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St. Paul resident and homeowner Ice Demmings has experienced difficulties negotiating his house payments with Bank of America.

MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

St. Paul resident and homeowner Ice Demmings has experienced difficulties negotiating with Bank of America with house payments to the point where the bank has initiated foreclosure proceedings. Demmings outside his St. Paul home. . (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE(mlevison@startribune.com)

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Minnesota homeowner in limbo after bank error

  • Article by: ALEJANDRA MATOS
  • Star Tribune
  • October 14, 2013 - 10:31 AM

Ice Demmings dumps his garbage in his sister’s trash bin because he can’t afford to pay for trash pickup. He sometimes does his “grocery shopping” at his mother’s home, going through her fridge and pantry. These are some of the changes he said he’s had to make because a two-year fight against foreclosure has wrecked his finances.

Demmings’ ordeal started with a bungled loan modification in 2010, in which Bank of America told him to pay less than what he really owed for more than a year. A Bank of America spokeswoman said the error was fixed in March 2011, but Demmings and his attorney, Carl Christensen, said the bank continued to direct Demmings to pay less than the loan required.

Then, in July 2011, the bank announced it would foreclose on Demmings’ house. Hiring a lawyer helped Demmings stay in his home, but he didn’t get a commitment from the bank to resolve the situation until last week.

“We are working with his attorney on identifying a home retention solution,” Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said.

Christensen said Bank of America’s “inaction” has caused Demmings to lose everything.

“If this was any other important partner in your life, your life insurance company or your car loan lender, they would bend over backwards and fix the problem,” Christensen said. “Why it is OK to not have that level of customer service with the big lenders?”

Demmings, who’s 35 and works as a medical lab technician, got a subprime loan to buy the house on Minnehaha Avenue in St. Paul in 2004. By 2010, he said, he and his wife could no longer afford the $1,200 payment.

In February 2010, Bank of America offered Demmings a loan modification to bring his payments down to $767. He signed the contract and sent his first payment. The following month he received a bill for approximately $200. He called the bank, since this was not the payment they had agreed to, and was told the lower amounts were “trial payments.”

“Then I got a letter saying I was in default,” Demmings said. “They said I had not made the payment on the loan modification, but they had cashed the check.”

Demmings said each month, he called the bank to find out how much he had to pay. He said he paid them all. He called to find out why the bank was asking for less than $767.

“They said no one had updated their computer records to show there was a loan modification,” Demmings said.

“I thought someone was going to say, ‘OK, let’s see what went wrong here’ and then look at the documents and say ‘My bad, my mistake, let’s fix this for you. It was our fault,’ ” Demmings said. “But that never happened.”

Bauwens, the Bank of America spokeswoman, said “there was an accounting error that caused a lower payment. That was fixed in March 2011 when his account was brought current.”

Bauwens said the foreclosure proceedings began because Demmings continued to send the payments below the agreed amount. Christensen said that’s because Demmings still wasn’t getting any statements, and Bank of American representatives were still directing him to “pay the lower amount, no matter what.”

After the foreclosure notice arrived at Demmings’ home, his wife and children moved out. At the time, his sister also was renting a room from him, which helped him make the payments on the home. She also worried about foreclosure and moved out.

A sheriff’s sale was never scheduled. Christensen and the bank’s lawyer sent letters back and forth.

In August 2013, Demmings was told to reapply for a loan modification. Last month, Bank of America turned him down. But then the bank made another offer: make $743 payments for three months, and Demmings will “automatically” get a permanent loan modification, Bauwens said.

These days, his two-story home is barren except for his bed, a futon, a workout bench and a glass display case with some glassware in the living room.

Demmings said he hopes that after finishing his MBA at Concordia University later this month, he can get a better job and start recuperating from the damage to his finances, family and peace of mind.

“I’ve always enjoyed being a homeowner. I could get a dog. My kids could run in the yard, and I could go to community meetings. It made me feel involved,” Demmings said. “That was my American dream, but everyone was trying to take a piece of it.”

 

Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028

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