On The Burning And Building Of Houses

UPDATE: I just got a call from the CEO’s executive team, and the full check is being overnighted! Thank you to everyone that helped. 😀

Anyone that knows me personally or professionally knows that in January our house burned down. Many of you know that we’ve had problems getting our house replaced as well. Oddly, while it would seem obvious to blame the insurance company, in this case Auto Owners (our home owners insurance company, I know, funny name for homeowners) has been amazing. Our problems have been with Chase Manhattan. Let me tell you a story about why there isn’t a house in this photo…

How Insurance Claims On House Fires Work

This process wasn’t something I ever considered before, but it turns out it’s a bit complicated if there is a mortgage on the house that burned. It is a 4 step process:

  1. The insurance company gets an appraisal of the structure, based on its value just before it actually burned. This is for the dwelling only, not the property, etc.
  2. The insurance company cuts a check for that amount to the homeowner AND the mortgage company.
  3. The homeowner endorses the check, and sends it to the mortgage company for them to cash and send back to the homeowner to pay the contractor. In our case, thanks to the crappy housing market, our dwelling appraised for a whopping $65,500.
  4. Once the house is set, the insurance company cuts another check to the homeowner and mortgage company for the difference in the original check and the actual cost of the house. This is what “replacement insurance” on the dwelling means. I endorse that check, send it to the mortgage company, and they cash and send it back made out to me and the contractor doing the work.

Yes, it’s complicated, but legally that’s what needs to happen. The problem is that Chase won’t release all of the first check to me. Since our house is a modular house, it’s complete when delivered. In fact, my house has been completed for weeks now, and is sitting in a warehouse in Indiana. It can’t be delivered until the contractor has the cash to pay for it.

This might seem hinky. The manufacturer needing COD for a house? But as it turns out, this is the norm. Once the house they built is on private property, they have no legal right to it. So, they insist on getting paid, especially since their job IS done. The problem is that Chase is keeping back half of the first check. This means the contractor (the middleman between me and the housing manufacturer) is expected to pay over $100,000 for a house while only being given roughly $44,000. (See, there was a $12,000 deposit the insurance company paid, plus that first half of the check already sent to the mortgage company).

If people were actually buying houses, the contractor might have enough capital to fund the house while Chase Manhattan dragged their heels. Sadly, no one is buying. No one is building. In fact, here in Michigan, people are moving away because there are no jobs. So that’s what puts us in the current pickle.

  • Without the second half of the first check, which Chase Manhattan is holding (and collecting interest on, I’m sure), we are unable to get a house placed on the foundation.
  • Without an inspection of the house ON THE FOUDATION, Chase will not release the second check.

See the problem?

Why Chase Manhattan Sucks Like The Tootsie Roll Center of the Galaxy

That was weeks ago. No, really. I’ve been dealing with Chase Manhattan since mid-June trying to figure out a solution to the problem. After hours of phone calls, and supervisors of supervisors, I finally got them to agree to investigate a deviation for us. Mind you, for the past month I’ve been faxing information they requested, getting paperwork notarized (and re-notarized, don’t ask), having my insurance company send explanation letters on company letterhead, etc, etc, etc. Every step takes 48-72 hours. Send a fax? It’s not official for 48-72 hours. Want a call back? 48-72 hours. Waiting for a decision? 48-72 hours.

So now, I’ve reached what seems like the end of my ability. I’ve been the patient customer, holding for literally hours. I’ve been the irate customer, immediately demanding to speak to supervisors by name. I’ve been the annoying customer, and when given a direct line, left multiple messages.

It never does any good. At all. Here is what I’m hoping: That you might help. Lord knows you’ve all helped my family before. I’m only asking here for publicity. If you know someone at Chase, please send them to my blog. If you are on Twitter, please tweet a link if you’re OK with that sort of thing. If you work at Chase, by all means, PLEASE email me. If you are Jamie Dimon, dude, you should know how poorly your company treats its customers.

