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Arlington Heights couple struggles to get home loan modified

Susan William Filstead

Susan and William Filstead

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Updated: January 4, 2014 6:26AM

My friend Susan Filstead is the most giving person I know.

She welcomes her friends into her home with a special treat and warm smile no matter what she is going through.

Her graciousness is humbling.

You see, Susan has been paralyzed on her left side since giving birth to her only son in 1992.

Over the years, she has suffered countless seizures because of epilepsy and has endured several brain surgeries. In 2010, Susan fell as a result of a seizure and required two lumbar back surgeries.

Still, she has remained her hopeful self.

One of her favorite quotes is, “Count your blessings by the flowers that bloom, not by the leaves that fall.”

But efforts to work out a loan modification on her Arlington Heights home is dragging her down.

Susan and her husband, William Filstead, a former college professor, have gone back and forth with their lender for two years.

“While my gratitude for every blessing has grown, my hope and will to live have faded,” she said in a recent email she sent to her physicians.

Although a settlement with the five biggest banks are supposed to make it easier for homeowners to modify loans, many families are still mired in paperwork.

“We have filed 10 or ll sets of documents for a loan modification and have gotten nowhere,” said William Filstead, whose mortgage is with Astoria Federal Savings.

“We are at this point because our real estate taxes significantly increased and was added to the mortgage, and our mortgage escalated. We wouldn’t be here if the bank had agreed to work with us in the beginning.”

A spokeswoman for Astoria Federal said it’s the bank’s policy to “avoid foreclosure whenever they can.”

“The bank provided numerous clear written guidelines to the homeowners on what documentation was required,” the spokeswoman said.

“Those documents have not been received in its entirety. Once those documents are received then the foreclosure proceedings could be postponed while that’s being reviewed,” she added.

Deborah Hagan, chief of the Consumer Protection Division at the Illinois attorney general’s office, said people often think they sent everything in and are told it was lost or that they need something more.

“Trying to get banks to acknowledge that all the paperwork is in, that is the most common complaint,” she said.

Under the new rules that go into effect in 2014, lenders are required to give homeowners 30 more days to respond to requests for additional documents before the homes can be referred for sale.

For Susan, that’s 30 more days of agony.

“Bill’s unemployment the past nine months and the impending foreclosure of our home consume each day,” she wrote in the email.

“With the imminent loss of my accessible home, I’m not sure how many more shattered dreams I can endure.”

The house was supposed to be built using the proceeds from a settlement against the hospital where Susan delivered her son, Matthew.

It was constructed to accommodate Susan’s numerous disabilities and includes an elevator, wide hallways, grab-bars in the bathrooms and lever-handles instead of doorknobs.

Although the Filsteads had planned to pay for the construction, a downward turn in the economy after 9-11, which led to a major loss on their investments, caused them to need a mortgage.

“This was built to be my nursing home so I wouldn’t ever have to go to one,” said Susan.

“I want that to be as close as I ever get to a nursing home,” she said. “Ultimately, I thought I would live out my years here.”

My friend has never asked for anything.

Please, God. Touch the heart of a bureaucrat today.


Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST

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