Millions of Americans are behind on their mortgage payments. In most mortgages, there is a contractual agreement that a mortgage lender can enter a home and “secure” it if the borrower is in default and the home has been abandoned. The clause seems reasonable enough, from the perspective of keeping abandoned homes from being vandalized.
But Cincinnati foreclosure lawyers know that the problem comes with how the banks determine whether a property is “abandoned.” The determination of abandonment is often left to inexperienced contractors. They may knock on the door or ask one neighbor if they know where the homeowners are. The contractors or the banks may send a letter asking about the status of the house. If they get no reply, they feel justified in determining the home is “abandoned.”
The result of this flimsy determination of abandonment is that more and more reports are coming in of banks improperly breaking into homes, taking all of the homeowner’s property, and changing all the locks.
The New York Times recently reported the case of Celeste Butler, who went to check on her father’s house after he had left to go to the hospital. He ended up staying in the hospital for months, and then died.
Butler found that the house had been ransacked. Before her father left the home had been neatly maintained. Contractors working for JP MorganChase had entered the house and destroyed furniture, broken into a locked cabinet, and had taken jewelry.
Butler sued the contractors, known as Safeguard. In her lawsuit, she alleges that Chase failed to credit payments made toward the mortgage. Chase later corrected the problem.
In the meantime, though, Chase had sent Safeguard to inspect the house when payments were late. When no one responded to a letter asking if the property had been abandoned, Chase said, its crews went back in the house to put antifreeze in the pipes. Safeguard claims the house was already in disarray when they arrived.
Mortgage lenders say that considering the enormous numbers of mortgages in default in the United States, improper break-ins are very uncommon. But as one consumer advocate has put it, volume is no excuse for violating someone’s rights.
Source: New York Times “In a Sign of Foreclosure Flaws, Suits Claim Break-Ins by Banks” 12/21/2010