Bank Of America Caught Refusing Mortgages To Women On Maternity Leave

Compared to $40 billion-plus in penalties, settlements, adjustments, and legal fees Bank of America has already racked up because it flat-out stinks at servicing home loans, a $45,000 payment split between two couples is a molecule in a drop of water in the bucket. But this story, in which BofA decided that pregnant homeowners were too big a risk for mortgage refinancing, is a good reminder of consumers’ rights under the law and of BofA’s general incompetence.

According to the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, which sued the bank of behalf of the homeowners, Bank of America violated the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender or familial status by setting different refinancing rules for homeowners who were expecting a child.

The first couple involved in the suit is from San Jose, CA, and claimed that BofA moved back the couple’s refi closing date because they were expecting a child and the mom-to-be was on maternity leave.

The second couple, from Humble, TX, alleged that BofA refused to consider the wife’s employment income and denied their application for a mortgage loan because she was on maternity leave. They also claim that when their real estate agent told the loan officer that this denial was in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the loan officer changed his reasons for denying the loan. In the end, the couple went elsewhere for their mortgage, presumably to a lender that has a basic understanding of the law.

To make this all go away, Bank of America dipped into its “make this go away” fund and has agreed to pay $25,000 to the California couple and $15,000 to the Texas couple, with another $5,000 going to that couple’s realtor.

The bank has also looked into HUD’s eyes and promised, seriously this time, that it will revise its policies to allow applicants on parental leave to be approved for mortgage loans without first returning to active work status… at least until the next time it gets caught.

“No lender should use a woman’s pregnancy or maternity leave as a reason to deny a mortgage loan,” said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in a statement. “We commend Bank of America for working cooperatively with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in reaching appropriate resolutions of these complaints. Bank of America took affirmative steps to work with government regulators to ensure that its new policies did not conflict with lending guidelines.”