Bank Of America Decides To Let Foreclosed-Upon Family Stay In House Until Wife Dies

At the intersection where Foreclosure Ave. crosses Health Care Blvd. lives a California couple who had to choose between mortgage and the health insurance needed to cover the wife’s late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Until recently, it looked like they would be forced to vacate the house they’d bought 15 years ago, but Bank of America has decided to delay the eviction until after the wife’s death.

The problems began more than six years ago, when the wife’s ALS was misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel surgery, leading to several costly surgeries that did nothing to slow the growing weakness in her arms.

She left her job as a nursing assistant in 2005 with the intention of recuperating and eventually getting back to work. To cover her medical costs and other bills, they refinanced their home, figuring that they could get back in the black once she started working again.

But that never happened, as her condition worsened and her ALS was finally diagnosed in 2007, the same year her husband’s construction business went bust.

At this point, the only way for them to guarantee they would have the health insurance needed to cover her treatments was for the husband to not find new work and for them both to remain on Supplemental Security Income. That $700 monthly payment, along with the $1,100/month the husband received as her In-Home Supportive Services caregiver, was all the family had to live on, meaning those mortgage payments had to stop. Earning any more money would disqualify them for publicly supported Medi-Cal coverage.

They attempted to enter into the bank’s hardship program in 2009, but the wife was unable to attend the mandatory credit counseling sessions. So, after not making payments on their mortgage, the bank foreclosed on the property in March.

Once the Sacramento Bee reached out to Bank of America about the couple’s story, the bank decided to halt the eviction for the time being.

“They called and said it’s on hold until Claire dies, and then they’ll give me additional time to grieve before I have to be out,” the husband tells the Bee. “Praise God. It’s a miracle. It’s a big relief… They said I should spend time with my wife and take care of her.”

Terminally ill woman to stay in foreclosed home until she dies [SacBee.com]

Thanks to Julie for the tip!

Comments

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  1. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    It’s a miracle.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    • dangerp says:

      mir·a·cle /ˈmirikəl/

      2. A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment.

      Seeing as this is BofA she is dealing with, that seems to fit.

    • MutantMonkey says:

      Pretty much this.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      And I am certain they will send the Sheriff’s Deputies out to reposes it from the grieving husband the instant she is dead, probably while he is still in the hospital, giving him no time to reclaim his property, which will end up in the dumpster, or in the Deputy’s cruiser trunks.

      • consumeristjohnny says:

        “They called and said it’s on hold until Claire dies, and then they’ll give me additional time to grieve before I have to be out,” the husband tells the Bee.

        Couldn’t be bothered to RTFA?

        • MickeyMoo says:

          re: RTFA, I think a lot of companies when faced with adverse publicity will say what people want to hear, whether they actually follow through with it is another matter entirely, which only time will tell. Given past experiences, I can totally see something from the snafu family happening. We shall see…

  2. Emerson says:

    Good attempt for BOA. How will they mess this up?

  3. amgriffin says:

    I’m thinking this post might be a litmus test to discern which Consumerist posters are soulless monsters. If your fingers are itching to type in something about how it’s “their own fault”, well, there is a shiny thing hanging in most bathrooms called a “mirror”.

    I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the compassion displayed on this thread. Go ahead. Restore my faith in humanity, please.

    • Costner says:

      I’m not sure I understand your point. Do you think people will blame the OP for contracting a life-ending disease? It isn’t like they had a choice in the matter.

      On the flip side, we can’t really blame BOA here either… even if they went ahead with foreclosure. They aren’t in the healthcare business nor are they a government entity who provides social services to citizens… so hard to really point fingers here.

      This is a case of bad luck – good luck. Bad luck that she has had to deal with ALS, but good luck that they were able to get BOA to give them some slack.

      Also good luck they are in California… because I don’t think most states would offer the husband a montly payment to take care of his wife. $1,100 a month is not a lot of money, but it is a lot more than he would have received had he lived in many other states.

      • little stripes says:

        I think their point is that many commenters here are unsympathetic assholes, and they would be right.

        • runswithscissors says:

          + 1,000,000

        • shanelee24 says:

          That is true. But, the point of this website is to offer situations where someone is at the losing end of a business arrangement, whether its a one time purchase or a 30 year loan. And then the community decides who is to blame, the company or the consumer. There is a lot of grey area in stories like this one, where morality comes into the picture. But if a court were to decide this specific case most likely the outcome would be eviction for the homeowner. Sometimes there is no right thing to do.

