People who begin having difficulty with their mortgage payments often hear the advice to work out a payment modification plan with their lender. Unfortunately for one California couple, such an attempt resulted in disaster.

Recently, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein slapped Bank of America with a $46 million fine for the egregious way it treated a couple trying to work out a payment plan. The documents in the court case related how the couple contacted Bank of America to ask for modifications as they were experiencing financial difficulties. Representatives told the couple they could not get a modification until they stopped making payments.

BoA misled the couple into defaulting

Once the couple followed instructions and defaulted, instead of a payment modification, they got a foreclosure. In the following years, they submitted about 20 modification requests, while facing continuous attempts at foreclosure.

Fraud and other problems

Judge Klein’s decision also states that Bank of America executives lied to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as to the couple, thus committing fraud. As one of the reasons for the substantial fine, the judge cited the fact that Bank of America executives knew about and participated in the fraud and harassment.

Future still not clear

Although part of the rationale for the high amount of the fine was to make a significant impact on Bank of America and thus give rise to a better approach, it is not clear that Bank of America has learned its lesson, as it plans to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, even if the Kleins prevail in the end and get the $1.075 million damages that form part of the fine, they and their children have spent the past several years suffering financial harm and extreme psychological and emotional trauma.

Get help as early as possible

As you can see, you cannot rely on your lender to have your best interests at heart. Whether the representatives you speak to seem hostile or friendly, the bottom line is that they prioritize making money, not protecting you from losing your home. If you begin experiencing financial difficulties, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can fight on your side to help you keep your home.