My mortgage is with Fifth-Third Bank. The first thing I have to say is that, at least in Chicago and on the phone, they have some of the nicest customer service people I’ve ever dealt with at a bank. They are just sweet. Unfortunately, they are (expletive deleted) incompetent.
Like many people, we escrow our property taxes. A portion of my monthly mortgage payment goes into an escrow account and when the property tax installments are due, Fifth Third pays them. And Fifth-Third did pay ours. Twice. That’s where the nightmare started.
If you’re familiar with Cook County and some of the suburbs, you probably already know property taxes are a nightmare. So imagine my shock when I got a statement from Fifth-Third saying that our escrow was short several thousand dollars.
Now, I never claimed to be a financial genius. But I can add. And when it comes to our mortgage and property taxes, I’m pretty thorough. So I was quite surprised when I received this statement and the accompany letter that Fifth-Third was raising our payment by $500 a month to cover the shortage. Something was up. And when I looked at the amount of the shortage, I noticed it was exactly, to the penny, the amount of our last tax installment. Curious. Then I looked at the tax payment dates on the statement. Wait a minute?! Fifth-Third paid an installment they shouldn’t have!
No problem, I assumed. Surely this will be easy to straighten out. Well, let’s just say I had an easier time shaving my cats.
First, I tried calling the Fifth-Third support line. They were super friendly! And extremely unhelpful. They denied the bank had made any mistaken payments. They denied anything was wrong—except that we owed them more money. They did promise to fax me copies of the cancelled tax checks and mail them out. I never got a fax. I never received a letter.
I started calling back. A lot. I got more friendly phone people, even some supervisors. They all understood my problem, but couldn’t do anything. They all promised to fax/mail the info I wanted. I never got a fax. I never received a letter.
Out of frustration, I called Cook County. The lady on the phone there was not friendly. But you know what? She did her job. She pulled up our PIN. She said, “Our records clearly show a duplicate payment.” And then she promised to send me a copy of our statement, along with a form to request a refund. I got both in the mail two days later.
I faxed the info to Fifth-Third. Then I called. “Oh, that double payment,” they said. “Oh, we see that now. You should really fix that.”
So my wife and I decided to try the personal approach. We went to the local branch. There, we met a very friendly, dedicated and helpful branch manager. He was apologetic. He agreed to take care of everything. We went away, feeling good.
Then, a week later, we got a letter from him saying he’d just faxed all our info over to the tax department. Yes, it not only took him a week to get to our problem—but then all he did was fax the same info I’d already faxed to their tax department!
Another week passed. Now we got a letter from the tax department. Finally, a Fifth-Third representative was taking ownership of the problem. Well, no. Instead, we got a letter stating that we should request a refund from Cook County (duh) and if we had any questions to call… the tax department!
I wish I could say this nightmare was over, but it drags on. We finally got the name of the tax department representative… because she included it on a letter she sent to Cook County on our behalf, asking them to send us a refund form. We called her. She promised to take care of it.
That was two weeks ago. She hasn’t.
Now, I hear you all saying, “Why don’t you just request the refund yourselves.” Well, we need copies of those cancelled checks, as proof of payment. You know, the ones Fifth-Third has promised on a half-dozen occasions to fax and mail to me. The ones I have, to this day, not received.
In the meantime, in order not to be delinquent on my mortgage, I’m having to bite the bullet and pay Fifth-Third the extra $500 each month. And we have a tax installment coming due in September.
I can tell you one thing I’m doing next week: talking to another bank about re-financing our mortgage. Fifth-Third has lost my business forever.