According to HUD, the banking giant “imposed unnecessary and burdensome requirements on borrowers who relied on disability income to qualify for their home loans and required some disabled borrowers to provide physician statements to qualify for home mortgage loans.” Bank of America allegedly did this by asking borrowers to provide proof of their disabilities and the continuation of Social Security income before approving loans, after first denying them.
If the allegations are true then Bank of America violated the Fair Housing Act. The law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. This includes imposing different application or qualification criteria based on disability. The law also makes is illegal to inquire about the nature or severity of a disability except in some narrow circumstances.
“Holding homebuyers with disabilities to a higher standard just because they rely on disability payments as a source of income is against the law,” John Trasvia, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in the press release. “Mortgage companies may verify income and have eligibility standards but they may not single out home buyers with disabilities to delay or deny financing when they are otherwise eligible.”
Bank of America denies the charges and issued the following statement. “[T]here is no basis to allege that Bank of America has engaged in a systemic practice of discriminating on the basis of disability in connection with mortgage lending.”
The Department of Justice is handling the case as it moves forward.
Photo from Paul Lowry via flickr.