NEW PORT RICHEY — Last week, Bank of America apologized for mistakenly foreclosing on an elderly couple because they had made a mortgage payment too early. But that apology didn't include reimbursing the couple for $1,800 in legal fees or waiving late fees caused by the bank's blunder.
After supporters of James and Sharon Bullington cried foul, the country's biggest lender decided Thursday to reimburse the legal fees and waive all late fees connected to its error.
Sharon Bullington was elated after hearing the news and thanked supporters for standing behind her and her husband.
"Oh, my goodness. I appreciate it so much," she said. "You have no idea what this means for us. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart."
Shawn Yesner, the Bullingtons' attorney, said the bank even provided a prepaid envelope to mail the paperwork. He is glad the bank finally decided to reimburse the fees.
"Regardless of how we got there, we got the best results for them," he said.
The New Port Richey couple accepted a mortgage modification this week after the case gained national attention following an Aug. 20 story in the St. Petersburg Times.
The story detailed how Sharon Bullington, 70, cares for her 78-year-old, terminally ill husband in their 1,591-square-foot home, which is now valued at $133,464, though they owe about $177,000.
When James Bullington became ill, the couple encountered financial difficulties because of medical bills. The couple asked Bank of America to modify the loan. There was a catch: The couple would have to officially default on their mortgage. The couple did that and entered into the modification plan.
The couple made their January mortgage payment one week early, in December. The following month, the bank rejected their February payment because it was made electronically without a signature. The bank then kicked them out of the loan modification plan and filed to foreclose on the home.
Two days after the story ran, the bank apologized, but it took several more days for the bank to remedy the situation. The bank agreed earlier this week to restructure the Bullingtons' loan over 40 years, which helped lower the monthly payment to $916, down from about $1,400.
But the bank did not say it would pay for the attorney fees the Bullingtons had run up fighting the foreclosure. The bank had also added late fees to the modified loan.
On Thursday, the bank agreed to waive those costs.
Christina Beyer Toth, a Tampa-based Bank of America spokeswoman, said the late fees will be waived once the bank receives the signed modification agreement from the Bullingtons.
"The bank will also be contacting the attorney to make arrangements to settle the $1,800 worth of legal fees," she said.
Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.