Some 2.8 million homeowners faced the threat of foreclosure last year, but it wasn't supposed to happen to Charlie and Maria Cordoso. In 2005, the New Bedford, Mass. couple paid in full -- in cash -- for a house in Springville, Fla., and rented it out with plans eventually to use the home as a retirement getaway.
They said they were shocked to learn earlier this month that Bank of America had locked them out and removed their clothing and furniture from the property.
"All the love I put in that house -- I fix things up every time I go there," Charlie Cordoso, a construction worker, told ABC affiliate WCVB Boston. "Bank of America or somebody should apologize."
The Cordosos, Portuguese immigrants who are in their 50s, are now suing Bank of America for allegedly seizing the wrong home, and they're not alone: Two other homeowners, one earlier this month in Texas and another last October in Kentucky, also have filed lawsuits alleging that Bank of America attempted to foreclose on their homes even though the bank did not own or service mortgages for the properties.
Bank of America has yet to file a response to the Cordosos' claim and to the Texas claim, in which the homeowner alleges that the bank cut power to his property during the faulty foreclosure, leaving it reeking of fish, which were stored in his refrigerator and freezer. (The homeowner had left 75 pounds of fish at the home after a successful fishing trip to Alaska, according to the lawsuit.)
Bank spokesman Rick Simon said in an e-mail to ABCNews.com that the bank has reached out to the Cardosos' lawyers and hopes "to have the opportunity to work with them to properly assess and address their allegations."
The bank believes that the Texas and Kentucky cases, however, "have no merit," Simon said, and the bank blames others for the errors.
In the Kentucky case, Bank of America was a co-defendant along with a Kentucky corporation that also allegedly worked on the foreclosure. In that case, the bank filed a document claiming that any "injuries or damages" alleged by the homeowner were the result of "negligence caused by entities and/or persons for which BofA is not responsible."
Meanwhile, a local contractor hired "to secure the property for Bank of America" has accepted responsibility for the mistake in Texas, Simon said.
The mistakes of local contractors, however, don't get banks off the hook with critics, who allege that the foreclosure systems at Bank of America and other institutions are deeply flawed.
"It's a national issue," said Joseph deMello, one of lawyers representing the Cordosos.
Bank of America actually had planned to foreclose on a property about 10 houses away but mistakenly went after the Cordosos' home instead, deMello said.
The bank first sent workers to begin clearing out and padlocking the home in July. At that point, Charlie Cordoso managed to speak to a real estate agent hired by Bank of America to list the home for a foreclosure sale, according to the Cordosos' lawsuit.
The real estate agent told Cordoso that he would notify Bank of America that they had the wrong house -- but, according to the lawsuit, Bank of America never stopped its foreclosure plans.