‘Com­fort letter’ may smooth process of get­ting mort­gage ap­proval

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page -

Question: My em­ployer was nice enough to give me a full year off work when my hus­band and I had our first baby in April of last year. Now I am back at work, and we want to buy our first home, but the bank is giv­ing us a hard time be­cause I was out of the work­force for an en­tire year. I ex­plained to the loan of­fi­cer the rea­son for my ab­sence, but he won’t ap­prove the mort­gage un­less I put the whole thing in writ­ing and also ob­tain a letter doc­u­ment­ing my sit­u­a­tion from my su­per­vi­sor. Is this typ­i­cal?

An­swer: Yes, it’s a fairly typ­i­cal re­quest that lenders make when one or more of the loan ap­pli­cants has been out of the work­force for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. Of­ten called a “com­fort letter,” it helps to ex­plain long ab­sences or other issues that may not be ad­dressed in a ba­sic credit re­port.

A one-year ab­sence doesn’t re­ally seem like it should be long enough for the bank to de­mand a com­fort letter, but each lend­ing in­sti­tu­tion sets its own rules. Such re­quests are more com­monly made if, say, there was a much longer time be­tween jobs — per­haps be­cause an ap­pli­cant went back to col­lege for a few years or wanted more time to raise a grow­ing fam­ily. Land­lord makes record­ing dur­ing walk through

Question: My wife and I re­cently rented a new apart­ment. When we did the fi­nal “walk through” with our land­lord, the land­lord had a small video cam­era and video­taped ev­ery­thing, up to (and in­clud­ing) the kitchen sink. We didn’t want to ask her why she was do­ing this, so we thought we would ask you: Was this re­ally nec­es­sary? It seemed a bit odd.

An­swer: No, it’s not re­ally odd. A small but grow­ing num­ber of land­lords are us­ing cam­corders or sim­i­lar de­vices to doc­u­ment the phys­i­cal con­di­tion of a home shortly be­fore a ten­ant moves in. This of­ten helps them avoid a law­suit or other prob­lems when a ten­ant later moves out but the land­lord wants to keep some or all of the ini­tial se­cu­rity de­posit to cover any dam­age that was caused dur­ing the ten­ancy.

Ten­ants can do the same thing. If they do, they should take wide shots that show each room in its en­tirety, then zoom in for close-ups on any de­fects — such as a tear in the car­pet, wa­ter stains on the ceil­ing or tiles that have been chipped or cracked. It’s best if the im­ages are stamped with the time and date that they were taken.

The ten­ant should then send a copy of the video to the new land­lord so that each has doc­u­men­ta­tion of the home’s con­di­tion on move-in day. Again, it can re­duce the chance of a dis­pute aris­ing upon move-out and im­prove the ten­ant’s chances of get­ting most or all of the se­cu­rity de­posit re­turned.

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