’I had a breakdown’

In September 2018, Wells Fargo sent the Reiners a letter explaining that the bank had “difficult news” to share: The family’s plea for a mortgage modification would have been accepted if not for a “faulty calculation. Wells Fargo said the couple should have been approved for a trial modification — a reduction in monthly payments that would have saved their house from foreclosure.

Jeff Reiner, a stay-at-home dad who took care of their special needs son, said the mortgage modification would have allowed the family to remain in their home. “Without assistance, we just didn’t have a chance,” he said.

In the letter, Wells Fargo apologized for the mistake, enclosed a check for $15,000 to help “make things right” and offered free mediation for further compensation.

The letter did not explain how Wells Fargo decided on the $15,000 sum, but it did say the couple could cash it and still pursue mediation.

“We realize our decision impacted you at a time you were facing a hardship,” a Wells Fargo mortgage executive wrote.

A Wells Fargo spokesman told CNN Business that the bank should have sent the Reiner family a proactive modification offer in 2012, but it didn’t because of the calculation error. He said that loans like this one that are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac were eligible for modification even before the borrower requests one.

“If they had accepted the offer [that Wells Fargo never made] and kept up with the payments, then the foreclosure would have been avoidable potentially,” the Wells Fargo spokesman said.

He added that the October 2012 foreclosure occurred after the family filed for bankruptcy and the loan was nearly 17 months past due.