Some homeowners in Oklahoma are charging Bank of America (BAC) with withholding insurance payments they say are needed for property repairs.
Cynthia and James Copher and James and Rosanna Richard allege in a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City on behalf of themselves and other homeowners that the bank contravened mortgage agreements the borrowers say direct the company either to authorize the funds for repairs or reduce the balances on their loans.
The lawsuit follows charges recently by regulators in New York that lenders there have been slow to authorize insurance payouts for borrowers whose homes were hit last year by Hurricane Sandy.
The Cophers allege in court papers they received a roughly $20,000 payout from State Farm in 2009 to cover a claim for repairs to their roof, screens and gutters following a hailstorm a year earlier.
They endorsed the check, which required signatures from both the Cophers and the bank, then took the check to their local branch of Bank of America, where an employee instructed them to mail the check to another address.
The bank later told the Cophers they would have to submit information about the contractor who would perform the work, according to the Cophers, who later fell behind on their mortgage payments. In January, Bank of America began foreclosure proceedings against the Cophers, who say the bank cashed the check but neither released the funds for repairs nor applied the insurance proceeds to their outstanding loan balance.
The Richards charge that Bank of America has yet to endorse a check in the amount of $19,965 they received from American Modern Home Insurance last year after their roof was damaged by hail in July 2011. Though the Richards say they complied with a request by the bank that they submit information about the contractor they hired to perform the repairs, the bank has cashed the check without releasing funds for the repairs or reducing their mortgage.
Both borrowers say their mortgage agreements obligate Bank of America to promptly inspect whether repairs have been performed to its satisfaction and to release the insurance proceeds or apply them to the balance of their outstanding loans.
The Cophers’ house secures a $270,400 loan they took out in 2006. The Richards’ house secures loans that total roughly $238,000.
A lawyer for the borrowers did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the lawsuit, which asks the court to designate the litigation as a class action.
A Bank of America spokeswoman declined to comment.