CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A homeowner in North Carolina says he is entitled to live in his house for free based on a verbal agreement with Countrywide Financial made in 2008.
Daniel Bailey Jr., a professional photographer, says he is sticking to the agreement he says was made with the lender that was bought by Bank of America and proved to be one of the worst bank deals ever made, Tribune Newspapers reported Friday.
Bailey said he sent a barrage of letters to Countrywide pleading for a loan modification. Former Countrywide Chief Executive Officer Angelo Mozilo then attempted to send a note to staff members, which described Bailey's pleading as a "disgusting" example of borrowers besieging Countrywide with form letters.
Mozilo accidentally sent the note to Bailey, who posted it on the Internet where it went viral and was picked up as a news story by media outlets. In quick order, reporters were camped outside Bailey's house to cover the story, the report said.
Bailey now says Countrywide cut a deal, offering to allow him to stay in his house for as long as he desired for free, as long as he would keep quiet.
Bank of America says since there is no record of the agreement, Bailey owes the bank $98,462.
BofA is threatening to foreclose on the house, but appears trapped by the odd circumstantial point that under normal circumstances the bank would have pressed forward with foreclosure proceedings long before a borrower went 62 months without making a payment.
It would take "something very unusual" for a bank to delay moving forward on a foreclosure for that long, said Victor Moore, director of counseling at OnTrack WNC, an agency in Asheville, N.C., that helps homeowners deal with foreclosure issues, the newspaper said.
"It is unusual" for a bank to allow a borrower to go that long without paying, BofA spokeswoman Jumana Brauwens said.
The bank contends it sent letters to Bailey in 2010 offering to modify the $144,000 loan and one in 2009 that informed him he was in default.
But Bailey says he was just a innocent rube in a public relations disaster that ended with a stroke of good fortune for him.
"I knew I was sucked into something big that day, but I didn't know how big. Some powerful dude is involved; they're telling me I have to sign; the newspapers are knocking on the door and you've got 24 hours. So you grab at the lifeline -- or what they're telling you is a lifeline," he said.
The purchase of Countrywide, meanwhile, has cost BofA more than $50 billion in loan defaults and other expenses, the Tribune reported.