SC-based soldier sues mortgage company over rate

In lawsuit, SC-based soldier says CitiMortgage broke law by not capping rate at 6 percent

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- An Army sergeant based in South Carolina has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a mortgage company of not obeying a law that requires limits on interest rates for active-duty members of the military.

Raymond Wray is a staff sergeant based at Fort Jackson in Columbia, according to a lawsuit filed late last year in federal court in South Carolina. In his initial filing, Wray says he bought a house in North Carolina in 1997, taking out a $68,000 mortgage at a 12.99 percent interest rate. When Wray enlisted in the U.S. Army two years later, he says he asked CitiMortgage, which is based in O'Fallon, Mo., and had bought his loan, to lower his rate because of his military service.

But Wray says CitiMortgage never fully honored his request, something he says violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which requires mortgages for military members to be capped at 6 percent while they're on active duty and for one additional year thereafter. Intended to give military members some relief from financial pressures while serving on active duty, the federal law covers mortgages incurred even before someone joins the military, according to attorneys for Wray.

Instead of lowering his rate, Wray says CitiMortgage used what it called a subsidy program, under which the company agreed to make up the difference between Wray's rate of 12.99 and the 6 percent rate. But Wray says that formula actually meant that his mortgage still bore interest at the 12.99 rate and also meant that he was actually paying less principal toward his home — and therefore gaining less equity in it.

CitiMortgage wants a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying in court documents filed this week that the company didn't violate the law because Wray never actually paid interest of more than 6 percent after CitiMortgage adjusted his loan. Ultimately, Citi's attorneys say, Wray is upset because he didn't feel enough had been paid toward lowering his principal — something Citi says isn't required under the law.

"A claim that Plaintiff purportedly paid less principal over time is not recognized under the SCRA," CitiMortgage's attorneys wrote.

Wray, who is still on active duty, wants class-action status on behalf of any other soldiers who have had the same experience with CitiMortgage. He is seeking unspecified damages and also wants CitiMortgage to be ordered to pay his legal fees.

Jury selection in the case is set for next year.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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