Saturday, September 29, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #75 - Part 1

Outrage of the Week: Bank-hired goons break into occupied houses - even ones without a mortgage

In June, the owners of a modest home near Twentynine Palms, a town about 200 east of Los Angeles in the California desert, came home to find their house had been foreclosed on.

Contractors hired by the mortgage company, Wells Fargo, had broken into the house owned by Alvin and Pat Tjosaas to “secure” it and had removed all their belongings, along with those of Alvin’s late parents, from the home.

One problem: There was no mortgage on the house. There never had been. In fact, Alvin, a retired mason, built the home with his father when he was a teenager.

Wells Fargo was of course very sorry for the mistake - but not sorry enough, it seems, to keep another contractor from going to the same house over the Labor Day weekend and again breaking in and carting off everything inside.

And this is not an isolated instance.

The Huffington Post reported a little while back on the case of Nancy Cox of Clawson, Mich., who returned home to find her possessions in the front yard, smashed with a sledgehammer, and a chalk drawing of a clown face on her garage with the tagline, "another job well done."

On the case of Kenneth and Margaret Karpa of Pittsburgh, who found china and photos of their daughter damaged and a coin collection and the family cat missing.

On the case of Allen Danforth of Kansas City, who discovered his elderly parents' furnishings - not only tables and chairs but also family heirlooms - gone.

The contractors in these cases, known as property inspectors or property preservers, are supposed to protect unoccupied, abandoned properties against damage so foreclosing banks can get more for the properties when they go to auction. But all too often, as they get paid by the amount of work they do, they ignore obvious signs of occupation and just go ahead and break in, remove the contents (which often enough just disappear somewhere) and put new locks on the doors.

It’s common enough that Richard Fersch, the sergeant in charge of foreclosures in the sheriff's office of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, says he gets about one complaint a week from homeowners who return home to discover new locks on their doors.

A review of court records by The Huffington Post turned up more than 50 homeowner lawsuits against banks and the two largest property management contractors in the US stemming from break-ins of occupied homes. Consumer lawyers say these  cases represent just a small sample of what is happening in communities across the country.

What doubles the outrage here is that the inspector general for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is reportedly raising red flags about the lack of oversight of the contractors hired by the government-backed mortgage giants. But despite all the complaints and all the red flags, the regulators haven’t actually done a damn thing.

I think, quite bluntly, we know why. And it is an outrage.


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