Bank forecloses on home, but can ill elder’s allies stall eviction in federal court?

  • Al Norman, longtime friend and elder care advocate, represented Bob McCollum, who was in the hospital, at the foreclosure of his Bernardston home Monday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Bob McCollum's cat Fluffy cozied up to the auctioneers as her owner's Bernardston home was up for a sale at a foreclosure Monday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Bob McCollum's cat Fluffy walked up to the auctioneers as her owner's Bernardston home was up for a sale at a foreclosure Monday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • An auctioneer announces the sale of Bob McCollum's Bernardston home at a foreclosure Monday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • One of a handful of signs put up by an advocate in support of Bob McCollum. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • The 179 Shaw Road log cabin home in Bernardston, which has been the home of Bob McCollum, went for sale to the Bank of New York Mellon Monday. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

BERNARDSTON — As the auctioneers announced the sale of 73-year-old Bob McCollum’s home, his cat, Fluffy, came out for the action.

The cat cozied up to the auctioneers. One of them crouched down to pet Fluffy, who had come down from the Shaw Road log cabin. As he pet McCollum’s cat, his fellow auctioneer announced a bid of $126,400 from the Bank of New York Mellon, which oversees McCollum’s loan on the property. The auctioneer then asked if anyone else wanted to bid. The small handful of potential buyers, one of whom said he had read about McCollum in the paper and thought this could be a good home to buy, kept quiet.

The foreclosure was then set, about seven months after McCollum and elder care advocate and longtime friend Al Norman held up an initial sale. The sale could lead to McCollum’s eventual eviction.

“I feel embarrassed and ashamed. This is the worst tragedy of my life,” McCollum said afterward, from Baystate Franklin Medical Center, where he’s been the past week after falling ill. “I hope some good will come out of it and maybe it’ll help somebody else and expose the banks for what they’re really doing.”

McCollum is sitting on roughly $141,600 of debt on the home after taking out a loan of $153,000 in 2003.

McCollum still has some legal room to resist the eviction ahead. Monday, Norman filed a civil rights suit on McCollum’s behalf in U.S. District Court in Springfield against the Bank of New York Mellon and Shellpoint Mortgage Servicing, the mortgage lender. McCollum claims in the suit that the two companies have “blatantly violated my civil rights under the Fair Credit Act and Federal Reserve Regulation Z.”

“I attempted to pay off this loan,” McCollum says in the suit, “with help from family and friends. They wouldn’t allow me to do a pay-off. I asked the lender for documentation, but the lender was unable to provide it. I don’t think this is correct.”

Health struggles

McCollum, a carpenter who has been called a “Robin Hood of builders,” was forced to stop working after being slowed up by battles with cancer, lymphoma and lung, and then spinal stenosis and neuropathy. It was then, as the housing market collapsed and with an adjustable-interest loan hanging over his head, that McCollum got to this point.

Norman called the foreclosure an act of “faceless people enforcing their very real demands to take away this home. It’s pathetic that you have people who won’t even identify themselves.”

Korde & Associates, representing the bank in this foreclosure, was not able to comment by press time.

This federal suit might disrupt the bank’s potential attempts to evict McCollum. In the meantime, Norman will begin to raise money for McCollum’s legal fees.

“I’m sure it’ll be a painful day for Bob, but we’ll be pursuing his rights in courts as far as we can,” Norman said at the auction.

Watching on, in addition to the potential bidders, was Cohn & Company Real Estate’s Mark Abramson.

“I think it’s a sad day if in fact his foreclosure goes through,” said Abramson, whose agency for years has been trying to help McCollum sell his house.

He said the agency will continue to try to do so, in an effort to help raise money for McCollum, at least until the paperwork comes in to show Bank of New York Mellon takes complete ownership of the property. Abramson said he has not been able to get a buyer on the home because of the price, set in part to help pay for that outstanding loan.

McCollum’s case, though, is not something Abramson said he sees too often. Instead, he typically witnesses younger families facing eviction.

When it comes to people who sometimes want to downsize their home as they get older, they typically can sell their home and use that equity to buy a home that fits them better. In this case that’s not possible, he said.

Now, McCollum will struggle to fight a legal battle and to find a new place to live. Regardless, Norman said they will have to search for housing for him if he is in fact evicted.

“The faceless bank has taken his home, but the fight isn’t over,” Norman said.

McCollum mentioned he’s still a member of the local Conservation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, saying, “I’m a part of the community. It’s just an embarrassing thing to go through.”