June 8, 2011 -- In Florida an angry homeowner whose home was wrongfully foreclosed on by Bank of America gets revenge by foreclosing on the bank's local branch. In Georgia, in a different property dispute, a city court judge threatens to jail the local BofA branch manager for contempt of court.
Any relation between the two incidents? "Just mere coincidences," says bank spokesperson Jumana Bauwens. Still, if you're BofA, you've got to be asking yourself: Where's the love?
The Florida incident arose when the bank foreclosed on Warren and Maureen Nyerges of Golden Gate Estates in Naples. This surprised the Nyerges, since they had no mortgage--not with BofA or with anybody else. They had paid cash for their home in 2009.
Warren Nyerges made phone calls to the bank to try to get them to desist. "I talked to branch managers, I called anyone who would listen to me," he told the Naples News. "I wrote a certified letter to the [bank] president. No response, nothing." Finally he hired an attorney. Two months later, the foreclosure had been dismissed.
Nyerges then sought to recover his attorney's fees, and got a judgment against the bank. Five more months passed: more phone calls, more letters; no payment. Nyerges went back to court and got a writ of execution, which gave him permission to seize bank assets in payment for his judgment.
On June 3, Nyerges, two sheriff's deputies and a moving truck showed up at the local BofA branch. The deputies informed the manager that he could either pay the Nyerges' legal fees— $2,500—or the movers would start taking away the bank's furniture and cash. The manager, after conferring with his superiors, gave the deputies a check.
Bank of America later apologized to the Nyerges in writing--but managed to misspell their name.
Their attorney, Todd Allen of Conrad Willkomm, P.A., remains disgruntled: "Bank of America never apologized for having tried to foreclose, only for not paying the money in time."
As to how the situation arose in the first place, Allen says the home's prior owner had defaulted, and that BofA had taken back the house. "My clients purchased the property directly from Bank of America. If they [the bank] had taken 15 minutes to review their records on the property, they would have seen the details of the transaction." In his view the Nyerges' story is "symptomatic of a larger problem: banks just aren't doing their due diligence before they start foreclosings."
His clients, he says, are "ecstatic--but drained emotionally. It's scary to have your home foreclosed on when you've paid cash for it."
Bauwens of Bank of America acknowledges a mistake was made: "Basically, we're truly sorry for the series of unfortunate circumstances that Mr. Nyerges experienced. He received a judgment—and rightly so. On Friday, that judgment was paid."
Still, she says of the incident, "It's not good for business."
Okay, then; on to Riverdale, Georgia, where a Bank of America branch manager is facing jail for contempt of court. "We are in conversations with the City of Riverdale to resolve this matter," says Bauwens, "and hope to do so."
In dispute here is who owns an abandoned home that has become, in the words of Dr. Evelyn Wynn Dixon, Riverdale's mayor, not just an eyesore but a safety hazard. "It needs to be demolished," she says. "It should have been torn down two years ago."
For more than six months, says city attorney Deana Johnson, affiliated with law firm Insley Race in Atlanta, the city has been ordering BofA to tear the building down. The bank, she says, "has not been responsive to date," has been cited for failure to comply and is accruing a fine of $500 a day. Says mayor Dixon, "They are in contempt. People need to be held accountable."
A city court judge has ordered a June 28 hearing, at which BofA's local manager will have to show cause why he should not be arrested and jailed for contempt.
Bank of America maintains that it is not the owner of the house. "My understanding," says Bauwens, "is that we don't own the property, so we can't do anything. Somewhere back in time, when we did service the loan on the property, there was an assumption that we were responsible. But if you run the title, you'll see that Bank of America is not listed anywhere."
Who does own the house? The owner who abandoned it, she says.
Attorney Johnson disagrees. "The assessor's office," she says, "shows that BofA owns it and has paid the taxes."
Asked if she thinks the bank manager will show up for the hearing, Johnson says, "If I were being threatened with jail, I'd be present."
If he doesn't, the phrase "bankers in pinstripes" may take on a whole new meaning.