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Bank events for LIers facing foreclosure

A series of unexpected events left Linda and

A series of unexpected events left Linda and Ronald Schneider, of Lido Beach, seeking a modification of their mortgage. (July 8, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

Thousands of Long Island homeowners struggling with mortgage payments will have a chance this month to make their cases to get help from banks.

Major banks are offering help at venues ranging from a Chase branch in Hempstead Tuesday to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where Wells Fargo anticipates as many as 2,000 attendees next week.

Bank representatives will determine whether borrowers are eligible for loan modifications, either through federal or bank-sponsored programs. If not, they will offer guidance on short sales or other options.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo say they will make on-site decisions about loan modifications as long as borrowers bring all the needed documents. CitiMortgage and GMAC, the mortgage division of Ally Financial, also will host events this month.

Wells Fargo, which says it is Long Island's largest mortgage lender, has invited 40,000 customers to the Coliseum on July 17 and 18.

The events come as the nation's largest mortgage lenders face a host of new requirements under a $25-billion accord reached in February with federal and state officials, settling allegations of improper foreclosure. The accord requires banks to improve communications with their customers by reaching out to those in distress, and appointing a single "point of contact" to handle a particular homeowner's case.

Not everyone is convinced that struggling homeowners will get much help. "It means nothing if they aren't actually following through and giving people" modifications, said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

One homeowner, Ronald Schneider of Lido Beach, said banks need to do more to help customers.

Since 2008 his family has endured the closing of its Rockville Centre art gallery; a brief bout of unemployment for his wife, Linda, now director of an adult day health care facility in Syosset; a roof replacement; and finally an electrical fire last August that forced them to live in a hotel for three months.

For six months, he said, they rarely spoke to the same person twice at their lender, Bank of America. In May, after Newsday called the bank, the family's case has been assigned to a person who has been helpful, Schneider said. Even so, he said, "I have no clue yet if they're going to come back and approve" a modification.

Sheila Sellers, a senior vice president at Bank of America, said she could not comment on the Schneiders' situation, but said the 50 mortgage specialists at this week's event will strive to give homeowners speedy responses.

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