"The devil made me do it" was perhaps the most famous catch phrase of comedian Flip Wilson. And it was among the numerous excuses one potential borrower gave his lender to explain his lousy credit report.
The 10-page letter of explanation ranged from hurting his back while he was in the military to having gout to having a poor relationship with his daughter because his father had multiple children with multiple women.
But perhaps his best absolution was this: "I was married to the devil. I should have known that, because my marriage license number was 666."
This kind of creative rationale might have worked during the mortgage market heyday a decade ago, when you could secure financing if you could draw a breath. Nowadays, though, underwriters don't want excuses. Heck, things are so tight they might not even give you a chance to explain away a blip in your credit record.
But that doesn't stop people from trying, as educator Karen Deis found out recently when she asked her mortgage market clients to report some of the strangest letters of explanation they've received from borrowers.
Deis, who operates MortgageCurrency.com, a website that keeps loan officers, processors and underwriters abreast of changes in lending guidelines and rules, has been on the receiving end of a couple of doozies.
In one that made her chuckle, the man explained that he had to file for bankruptcy when a restaurant venture with his daughter failed. He bought the place with his daughter, he explained, so she could help him and teach him how to run it when he retired.
Besides the fact that you can't explain away such a financial failure, there was this little kicker: The daughter was a mere 9 years old.
And then there was the woman who told Deis that her credit record was perfect. It just had to be, she explained, because she paid all her bills through collection agencies -- and she always paid on time.
Here are some of the best -- or should I say worst -- of the suspect excuses Deis has managed to collect:
-- The borrower, a woman who had had a sex change operation, said her bad debts didn't count because they were incurred when she was a man.
-- Another woman wrote that she was overextended because she had to pay for her cat's chemotherapy treatments.
-- Another reasoned that since she had filed for bankruptcy in January and this was March, she was starting over with a clean slate. So what was the problem?
-- Similarly, a man who was repeatedly more than 90 days late on his bills wondered why such a record was questionable. "I simply choose to make quarterly payments," he explained.
-- A woman said a medical condition caused her to have multiple late pays on her credit record. She went on to explain that she experienced anxiety attacks when she opened her mail, so on the advice of her physician, she didn't pay any bills that were snail-mailed to her.
Besides, she added, that was years ago and she now pays her bills online.
-- Another borrower also used a medical malady as his excuse for his spotty bill-paying record. This time, it was that he had been diagnosed as having multiple personalities, and one of these other characters was responsible for paying all the bills.
-- Said one guy who has late on his gasoline credit card: "I got a load of bad gas."
-- Likewise, there was this explanation from someone who was late on his car loan: It was a bad car, so he took it back to the dealer.
-- Another disgruntled car buyer said he, too, returned a lemon to the dealer. As an explanation, he offered that the salesman made him buy the car, that the dealer discriminated against him and that the monthly payment was too high.
Interestingly, the same borrower had had three previous cars repossessed over a three-year period.
-- Why did one borrower run up the balances on her credit cards, to the point where she could not make the payments? Because she was "guaranteed" to win the lottery, of course.