Here is a list of email addresses. I’m sure they’re not all valid, I just came up with them based on the standard structure for Chase email addresses. They are the names of the company board members, CEO, and some of the managers I’ve spoken with inside Chase. I’m not asking you to email bomb these folks, but feel free to add any addresses in the comments so I can email them as well:

List deleted, since they’ve finally done the right thing!

My house is done. It’s been done for weeks. It would be really nice if the next 48-72 hours actually accomplished something. You have my thanks.

15 Comments

  1. Fred Richards says:

    Shawn, find one point where Chase has failed epically. Open a Better Business Buerau complaint. Someone from Chase will call you. I’ve done this before with Citibank. I can’t remember the details, but they completely went back on a promotion and I called them out on it. They usually reply back within 24 hours. Remember the trick is to highlight something they promised to do or that’s in their agreements or whatnot. BBB complaints are black mars on the companies report card, and typically “someone important” handles them to make sure they get resolved. This may seem like a jerk move, but it gets their attention. Especially if they’ve dropped the ball (and I’m sure you have a few examples of how they’ve done just that.)

    I can’t imagine you’re the first person they’ve had in this situation! I know it will all work out for the best.

  2. Shawn Powers says:

    Fred — they already have a rating of “F”, so that’s not terribly encouraging. Still, I’ll file. 🙂

    Thanks!

  3. Tia says:

    https://odr.bbb.org/odrweb/public/getstarted.aspx?siteID=53
    Yeah I would go with that!!

    I tried to email, access was denied!!

    Lots of Love!!!

  4. Arthur Sido says:

    Shawn, just FYI. I used to work for Chase in Petoskey, if you are going to email someone who is actually going to see the email try Charles W. Scharf, he is the head of retail and oversees the consumer mortgage division. I am trying to remember the name of the regional head in Detroit, it was Anthony something. His office is is in downtown Detroit and he is a big cheese.

  5. Shawn Powers says:

    Arthur — thanks a ton. I did get a personal response from a secretary based on my email to Jamie Dimon (CEO). I never expected a direct reply from him, but it’s nice that his email address is actually monitored.

    Also, my contractor is trying to fund the home himself to get the job over with. I fully expect the local guy here to be more helpful than Chase, as sad as that might be.

  6. Nathan says:

    I forwarded a link to this post to Consumerist. Don’t know if it’ll help or not, but they tend to be pretty noisy.

  7. Ken Scott says:

    Shawn, I passed along your blog post and some personal thoughts to the Executive Editor of TheConsumerist.com. Don’t know if you’re familiar with the site, but I am an avid reader and have seen on many occasion where people with similar problems have been help by their reader community. I can’t provide you with any insight into Chase per se, but I bet someone who reads The Consumerist does.

  8. Janiece says:

    Reposted to Hot Chicks, Twitter and Facebook. Hopefully this will get resolved so you all can move in SOON.

  9. Shawn Powers says:

    Thank you everyone — even if this gets nowhere the support feels incredible. You are all amazing.

    Really, thank you very much. 🙂

  10. Shawn's MOM says:

    I wish I knew someone but alas I do not.
    should I think of someone or something I will get right on it. Love ya.

  11. mattw says:

    Facebooked.

  12. Venomfang says:

    Sometimes if you really want email addresses the best way is to get a hold of tech support… I suggest trying the chase.com whois record; domainregistration@jpmchase.com

    You never know; if they treat there customers this badly you might get a disgruntled tech that will give you all the info you need: CEO’s direct phone number for example.

    Worth a shot.

  13. Venomfang says:

    Or you could try your luck with the switchboard, with any luck you might be able to find the CEO’s extension or DID number….

    http://newhire.jpmorganchase.com/welcomenewhire/EmplResourceDirectory.htm
    http://newhire.jpmorganchase.com/welcomenewhire/docs/Welcome2007.pdf

    And yes that is a .htm, stupid microsoft and iis.

  14. Deanna says:

    And we blame the consumers for the mortgage meltdown! I am so sorry for the hassle they put you through, big banks seldom work in a manner than makes logical, practical sense. Its amazing that they handle billions of dollars of assets and basically control the economy!

    At any rate, glad you finally got them to release your money so that you can move in!

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