Wrongful Foreclosure Can Have Devastating Results

You would think that several years after the implosion of the housing market the banks would have gotten their act together and could avoid wrongful foreclosures. busstation.jpg

Unfortunately, as our Miami foreclosure lawyers know all too well, it continues to happen with alarming regularity. In most cases, it involves a situation where a bank can not prove that it has actual ownership of the home. In those cases, it legally cannot foreclose.

Then there are the cases like this one in California:

An elderly couple’s home was broken into, their life’s possessions ransacked. They reported it to police, who ultimately told them, “The good news is we know who took your belongings. The bad news is, it was the bank, and it’s all gone.”

The couple used the residence as a vacation home, and kept all of their family heirlooms and decades’ worth of valuables there.

But then, contractors employed by Wells Fargo, with a foreclosure notice in hand that was actually intended for someone else, broke into their home and took their belongings. They didn’t just knock down the door either. The home was ransacked.

The doors were broken. The windows smashed. Walls were torn down. Valuables were stolen. All of those items were later sold – including three lawn mowers and three golf carts. The family also had a camper trailer parked at the residence that was badly damaged.

There were also items that can never be replaced: The husband’s father’s World War I uniform and folded flag. Jewelry that had been passed down from generations. Photo albums. All gone.

The bank has issued an apology to the couple, saying the items were “mistakenly” taken. They have offered the couple a settlement of $260,000. We don’t know the exact value of all the items taken, but we do know that some of them had no price tag.

The couple has yet to accept the settlement. Given the extensive damage to the home, it’s not even clear if that offer will even cover the actual damages.

This type of problem isn’t exclusive to Wells Fargo, although it has had a number of similar, high-profile cases so far this year. One California man committed suicide after the bank wrongfully threatened foreclosure on him. Then this summer, the bank again found itself in hot water after threatening a terminally ill cancer patient with foreclosure – mistakenly.

The incidents used to be even more common. this resulted in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency striking a deal with 14 banks accused of having perpetuated wrongful foreclosures. The deal was to grant between $500 and $125,000 each to homeowners whose homes were wrongfully foreclosed upon, either because their mortgages weren’t actually in default or the bank couldn’t provide any proof of ownership.

A paltry $500 would be laughable – if it wasn’t so sad.

It’s estimated about 4.5 million people may be eligible for the payouts.

But you should never accept any amount without first consulting with an experienced Miami foreclosure lawyer who can help you determine whether you’re getting a raw deal, or if you should make like Steve Miller, take the money and run.

If you’re battling foreclosure in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991.

Additional Resources:
Owners Lose Possessions After Home Near Twentynine Palms Is Mistakenly Foreclosed, Staff Report, CBS Local News, Los Angeles

More Blog Entries:
Underwater Homeowners Should Have Received More Help Sooner, Aug. 15, 2012, Miami Foreclosure Defense Lawyer Blog