Here’s how Pamela Flores tells it: A couple years ago, she found that she couldn’t keep making mortgage payments on her Atlanta house.
She says she then tried to get a loan modification, according to CBS Atlanta. Instead, Bank of America advised her to stop making payments altogether so that she could qualify for the Making Home Affordable Program, a federal initiative meant to provide mortgage relief.
Flores says BofA put her on a trial plan, then told her she’d missed a payment during the trial period and rejected her application. Flores contends she made that payment. Now BofA is foreclosing on Flores’s home, saying it will go up for auction in less than a month.
Flores has subsequently aligned herself with the Atlanta chapter of the Occupy movement, whose members say they are setting up a site at her house and will work to reach an agreement with the bank.
Flores is far from the first homeowner to come forward with a story like this. Since the implosion of the housing market a few years ago — followed by a spike in unemployment — millions of people have been looking for ways to cope with mortgages that they suddenly can’t maintain.
In many cases, banks have advised struggling homeowners to miss payments in order to qualify for a loan modification — only to turn around and foreclose on the homeowner instead. The same thing allegedly happened to Frank and Deana Dixon of Scituate, Massachusetts and Annette Lake of Santa Clara, the latter also dealing with BofA. The practice is so common that it was one of the central subjects of a Senate banking committee hearing in December 2010.
Flores’s case is also the latest public-relations snafu for BofA, which has been at the center of a litany of homeowner horror stories since the housing crisis took hold.
The bank has foreclosed or threatened to foreclose on homeowners who have never missed payments, in some cases putting those homeowners through months of unnecessary court battles.
In another case, in 2009, BofA contractors entered the home of Angela Iannelli, a borrower who was believed to be in default. The contractors padlocked Iannelli’s doors, cut off the electricity and water and confiscated her parrot. The bank later apologized, admitting that they’d made an error and Iannelli was not actually in default.
And last summer, BofA mistakenly foreclosed on a retired Florida couple whose only crime was to make a mortgage payment a week early and file another payment online without a signature. The foreclosure was eventually halted.
As for Pamela Flores, BofA sent a statement to CBS Atlanta saying it never got the disputed payment and has made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Flores. The bank says it will keep trying to reach out to Flores to consider her for a loan modification.
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