For sale at MITS: Second chances

Friday, November 22, 2013

LARGO, Fla. – In the nearly five years since he bought a mobility van company, complex rehab provider Bruce Bayes says he’s seen several wheelchair users who simply can’t afford their own transportation.

“Whether they’re newly injured or were injured in Vietnam or World War II, for whatever reason, sometimes their credit rating plummets,” said Bayes, owner of Custom Mobility and the accessible van company MITS, which both serve most of Florida. “If they don’t have good credit, they can’t get the loan they need.”

Bayes is in the midst of launching a new corporation that will help wheelchair users make up the difference between what Veterans Affairs or vocational rehab, (a government program that provides support for a disabled person to return to the workforce) will typically pay—about half of the $60,000 average cost for the mobility modifications.

When wheelchair users turn to their banks for financing, it can get complicated.

“Banks look at the credit score and people either pass or fail,” said Bayes. “Banks also don’t understand why a $30,000 van can be valued at $60,000.”

That’s where Bayes comes in. A local businessman who prefers to remain anonymous has agreed to put up the money to offer loans to people that the banks turn down through a new partnership with Bayes. Interest rates fall between 9% and 12%. 

“We look at if they’ve lived in one place for a while, how they lost their credit rating—it’s not based on the credit score only, but the whole situation,” said Bayes. “Transportation may be the key to someone getting re-employed.”

If the wheelchair user defaults on the loan, Bayes will repossess the van and resell it to pay his partner back, he said.

Bayes may consider expanding the loan service to other states on a case-by-case basis, he said. He’s used to coordinating with out-of-area providers since many of his clients are snowbirds. 

“It’s very gratifying,” he said. “This completes the cycle of getting people the mobility they need.”