A handful of pennies doesn’t seem like much. But it’s all that stood between a family of six and their home.
Creg and Bonnie Berger underpayed their mortgage by seven cents, and now they’re being foreclosed on by their bank – putting two parents and four kids out on the streets.
At least that’s the story their lawyer has been peddling to the papers, along with news that the family lost a baby in a household accident earlier this year. They’ve been painted as a family thisclose to the edge, with dad’s computer repair business struggling to stay afloat and mom making just $12 an hour as a nurse’s aide.
Their lawyer says their credit history is far from perfect, while the bank paints a much darker tale of constantly having to fight with the Bergers to get payments. Bank of America officials discredited the story told to the Detroit Free Press that a postal clerk mis-issued a $440.07 money order earlier this year as $440 even (it’s a mistake the couple says they simply missed).
The couple’s next payment, $690.07 due in February, was four weeks late. The bank now says they’re missing more than $7,000 in fees due for the Bergers’ perpetual lateness.
It’s hard to rectify the two stories, even harder to feel anything but sorry for a family that lost a child this year. And it’s certainly easy to cast the bank in the role of the big, mean, ugly monster.
First time I read this story through, I had that stomach-churning ache for the family. Second time through, I still had it, but the questions started formulating. Like the traffic cop in NYC getting all this heat for just doing his job when he gave a breastfeeding mom a parking ticket, is the bank really at fault when a family stops paying its bills?
You don’t get to walk out of a grocery store with a gallon of milk to feed your kids when you’re short the money – unless a really nice person in line behind you steps in with the cash. Should it matter more that the Bergers have four kids to shelter in this house?
The humanity in this story is too hard to ignore, and I feel for this family. But as the Freep reporter points out, the Bergers’ home state of Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for home foreclosures. Chances are, there are plenty of other kids in those homes too.
Do you think the Bergers deserve an extra chance?