For the Bullingtons, dealing with Bank of America is like something out of Groundhog Day — without the happy ending.
You may recall earlier scenes from their story: James Bullington, 78, is dying, which led to financial problems for the New Port Richey couple. His wife, Sharon, sought to ease the financial pain by getting Bank of America to modify the terms of their mortgage. The bank agreed. Then it foreclosed after Sharon Bullington, 70, made a mortgage payment too early.
After stories appeared in August and September in the St. Petersburg Times, Bank of America apologized, restructured the loan and paid their legal fees. The Bullingtons have paid their payments since.
But Bank of America is still after them.
Almost weekly, notices arrive. Phone calls too. The nation's second-largest bank wants them to modify their mortgage, the same one they've already modified. Each notice lists a different amount for what is owed.
With a terminally ill husband, Sharon Bullington has had a bellyful of Bank of America.
"It's hurtful and upsetting and disgusting," she said, quivering on the telephone. "It's just terribly upsetting. We signed the modification."
Now, the couple has filed suit demanding the bank stop the harassment and stop contacting her.
Bank of America did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
The couple's attorneys accused the bank of violating the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. The statute allows for damages of just $1,000 and attorney fees.
"It's not about the money," said attorney Vincent LoBue of Yesner & Boss. "It's the principle. The bank shouldn't be contacting them. We represent them. The bank knows that."
Still, aside from the mailings and telephone calls seeking a new loan modification, Bank of America regularly sends the Bullingtons something else: payment notices for their recently modified mortgage.
Sharon Bullington questions why the bank continues to hound them.
"I've told them it's already paid," she said. "It feels like it's starting all over again."
She wants nothing more than to care for her husband, a retired autoworker from Michigan.
"We have enough stress going on without the bank doing this," she said. "It's just been terrible."
Of course, that people don't think much of Bank of America, which got $45 billion in federal bailout funds, is hardly news. J.D. Power and Associates ranked it the lowest in a 24-bank survey of small business customer satisfaction.
State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who pressed bank officials in August to remedy the flawed foreclosure, plans to ask those officials today to investigate the new issues. "It's because one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing," Fasano said. "This is so sad and frustrating for the Bullingtons. Shame on Bank of America."
Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.