Banks accused of illegally looting homes When a burglar goes in, they don't take your photos and your husband's ashes,' says all

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'When a burglar goes in, they don't take your photos and your husband's ashes,' says alleged victim of wrongful foreclosure
 
 

TRUCKEE, Calif. — When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos.

Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words “Together Forever,” that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

In an era when millions of homes have received foreclosure notices nationwide, lawsuits detailing bank break-ins like the one at Ms. Ash’s house keep surfacing.

 

And in the wake of the scandal involving shoddy, sometimes illegal paperwork that has buffeted the nation’s biggest banks in recent months, critics say these situations reinforce their claims that the foreclosure process is fundamentally flawed.

“Every day, smaller wrongs happen to people trying to save their homes: being charged the wrong amount of money, being wrongly denied a loan modification, being asked to hand over documents four or five times,” said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Identifying the number of homeowners who were locked out illegally is difficult. But banks and their representatives insist that situations like Ms. Ash’s represent just a tiny percentage of foreclosures.

Confusion
Many of the incidents that have become public appear to have been caused by confusion over whether a house is abandoned, in which case a bank may have the right to break in and make sure the property is secure.

Some of the cases appear to be mistakes involving homeowners who were up to date on their mortgage — or had paid off their home — but who still became targets of a bank.

In Texas, for example, Bank of America had the locks changed and the electricity shut off last year at Alan Schroit’s second home in Galveston, according to court papers.

Mr. Schroit, who had paid off the house, had stored 75 pounds of salmon and halibut in his refrigerator and freezer, caught during a recent Alaskan fishing vacation.

“Lacking power, the freezer’s contents melted, spoiled and reeking melt water spread through the property and leaked through the flooring into joists and lower areas,” the lawsuit says. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

More common are cases like Ms. Ash’s, in which a homeowner was behind on payments, perhaps trying to work out a modification, when bank crews changed the locks.

In Florida, contractors working for Chase Bank used a screwdriver to enter Debra Fischer’s house in Punta Gorda and helped themselves to a laptop, an iPod, a cordless drill, six bottles of wine and a frosty beer, left half-empty on the counter, according to assertions in a lawsuit filed in August.

Ms. Fisher was facing foreclosure, but Chase had not yet obtained a court order, her lawyer says.

The break-in was discovered when a Canadian couple renting the house returned from the beach.

Chase officials said such behavior by its contractors, if determined to be true, would be considered unacceptable and corrective action would be taken.

Banks and their contractors insist that the number of mistakes is minuscule given the hundreds of thousands of new foreclosure cases filed each month.

Bank of America, for instance, says it works with third-party contractors to inspect and maintain more than one million properties each month and has enhanced its controls in the last year to prevent mistakes.

Alan Jaffa, chief executive of Safeguard Properties, which inspects and maintains foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, acknowledged that a handful of mistakes had been made.

'Throw grandma out head first'
In most instances, he said, his company provided a valuable service that protected properties and neighborhoods.

“There is a stigma that we go in, kick the door in and throw grandma out head first and board up the windows,” Mr. Jaffa said. “We are doing a lot of good out there.”

But Alan M. White, a consumer law expert at Valparaiso University in Indiana, says: “Volume is not an excuse for violating someone’s rights.”

A clause in most mortgages allows banks that service the loan to enter a home and secure it if it is in default, meaning if the mortgage payment is 45 to 60 days late, and if the house has been abandoned, authorities said.

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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40777392/ns/business-the_new_york_times/

By ANDREW MARTIN
The New York Times
updated 12/22/2010 5:09:01 AM ET 2010-12-22T10:09:01
 

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Contractors prey on Foreclosures...unscrupulously...

Look, these guys who run these little subcontracting outfits are on "COMMISSIONS" and "QUOTAS"... They run around with lists of houses pending foreclosures and all they have to do is "FIND IT APPEARING TO BE VACANT" .... even if the utilities are on and there is food in the fridge-they get in, change the locks, winterize, and intimidate homeowners plumb out of their homes-because the majority of homeowners in default are UNAWARE OF THE LAWS THAT PROTECT THEM. Families are AFRAID TO REENTER THEIR HOMES... IF they are in default, they may not be able to afford an attorney to help them figure out the LAW that protects their rights...and that is yet the beginning of the entire nightmare thereafter.

There are MULTIPLE CONTRACTORS DOING THE SAME BIDDING...SAFEGUARD is but one of them... It's a nightmare and none of the contractors give a hoot as long as they can document that they got posession, winterized, and did their part--they get paid....sometimes hundreds of dollars for less than 1/2 hour of work. They will reenter 1 family home to retake posession and change locks multiple times if they can get away with it.

I wonder what would happen if defaulting homeowners starting posting WARNING THIS HOME IS OCCUPIED SIGNS during the beginnings of their foreclosures....then what would happen when they criminally trespassed?

It's just a dog eat dog world... and every action is assessed against the defaulting borrower anyhow...so, what's the point but to make it impossible to get out of default??? 

Banks are making a killing off of their PMI insurances on homes.... They are profiting from the homeowner's demise in the majority of cases.... That's their business.... loaning money, insuring the notes from loss, and then taxing the owners...and these days---the same banks are also buying up the property taxes via tax certificate sales under alter ego business names...(Chase = Plymouth Park Tax Services= Xspand).

May God Bless the families who have been terrorized by this big business.