubs, tax records, expenses, etc..., from the last year, but what caught my eye was a form called the Hardship Letter.

I am being asked to fill this out much in the same way a student is asked to write an essay to get into college they want. I immediately called my lender to get clarification on what should be in this letter and I was told that I should put in the letter the reasons why I think I should be considered worthy of this assistance. I asked, if the black and white details of my situation are there on the page, shouldn't there be a rubric to determine who falls into the Yea and who falls into the Nay category?

I mean, is it an apology that they're looking to get from me?

I am now racked with doubt about what I should put into this letter. Should I make it all Oliver Twist-ish and beg for financial scraps from my lender's table? Should I make it more utilitarian in scope and just lay out the facts? No one told me that there was going to be a talent portion of this pageant of homeowners walking across the stage of shame and I am honestly perplexed by the judges who will look at my essay and judge whether I made a good enough case to defend my life. I am imagining Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres sitting around a desk with my essay and picking it apart while making snide quips about my writing style, how unflattering of a narrative I chose or how I didn't take economic hardship and make it my own.

I'm honestly scared about losing my house because of an essay, of all things, I can't imagine what it's like for a lot of Americans who can't use the English language in a meaningful way to have to fill one of these out, but I am frightened by the notion that I now have to apologize and make a case why I should stay in my home, to beg on paper why I should be spared. I wish it were a little more amusing than it is but not knowing who is going to read what I have to say is just frightening.