Citibank freezes home equity lines of credit nationwide

I just spoke with a homeowner who bounced a check to her tree service because Citibank suspended her home equity line of credit before notifying her. When she finally received a notice from Citibank in the mail, it suggests that (PDF link) Citibank is apparently suspending home equity lines of credit nationwide due to falling home values. The same thing apparently happened to Nina at Queercents just over a week ago.

The Citibank HELOC contract apparently gives them the right to suspend or reduce the credit limit of accounts when the homes value drops too far. But Citibank based its decision on a general finding that “home values in your area, including your home value, have significantly declined,” not a specific appraisal.

Further, Citibank has not simply reduced the available credit limit to compensate (which would be difficult, since it does not actually know the home’s value), but has suspended the account entirely. Andthe biggest problem, as my caller demonstrated, is that already-written checks will bounce, because Citibank is suspending accounts before it notifies its customers. Surprise!

Obviously, since a HELOC is tied to the value of the home, lenders should be able to reduce the available credit if the home value declines. But they should also (1) have to show the home value actually has declined, and (2) notify its customers before it suspends their accounts.

[photo: Wikipedia]