Local bank to forgive loans on cars, homes destroyed in slide

Local bank to forgive loans on cars, homes destroyed in slide
Workers using heavy equipment work to clear debris Tuesday, March 25, 2014, near a destroyed house that came to rest on Washington Highway 530 on the western edge of the massive mudslide that struck near Arlington, Wash., Saturday, killing at least 14 people and leaving dozens missing. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
OSO, Wash. - Many of the slide victims are not only dealing with the loss of family members, but the loss of their homes, cars and other property - and many questions still remain about how all that will be resolved.

But Eric Sprink, CEO of Coastal Community Bank, with branches in Arlington and Darrington, says his bank is ready to forgive any uninsured debts.

"Whether it's a deed of trust tied to their house or it's a car loan, or a business loan that they were running out of their house, and they've lost all their equipment and records and files, and there's not just mortgages that we're talking about here," he says. "Coastal Community Bank is ready to stand behind our customers, and if they are not insured and they owe us that debt, we will forgive that debt."

Those with loans at other banks may not be so lucky.

Scott Jarvis, director of the state Department of Financial Institutions, advised survivors of the slide or the heirs of those who died to call their banks to start the conversation about debts owed.

"The first thing you need to do is get a hold of your lender, and that may be difficult for folks whose documents were inside the structures that were destroyed," he said.

He advised seeing the county registrar, where deeds are registered and recorded, for that kind of information.

"You need to get that information and get hold of your lender," Jarvis said. "Have a discussion with your lender about what they're willing to do. There's no single solution. Lenders treat it differently."

He said local banks may be able to work with victims or their families in a way that a larger national bank might not be able to do - especially if the loan has been sold to another lender or packaged with other loans as a security.

Dozens of homes destroyed in the slide were primary residences - and none had landslide insurance.

Sprink says in the case where a spouse is lost, the surviving spouse is financially on the hook in most cases unless the financial institution is willing to work something out.

"The regional and national banks have said they're going to handle it case by case ... but the bank itself may have its hands tied by the investor agreement," he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Inslee has asked the president to designate the mudslide a "major disaster," which would trigger federal aid for individuals, but it's not clear how much that would be.