      • megafly says:

        To be fair, BOA did kick an ALS patient out of their hardship program in 2009 because she couldn’t attend credit counseling.

    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      FWIW, I’ve smashed my mirror and have since been using it to snort coke, so, I’m not sure if that helps.

    • TasteyCat says:

      If thinking people have a responsibility to take care of their obligations, or suffer consequences for not doing so, makes me a soulless monster, then soulless monster be I. He has been able to live rent/mortgage free for 4 years, in addition to the $100k in income and medical treatment they’ve gotten from the state. At what point does it become acceptable to ask him to start paying for housing?

      That aside, I think the story speaks to the cruelty of not allowing people to die with dignity. A less barbaric society would grant the wish of someone like this who’s ready to die but being kept alive and suffering.

  4. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    So, until the BoA assassination squad arrives?

    I’m having visuals of Shadowrun, actually.

  5. Herbz says:

    I like how the hardship program required both of them to be present even when the wife was sick.

    Be a F*&$ing person BOA (since you technically are now)

  6. CrazyMann says:

    To have to chose between health insurance or housing is just wrong on so many levels.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      They didn’t have to choose between health care and housing. They had to choose between health care and that house.

      • little stripes says:

        “That $700 monthly payment, along with the $1,100/month”

        $1800/mo. That’s what they have to live on. They likely couldn’t even have afforded to rent a shack.

        • chefboyardee says:

          Depends where they live. They choose to live in expensive California. In Kingston (near Wilkes-Barre/Scranton PA) I rented a 1600 sq ft house for less than $800/month.

          • little stripes says:

            It’s possible they chose to live there when they and the economy were healthier. It’s also possible they were born there, or moved there with family when they were younger, or had to move there because of work, etc. You don’t always “choose” where you live, you know.

            But they live there now. And if you expect them to be able to move when she is very ill and they are only taking in $1800/mo, you are ridiculous. Moving isn’t free. You can’t just say, “Welp! I’m moving!” and then bam, you’re in a new place. It doesn’t work that way.

          • finbar says:

            So they’re broke, and she’s sick, so your suggesting they move to PA to save a little money? That’s a real viable solution.

            They live in Fair Oaks, which is a semi-rural suburb outside of Sacramento. This isn’t LA or SF, housing is pretty affordable.

            • mehitabel says:

              Nope – they’re broke and she’s *dying* and they still expect them to move to PA.

              I can’t tell which is the bigger deficit with some of these commenters – compassion or common sense.

          • Jack Doe says:

            That, and Kingston is a shithole. Sorry. (Laurel Run/Georgetown here.)

        • Costner says:

          Which is why for most people they would have to do the logical thing and admit the wife to hospice or a nursing home while they continue to work. This particular example ended on a positive note, but how many banks are going to tell people it is ok if they stop making their house payments? How many landlords could afford to allow someone to live rent free in their property?

          There is no easy answer to this, but if we had a true single payer system it could probably pop for either a living facility, or for in-home nursing care. The current system doesn’t – and thus people find themselves with no options. For every story you hear about like this one, there are thousands of families who are forced to give up their homes due to medical conditions.

          • little stripes says:

            If they had done that, they would have lost their medical benefits. Hospice and nursing homes aren’t free, you know. How do you suppose they would have paid for that if they lost their medical benefits?

            • Costner says:

              What typically happens is people have to pay for nursing homes until their funds run out… then the state takes over. So if they have very little savings, no major investment accounts (some pensions or retirement accounts are ok I beleive), and don’t own a home… the state would end up covering the costs.

              They don’t just kick people out onto the street once they run out of cash.

              • little stripes says:

                Yeah … so you’re advocating he get rid of his medical benefits, and toss her in a nursing home or hospice, probably a place that doesn’t really have high-end care, so she could just rot until she dies? I see.

                They needed their health benefits. Losing them would have been far worse than not losing them. She probably needs actual medical care, and will likely be able to get the care she needs with medical benefits, instead of the bare minimum the state would provide if she didn’t have benefits. This is an important part of the discussion, something you keep glossing over.

