Garrett Harris 10:11 p.m., May 23
Gay Couple Claims Discrimination Over Loan Modification Denial
A gay couple is alleging that Bank of America is guilty of discrimination in denying them a loan modification, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
James Donnelly and Randy McWhorter of San Diego, who have been together 12 years and owned a home in a “beautiful, upscale historic, suburban neighborhood north of downtown San Diego” for the past six, charge that the bank is in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act for refusing to consider Donnelly’s income as part of a loan modification request.
“Plaintiffs began struggling to make their mortgage payments in late 2008 when their ARM loan adjusted for the first time upward of nearly $600 per month,” their complaint reads. Due to the economic downturn, McWhorter was forced to quit his job as a real estate agent and seek work in the tech industry. Despite finding a new job, the couple has still reported difficulty in making ends meet.
They further allege that Bank of America has been “lackadaisical and has not given any serious consideration to plaintiffs' requests for a loan modification.” To support their claim, the plaintiffs say that they tried for years to obtain a modification, receiving no response from the bank other than requests for updated paperwork, though no decision was ever rendered until a denial was finally received in 2011.
While waiting, McWhorter attended a foreclosure avoidance event put on by Bank of America in San Diego, where he was told he needed to clear up two judgments on his credit report before his loan could be processed. He says bank agent Mel Decker helped address the issue and promised paperwork within five days, which never arrived.
McWhorter then traveled to Riverside to attend another Bank of America event, where he was told that his “cap rate” was too high because he’d missed too many payments while attempting to modify the loan, and would thus be denied. But McWhorter and Donnelly accuse Bank of America of intentionally inflating this rate in order to block the modification, due to the bank’s failure to act on their original request in a timely manner.
“[Bank of America] told McWhorter that it refused to take his partner Donnelly's income into consideration in their application for loan modification,” the complaint reads. “Specifically, a [Bank of America] agent, Mel Decker, told McWhorter that BOA would not consider Donnelly's income because '...he is not his 'spouse' and cannot be married because of the present legal situation in California.”
The couple says that if both of their incomes were considered, they would have qualified for the modification they sought.
In addition to an injunction against Bank of America to stop further discrimination as alleged by the suit, the plaintiffs seek punitive damages because “the actions of defendants . . . were intentional, extreme, and outrageous and were done with the intent to cause emotional distress or with reckless disregard of the probability of causing plaintiffs' emotional distress.”