John and Jane Doe spent the better part of the last four years fighting to keep their Stow home from foreclosure.
Relief may now be at hand after what seemed like an endless whirlwind of faxes and phone calls—often repeats of prior transmissions—with their lender, Bank of America.
The couple, whom Patch granted anonymity in order to tell their story, just might hang on to their split-level house on Englewood Drive—but not without suffering embarrassment and having to deplete their modest retirement savings.
Layoff, stroke complicate finances
The foreclosure process started after John lost his job at an Aurora, OH, warehouse in 2008. The operation closed when the parent firm relocated the business to California.
To complicate matters, John suffered a stroke in January 2009 just three months after losing his job.
Temporarily unable to work, Jane’s income alone couldn’t cover their roughly $1,200 monthly mortgage payment, along with hospital bills related to the stroke, despite some supplementation from John’s unemployment benefits.
Fortunately, John’s stroke had been minor.
“He had an atypical stroke,” Jane said.
John struggles still with balance at times. He has to rely on prescribed antidepressants because the stroke altered his neurochemical balance.
He is able once again to work, but the damage had been done.
Bank of America had asked a Summit County judge for a foreclosure order in July 2009 claiming the couple had failed to stay current on their $137,000 mortgage.
John’s stroke and job loss had a silver lining. Both issues helped the couple, almost one year after the initial filing, obtain a loan modification with Bank of America in April 2010.
Their respite proved brief.
The couple started receiving letters from their lender stating they were still several months behind in their payments and that their escrow account lacked sufficient funds.
Their lender insisted they continued to fall behind despite cashing out a 401k. They ended up back in court with Bank of America and a judge ordered the matter go to mediation.
That’s when the paper work shuffle started.
“The paper work shuffle was probably the most frustrating thing,” John said.
The couple would fax income statements and other documents to the bank, which insisted it hadn’t received the documents. Other times, the couple were given erroneous fax numbers or passed around on phone calls from department to department often without resolution. Even the court mediator started faxing documents on their behalf, and bank agents still insisted the documents were never sent or not up to date.
The couple kept writing checks to the bank each month for what they could afford, but Bank of America refused to take monthly payments this time if they weren’t for the entire amount. And their monthly payment continued to rise despite the loan modification.
“My husband spoke with an accountant at Bank of America, who said, as he laughed, there was no way with the way our home modification was structured that we would ever be current,” Jane said.
In December of 2011 Bank of America again asked a Summit County judge for a foreclosure order on their property.
Hope on the horizon
John has since found a new job and returned to work, and Jane found a higher-paying job as a nurse at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.
The couple found help with their mortgage battle this year when they contacted the Cleveland non-profit agency Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People.
The organization focuses on predatory lending and foreclosure cases and supports homeowners through education and by providing grants in some cases.
Rachel Bloch, a foreclosure prevention advocate at ESOP, said because John is back to work and they can once again afford their mortgage payment the couple qualifies for a grant from the Ohio’s Hardest Hit Funds.
ESOP will award the couple a $25,000 grant, and they must come up with the difference of about $5,000 to cover the arrears on their mortgage.
Bloch is confident the couple will get caught up and back on track with their mortgage, as Bank of America recently agreed to the grant arrangement with ESOP.
“Their case was pretty simple,” she said. “They had a hardship, got back on their feet and needed money to bring them current. The only way they would have to pay the money back is if they sell or refinance within five years. If not, the money is free and clear.”
Their house remains scheduled for a sheriff’s sale in December pending a request for a cancellation being made in court, but the couple now is confident they’ll get to keep their home.“We moved to Stow so our two daughters could attend good schools,” Jane said. “You can’t get as much home for the same price in Akron or other surrounding communities.”