No Mortgage, Still Foreclosed? Bank of America Sued for Seizing Wrong Homes

In August, unbeknownst to the couple, the bank hired a landscaping service to cut the property's grass and, in the process, broke the Cordosos' fence, according to the lawsuit. In January, the Cordosos said they learned that the bank had cleared out and locked up their home.

"Once this foreclosure train starts moving, they don't let anyone stop it , whether you're right or wrong," deMello said.

The Cordosos, who eventually regained access to their home -- Charlie Cordoso had to break a back screen door to get in -- still don't know where their belongings are and now are worried about finding a new renter for the home in a tough housing market, deMello said.

The last renter moved out, the lawyer said, because she was spooked by the apparent foreclosure.

Foreclosure experts like Rick Sharga, of California-based foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac, say cases like these are symptomatic of a broken system strained by the housing boom and bust.

Banks have been "unable to efficiently handle the volume of distressed assets that are coming through," Sharga said. "We also are seeing the results of what had been less-than-rigorous paperwork and documentation management over the last decade or so as loans became commodities that were packaged, sold, repackaged and resold."

"It's almost inevitable that, at some point, if you don't have really tight control on these transactions, you're going to have some issues," he said.

Foreclosure Mistakes: Then and Now

To be sure, banks and mortgage companies made mistakes like those alleged in these suits before the housing market's rise and fall. In 2002, for instance, a Nevada couple sued Countrywide Home Loans -- which was bought by Bank of America in 2008 -- for mistakenly foreclosing on their home while they were out of town. A court ultimately granted them more than $2 million in damages.

Sharga said that while human error contributed to errant foreclosures in the past, they're happening with greater frequency now as banks find themselves overwhelmed with delinquent mortgages.

Bruce Marks, head of mortgage help group Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, said that while he hasn't worked with homeowners like the Cordosos, he's seen plenty of cases where homeowners were in the middle of working out mortgage modifications when their banks suddenly began foreclosure proceedings.

It happens because the banks "are overwhelmed, their systems don't work and one department doesn't know what the other one is doing," he said.

On "Super Tuesday" -- the first Tuesday of the month when certain states auction off foreclosed properties -- NACA helped prevent some 1,000 such sales on homes where homeowners were in the middle of loan modifications, Marks said.

"I say to all lenders out there, 'Stop foreclosing until you get your system straight,'" he said.

Since the housing crisis began, a number of banks have announced plans to streamline their mortgage and foreclosure operations, to hire and train more staff and to improve customer service.

That hasn't impressed their critics.

"They clearly haven't done enough to keep pace with the volume of problems," Sharga said.

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