          • Tyanna says:

            I seriously hope your significant other doesn’t fall ill. Your comments here make you sound like a cold hearted jerk who would rather pawn their care off onto someone else while you work long hours to avoid them.

      • Costner says:

        I was thinking it… but I didn’t want to say it.

        I know there is a sentimental attachment to a person’s home, but when you are focusing on your family member who is ill, I would think a small apartment would be a better option so there would be less overhead, no need to maintain the property etc, etc.

        On the whole – this story is more about what is wrong with the healthcare industry and less about what is wrong with BOA.

        • little stripes says:

          Do you think they could afford even a small apartment on $1800/mo? I live in Phx and that’s about my take-home pay after taxes and whatnot, and even I have issues keeping my head above water, and I am a healthy woman without kids. I can’t imagine they can really afford the moving costs and rent if their income is so very little. Moving isn’t free, or easy, especially if you’re ill.

          I’m sure they would have figured another living situation out if they absolutely had to, but now they don’t have to … and that extra money they aren’t spending on rent has got to be incredibly helpful right now. Hell, maybe they’ll even be able to afford a funeral. Maybe.

          • Costner says:

            Do you think they could afford even a small apartment on $1800/mo?

            In California? Probably not. But it might have saved them enough per month that the husband could continue to work to provide the basics and perhaps a bit extra and instead of serving as his wife’s caregiver he could have used those funds for a part-time caregiver.

            Is it ideal? Probably not… but when your wife is dying, is anything really ideal? As I mentioned in another post, he should just be happy he lives in CA, beause I doubt he would get that $1100 a month in many other states.

            • little stripes says:

              I imagine living with friends/family or getting a cheap apartment was their next option, if they had been evicted. But they weren’t. BofA decided to let them keep the house. I’m really not sure what you’re arguing about, here. Should they have just said, “NO THANKS, BofA!”

              Instead, they now have a buffer (since they don’t have to pay rent), AND they still have benefits.

              Also, you keep glossing over the fact that if the husband started making more money they would have lost their medical benefits and her condition would likely have gotten much worse much faster. The entire reason he didn’t get a job was to keep their medical benefits. Without the medical benefits, they’d be up shit creek.

            • OnePumpChump says:

              Uh, the husband not being able to work had nothing to do with how much they were spending on housing. In fact they weren’t spending much at all on housing.

  7. Conformist138 says:

    To begin making up for all the “oops, wrong house!” moments in the BoA foreclosure process, how about they just write this one off and give the couple their house? God knows they could use the good press. “You can stay until your wife dies” doesn’t sound compassionate coming from bank of america. Experience with that bank makes me interpret anything they say as sarcastic or a taunt.

    • Rachacha says:

      Or at worst, tell the couple that they don’t have to worry about it until after the wife dies, and then, meet with the husband to find an equitable solution to give the husband the opportunity to find a job and begin making payments again, or to sell the home and repay the bank any monies owed.

    • Moosenogger says:

      And what if the couple owed over 100k on the house? Why should BoA have to eat a 100k loss? Yes, the couple’s situation is horrible, but BoA is trying to work with them. They’re allowing the couple to live there for free until the wife eventually passes, and then they’re even giving the husband some time to grieve before they move into the eviction process. The husband will have plenty of time to begin negotiating with BoA again when it comes to making house payments. (I’m going to assume that the foreclosure proceedings haven’t been completed yet, unless the court system in California happens to be caught up.)

  8. Herbz says:

    Also, this is one more reason for single payer.

    Then this poor family wouldn’t have had to choose between health care and their home.

    Catastrophic stuff like this shouldn’t wipe out your entire life savings and cause you to go bankrupt.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      I’m actually not quite seeing how a single payor system would have prevented this since the reason they didn’t get a job was to intentionally not work… they relied on one government program for the insurance and because of that did not have the income for the mortgage.

      And the sad thing is, eventually some bureaucrat would have looked at the case and stopped treatment and moved her into hospice/end-of-life care. When medicine is socialized, there eventually comes a cost-benefit decision. She obviously cannot work and will be a drain on the system. We can either spend a million dollars to extend her life two years, or spend a hundred thousand to have her die comfortably in two months. Guess which eventually wins?

