Bank delivers notice of eviction while man is in rehab

  • Robert McCollum is currently in rehab at a local nursing home, while the bank that owns his long-time home is trying to evict him. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Robert McCollum leans on the his truck while he watches his home being auctioned off on Shaw Road in Bernardston last year. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • McCollum’s log cabin in Bernardston. The bank has delivered a notice of eviction. McCollum’s lawyer, Peter Lane, plans to be in Housing Court on June 28 to answer for McCollum, who is currently in rehab at a local nursing home. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/7/2019 11:01:53 PM

BERNARDSTON — While Robert McCollum lay in rehab in a local nursing home this week, the bank that now owns the home he has lived in since the late 1990s had a notice of eviction taped to his back door.

McCollum’s advocate, Al Norman of Greenfield, said the notice was attached to his door at 178 Shaw Road in Bernardston, announcing that McCollum and/or his lawyer, Peter Lane of Fierst Kane & Bloomberg in Northampton, need to appear in Housing Court in Greenfield on June 28 at 9 a.m. because “you are a holdover occupant after a lawful foreclosure.”

The foreclosure sale, in which the bank bought the house, was held in March 2018. McCollum was able to stay in the log cabin after Norman filed an extension to delay eviction. But, Norman said, the time has come.

“I just wish I knew what is going to happen when I get better and get out of here,” McCollum said Friday morning. “I worked so hard and did so much for other people throughout the years and now, here I am.”

With an uncertain future, McCollum said he is not only physically ill — he fell and hurt his back and hip more than a week ago and that’s why he’s in rehab — but he is also emotionally distraught.

Lane said this week that he does not want to talk about the case, except to say he will do his best for McCollum.

“The bank is suing for eviction,” Lane said. “If this eviction happens, the bank will get an order of eviction authorizing the sheriff to remove the owner from his home.”

The 74-year-old McCollum received a $153,000 loan in 2003 that Norman said he couldn’t afford. The loan was approved by Countrywide Bank, which was later purchased by Bank of America. Bank of New York Mellon is the trustee for its mortgages.

“I tried to talk to the bank when I fell behind because of a bout with cancer and a fourth operation on my back,” McCollum said. “It was frustrating, confusing and upsetting. The bank sent me from person to person — people in Houston, South Carolina, all over — and no one seemed to be able to help me. The bank didn’t seem to want to.”

“We want to show that Bob was a victim of a predatory loan,” Norman said. “He got a loan in 2003 and ran into problems shortly after.

“He needed to make some home improvements and other things, but he was an independent contractor and didn’t have the steady, stable income to pay back that type of loan — the bank should have seen that,” Norman said. “He probably didn’t read the fine print.”

Norman said the loan was a 30-year variable.

“He was 59 years old at the time of the loan,” he said. “That means Bob would have been 89 before the loan was paid. He didn’t have the assets or income for that.”

Norman said McCollum received notice from the bank last spring, saying his home was being foreclosed on.

“This is not just a story about Bob, but a cautionary tale to seniors,” he said — they need to stay away from long-term loans.

At the public auction in March 2018, there were no bidders, so the bank bought the house for $126,400.

“We were able to hold the foreclosure off for a year, but here we are again,” Norman said. 

Norman said originally, the bank offered McCollum $2,000 and 30 days to get out, but there isn’t enough affordable, available housing in Franklin County.

“He wouldn’t have found anything in that time, and $2,000 wouldn’t have helped much,” Norman said.

McCollum said he now lives completely on his Social Security check and has had numerous health issues, including the one that recently sent him to the hospital and then rehab.

“He never should have been given that loan,” Norman said, who noted McCollum has three strikes against him: he’s elderly, disabled and low-income. “He was eager to get it at the time, and the bank was eager to give it. It put him in deep debt.”

Norman has put McCollum on housing lists in Bernardston, Gill and Northfield, where he grew up, but there are three-year waiting lists. He said it isn’t clear if they can even find housing for McCollum, if he ends up out of the house.

“He has a double challenge,” Norman said. “He’s hurt, and now we have to try to prevent homelessness. We just want to get him well and back to being an independent contractor.”

Longtime friend William “Bill” Meese, who served on the Conservation Commission in Bernardston with McCollum, said he is helping him apply for Mass Health insurance. “He’s a nice guy who has done so much for people and his community,” Meese said. “I feel we owe him.”

McCollum said he doesn’t want people looking at him and thinking, “loser.” 

“I hate to go down that way,” he said. “I just hope to find an honorable way out.”

The Bank of New York Mellon returned a call and said Bank of America is responsible for the eviction notice.

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