RBC threatens 'fast foreclosure' to seize Port Coquitlam home

If it weren't for bad luck, Ron Philbrook wouldn't have any luck at all.

And the Port Coquitlam, B.C., man believes his plight should serve as a cautionary tale for Canadians carrying record levels of household debt.

"I think they're going to be thinking about, 'Wow, if this can happen to this fellow, it could very well happen to us,'" warns Philbrook.

'Fast foreclosure'

The 58-year-old is facing a "fast foreclosure" by the Royal Bank of Canada on his home of 36 years, after he fell on hard times. This is a procedure in which a bank requests authorization to foreclose in 24 hours rather than several months.

The bank's move is taking place even though Philbrook now has a stable job and has made various offers to start paying off his debt.

"I made several repayment proposals to take care of the arrears, and the bank is basically playing hardball, and said, 'Sorry, we're carefully declining your offer.'"

After CBC asked questions, the bank initially agreed to delay its foreclosure application until later this month. The bank is now delaying it indefinitely, pending a resolution with Philbrook.

If the foreclosure happens, it will be the latest blow for Philbrook after being pounded by bad luck.

Bad luck begins

By the 1990s, Philbrook had paid off his Port Coquitlam condo and was planning for his retirement.

He decided to remortgage to buy a recreational property with relatives on Pavilion Lake, between Lillooet and Cache Creek, 300 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

But in 2011, Philbrook was laid off from his job of 23 years. He burned through $40,000 from his RRSP to keep paying his condo mortgage, but then fell behind and into debt.

That's when disaster struck.

Dream 'wiped out'

Last August, torrential rains sparked massive mudslides around Pavilion Lake.

One buried his recreational property beneath tonnes of rock — and filled his cabin with debris.

The property value went from an assessed $156,000 to just $26,000.

His insurance company refused to pay out, declaring the mudslide an act of God — and the province wouldn't pay disaster relief because it was a recreational property, not a primary residence.

"I was absolutely shocked," recounted Philbrook. "I was saying, 'Oh brother, this is another blow to the gut I definitely don't need."

"I was going to sell my place, for whatever money I could get, and I was going to move up and live [there]."

Royal Bank foreclosure

Philbrook owes $114,000 on his Port Coquitlam condo that's valued at just $95,000.

The Royal Bank has decided to foreclose on his home of 36 years.

Normally, the bank would give a homeowner six months to find funds before foreclosing.

RBC has instead applied to B.C. Supreme Court to request Philbrook be given just 24 hours to pay up before the condo can be listed by a real estate agent. Philbrook would be kicked out upon sale of the home.

The bank took this action even though Philbrook found a stable, full-time job last November and has pledged to pay back approximately $500 a month.

"Devastated, I feel devastated," he says. "I've been a very, very loyal customer with them for over three decades. And this is the way they're treating me."

Philbrook's lawyer agrees.

'Hard-nosed approach"

Priyan Samarakoone, a lawyer with the Access Pro-Bono Society BC, says Philbrook is "a hard-working, everyday Joe Canadian," who "deserves a break."

"I'd like a little wiggle room, I'd like a little flexibility" he says, calling the bank's 24-hour redemption period "a hard-nosed approach."

"What I would like to see is in circumstances when we have an opportunity to save the home, that they work with us ... and not just kind of roll over that person if it's just dollars and cents," he said. "It's that human approach."

Temporary reprieve

After being contacted by CBC News, the Royal Bank of Canada initially agreed to soften its position, but still demanded Philbrook come up with a lump sum payment of $11,000.

It gave him a two-week reprieve, delaying a court application that had been scheduled for June 4.

In an email to CBC, bank spokesman Ian Colvin wrote:

"We are working closely with the client to find a resolution and have taken steps to provide both parties with more time and to review carefully the options available.‎"

The statement did not say whether RBC would stick to its 24-hour foreclosure application when the case returns to court.

However, Colvin later told the CBC in another statement the bank is having "ongoing and productive discussions" with Philbrook, in hopes of coming up with a settlement.

He said the bank's application to B.C. Supreme Court to foreclose on Philbrook within a 24-hour period is being put on hold indefinitely, "pending some resolution" with Philbrook.

Philbrook said he's thankful for how things have turned out.

"I'm touched, very, very touched and … I'm very happy with how the situation is progressing with RBC.

"I hope we can reach a resolution soon, and that pretty well says it all, right there."

CBC News investigates

If you have a story CBC should investigate, email us: Investigate@cbc.ca

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