      • Costner says:

        Honestly – we should have more cost-benefit analysis in terms of healthcare. A few years ago 60 minutes did a story about how much it costs during the last few months of peoples lives… and it was astounding. To keep a 80yr old cancer patient alive a few more months it can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and they most likely will be suffering the entire time.

        Most people agree we need to be reasonable when it comes to costs. It doesn’t make sense to spend seven figures to prolong a life an extra three months… right up until it is your family member who you are talking about.

        In my own family we have all decided we don’t want such life saving measures. None of us see any benefit to prolonging our lives in such a way, because an extra few weeks or months won’t really help us in the long run. However if one of us was in that position… would all the other family members still feel the same way?

        Politicians can’t say these types of things because they would be accused of trying to kill people via “death panels”, but most people already think it. At what point is too much, too much?

        • ponycyndi says:

          I have been in that position, but the choice was not mine to make. I watched someone I love go to endless cancer treatment sessions, and all it did was make him sicker and sicker, until he was in so much pain he couldn’t get out of bed. Honestly, it was not worth it for him to live longer and more miserably, regardless of the cost.

          After that happened, my husband and I seriously discussed it, and neither of us wants to ever suffer for a longer time, or cause hardship on anyone, especially if it could be avoided. I’m not saying to not fight cancer, but there is a point where your chances are 5% to live 5 years, and in pain the whole time?

      • Herbz says:

        It already is a cost-benefit decision (not just when its socialized). Its just that now, our cost-benefit decisions are made by FOR PROFIT corporations instead of NON-PROFIT organizations, like the government or a state.

        Who would you rather be in control?
        - A guy who stands to make $100,000 off of you if you die earlier?
        - Or an organization whose sole purpose is to get everyone the best treatment possible with the money they have?

        I would rather waste all the money in the f***ing world and have people live then have it come down to a “cost-benefit” decision by some office grunt at an company who doesn’t give a s*** about you… and really only wants your money.

      • tinyninja says:

        I have a dear friend who had to not work after he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in order to get full care. He wanted to work when he was feeling up to it, and his job had hours for him, but had he worked even one hour too many he would have been kicked out of all the programs that the state set him up with and would have had to pay the money back too.

        We have a huge problem when our choices are either work and get no help whatsoever or be entirely dependent on the government for every aspect of your life.

      • sparrowmint says:

        You don’t see how? They would have had health insurance without any extra money coming out, and he wouldn’t have had to quit his job to meet the low income requirements of government help. Also, beyond what Herbz already said (as if health insurance companies don’t make a cost-benefit decision in every single situation), go look into how the Canadian system actually works. Sorry but no, she would not have been sped along to death. Government pays, they don’t make the decisions on who to pay and under what conditions, nor are they even involved in passively keeping track of who is running up high bills or any such nonsense. Independent doctors decide on the right avenue of care, and then they give the government the invoice.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          Government absolutely does make those decisions. The benefit in a single-payer system is that it’s an upfront decision, and the criteria are clear. The UK uses a metric called QALYs, Quality-Adjusted Life Years. It looks at how much a given procedure/medication/treatment will extend life, how much it will improve the quality of life, and then it gets a QALY score. Then, the cost is compared. So, something like, say, a polio vaccine, which has very low costs, but a substantial impact on both life expectancy, and the quality of those years of life, ranks very high. A $100k medication that could keep a quasi-comatose patient alive for another two weeks ranks very low.

          Health care is a scarce resource. It has to be allocated somehow, and somebody in the system has to be empowered to say “no, the people paying into this insurance pool won’t pay for that.”

      • OnePumpChump says:

        If there were single-payer universal health care, he would not have had to quit his job for her to qualify for medicaid. He would have been able to keep working, and may have been able to keep the house. Furthermore, the cost to the state would probably have been lower for the same products and services…it is under EVERY OTHER SYSTEM IN THE WORLD other than ours.

  9. little stripes says:

    “The problems began more than six years ago, when the wife’s ALS was misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel surgery, leading to several costly surgeries that did nothing to slow the growing weakness in her arms”

    How can you be diagnosed with carpal tunnel surgery ? Did you mean syndrome, by any chance?

  10. r-nice says:

    The problems began more than six years ago, when the wife’s ALS was misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel surgery, leading to several costly surgeries that did nothing to slow the growing weakness in her arms.

    They misdiagnosed her condition and had them pay for all those surgeries? Shouldn’t those charges be wavied?

