After the bizarre tale of Saji Mathew, who faced the loss of his Pinellas gas station because of a one-day delay in making a mortgage payment to his banker, BB&T, one has to wonder if the incident is symptomatic of the foreclosure crisis, a ham-handed bureaucracy, or maybe both. Mathew won a reprieve from having his livelihood snatched away because his story in the St. Petersburg Times attracted widespread attention and became a public relations disaster for BB&T. But many other faceless homeowners and small businesses face foreclosure and financial ruin when what they need instead is common sense and a little attention from their lenders.
The Times' Mark Puente first reported on Mathew's nightmare in dealing with BB&T to avert foreclosure on his Mobil gas station. It began after he missed making his $4,964.93 monthly payment on a $504,000 mortgage by one day. Despite Mathew's good-faith efforts to keep his subsequent payments current, he continued to run into a brick wall of bureaucratic indifference and paper-pushing misdirection as BB&T refused to accept the payments and pushed ahead to foreclose on the property.
One day after Mathew's story became public, BB&T reversed course and suspended its foreclosure on the property. But it shouldn't take a front-page story and a cascade of negative publicity for BB&T or other financial institutions to work on solutions rather than create more problems. The nation has to work its way out of the foreclosure crisis, and playing hardball with a well-intended property owner who made a payment one day late is not the answer.