COLLIERVILLE, TN (WMC) - A mortgage mishap that has alarmed an untold number of Collierville homeowners was caused by a tax error that town officials knew about as far back as December, according to Collierville's public information officer.
"We were unaware of how broad in scope it really was until people started coming in to pay their (property) taxes," said Collierville spokesperson Mark Heuberger.
Heuberger confirmed the contents of a notice buried deep in Collierville's website that said an electronic 2016 property tax file submitted Dec. 1 and prepared by a third-party vendor for companies servicing Collierville mortgages "...contained errors." The notice said a corrected file was resubmitted 11 days later, but not before Collierville learned "...some mortgage companies charged escrow accounts with an incorrect amount."
As a result, Collierville resident Jennifer Durham received a notice this month from her mortgage-servicer that her escrow had a shortage of $5,558.52. According to her latest escrow account disclosure statement, the shortage would require her monthly payment to be increased from $1,029.83 to $1,512.97 -- a $483.14 monthly increase -- effective March 1.
"I had a small panic attack," Durham said. "That kind of number, that difference in my monthly amount of what was due was completely unexpected. It was appalling."
"Upon realizing the error, (Collierville) issued a release that was posted on our website, sent to a mass distribution list of homeowners associations and prepared an advisory instructional document for any resident who experienced an issue with their mortgage company," Heuberger wrote in an email to the WMC Action News 5 Investigators.
But not every Collierville citizen browses the town's website. Not every citizen lives in an area managed by a homeowners association. Not every citizen, including Durham, received word of the mortgage miscalculations. "Not everybody's part of an association," she reiterated. "They should have honestly sent a mailing out. That's not exactly money I had lying around. I had to liquidate retirement (to pay part of the escrow balance)."
In an on-camera interview, Heuberger admitted the town should have done a better job of alerting its citizens. "I think you can always go back and look at lessons learned, and you can never go wrong by over-communicating," he said. "I'm sure that's something we will take into consideration.
"We have all of our tax staff here at the town of Collierville available. We will take somebody by the hand and walk them through the process. We'll work with them and their mortgage company to get this cleared up."
To help clear it up, Collierville officials prepared a mortgage company letter explaining the error. They will also provide citizens copies of the 2016 property tax bill upon request. Citizens are advised to contact Mary Ann Ayers at 901-457-2283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.