    • little stripes says:

      Misdiagnoses happen. Sometimes symptoms for one disease very closely or exactly match symptoms for another. Sometimes it takes a while to properly diagnose something when the symptoms match a much more common problem. It sucks that she was misdiagnosed, but it’s possible it wasn’t anyone’s fault, but rather her symptoms were very similar to the more common carpel tunnel syndrome.

    • ScottG says:

      ALS is often misdiagnosed because at early stage it can appear to be mild non-threatening/common problems. I have an associate who was eventually diagnosed with ALS, but that took a couple of years with the doctors thinking it was something else

  11. kataisa says:

    Sadly, ObamaCare will do absolutely nothing to help protect people from bankruptcy due to sky-high medical costs that insurance companies won’t pay for.

  12. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    At least B of A acted like a human this time. Give this one a “Be a F*&%ing Human” tag.

    As an aside, it’s sad that you have to impoverish yourself and live off the dole instead of working and paying taxes, because anything looking even remotely like universal healthcare is ZOMG!!! SOCIALISM!!!111

    • OnePumpChump says:

      See, look at how GOVERNMENT SOCIALISM got in the way of free-market charity which is the way that cases like this SHOULD be handled!

  13. Earl Butz says:

    This isn’t compassion. This is, at best, “minimal steps we could take to attempt to prove that we’re not inhuman bastards who would sell our children’s organs if there were a buck in it”.

    Doesn’t even make up for their insane demand that a terminally ill woman attend credit counseling sessions.

    The level of inhumanity these people display is fundamentally appalling. I’m glad that they met their minimal obligations as members of human society, but I don’t think I’m out of line in asking that maybe they could go above and beyond that.

    • SteveHolt says:

      Agreed on all counts. Why can’t they just make the husband go the counselling sessions? Like the wife gives a fuck about learning how to handle money better at this point, or whatever the hell those sessions are teaching. That was pretty slimy on BofA’s part.

      Poor lady. Prayers for her and her family, and for those who find themselves screwed by insurance companies AND banks.

  14. southpaw1971 says:

    Umm, you can’t misdiagnose something as “carpal tunnel surgery”. That would be a procedure, not a diagnosis. I’m presuming you meant “carpal tunnel” requiring “surgery”.

    Carryon…

  15. Eagle Eye says:

    Anyone else get a macabre vibe from the whole ‘until she dies’ thing? How about “We give you a year and if you need more time after that, call us” vs. “We’ll start coming after you once your tears are dry”?

    • axhandler1 says:

      Well that’s the potential upside here. If the wife suddenly has a full recovery, they can forestall foreclosure for another 30 years!

  16. NumberSix says:

    Yeah, no pressure on his poor wife at all. “So, when you die, we’re getting evicted. So…yeah. I guess that will be one of your final thoughts…”

  17. andre nickatina says:

    B of A didn’t care about these people until the press got involved…


    Once the Sacramento Bee reached out to Bank of America about the couple’s story, the bank decided to halt the eviction for the time being.

    They had no problem kicking these people out up until the point they were about to be publicly shamed for it. There was no compassion involved. I don’t think they deserve any applause for this

  18. INsano says:

    This is something that needs to be addressed by the financial push of the Occupy movment; a large majority of forclosures are due to illness. Um, people get sick, and losing your house because you’re ill is the kind of society that breeds attack dogs. With health care costs, despite the recession, going up by large percentage points even though they’re already sky high, this industry is only slightly less malignant than Wall Street itself.

  19. jasonq says:

    Wow. BOA displays some humanity at long last. Maybe there’s a trend…? I’ve got a short sale in process with them right now (as an agent) and I have to say I am utterly amazed at how responsive they’ve actually been.

  20. OnePumpChump says:

    America, FUCK YEAH!

  21. cheezfri says:

    I hope BOA honors their promise to that family. When Wells Fargo foreclosed on my house last month, the lawyer from the trustee firm said I wouldn’t get kicked out until after the holidays. A real estate agent representing the mortgage servicer, BOA, told me they don’t like to evict people at all, and they would offer me money to move at an agreed-upon date. Well yesterday I got a letter from the trustee saying eviction proceedings have begun. Merry frakkin Christmas to me! Guess I just need to get diagnosed with a fatal illness…