The frustrating stories about foreclosures are endless. But NBC 5 Investigates had never heard one like this. Last May, 82-year-old Joe Coghlan reached out to us because he was afraid he was about to lose his home to mortgage lender Bank of America. The Homewood man had lived in his house for 13 years, never missing a payment. Like many retirees, he lives on a fixed income.
"It's less than $2,000 a month in social security. It's a stretch," Coghlan said.
When the retired accountant learned about a state program that would allow him to defer paying his real estate taxes until the sale of his house or his death, he signed up. For Coghlan, that meant about $1,000 extra dollars a year in his pocket.
"It's deferred. There's a lien on the property. And when my name comes off the title, they get their money," Coghlan explained.
It was smooth sailing for almost a decade, until two years ago when he got unexpected news from Bank of America, informing Coghlan he was delinquent on his property taxes and needed to pay up. Coghlan says dozens of calls and letters to the bank - proving he was in the tax deferral program and didn't have to pay - got him nowhere.
"I mean there's no trickery here at all! It's in black and white and it's out on the table. They're just stubborn."
While Coghlan battled the bank, he continued to make his mortgage payments - minus the property tax - only to have the checks returned by Bank of America. And then, the final blow.
"We're going to foreclose. We're getting it ready. We can't deal with you. You can't do that."
Bank of America put Coghlin in the foreclosure pipeline, unwilling to recognize he was not required to pay taxes. A decision, Coghlan says, has taken a toll.
"I mean I've lost sleep. I mean, really, when you sit down and say where do I go from here?"
That's when he reached out to NBC 5 Investigates. We learned the confusion that almost cost Coghlan his home stems from the way the county and state communicate, and the way the bank treats a deferral. A complicated situation at best.
"We just want what's right. You know, let's get off the high horse and do what's right," Coghlan said.
Coghlan and his lawyer were not alone in their frustration. NBC 5 Investigates tried to unwind this situation for six months. After more than a dozen phone calls, we got the following one sentence statement from Bank of America:
"We are pleased that we were able to help Mr. Coghlan by providing assistance to bring his loan current and resolving his escrow account."
Bank of America assures us Coghlan's payment will not go up, and he no longer faces foreclosure.