A Texas man has learned a home does not have to exist to face foreclosure.
Three years after Brad Gana's home in Seabrook, near Galveston, was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008, he still is waiting for a resolution after his bank tried to foreclose on his house.
At the time his house was destroyed, Gana was working in Saudi Arabia, tracking the storm online. Fast forward to today, and Gana has sued Bank of America, which held his mortgage, for allegedly reporting "to the credit reporting agencies that the home has been foreclosed," making it impossible for him to "refinance the property and get out from under the thumb of the churlish acts of BAC."
The suit also alleges that BAC "authorized a third party to clean up the lot where [Gana] had stored within containers his personal effects. This personal property was stolen."
"What they've done is terrible," said Gana. "It's unbelievable... I will never do business with Bank of America again."
The 11-page petition, obtained by ABC News, was filed in September in the Harris County District Court. The complaint alleges the bank and its agents and employees have conducted "threatening, coercive harassing, and abusive techniques to force Plaintiff to terms and conditions."
Insurance Policy at the Root of Troubles
The trouble began in 2009 when Gana declined to renew his homeowner's policy with his insurance agency.
"Why would I renew a home [insurance] policy for a home that wasn't there?" he told ABC News. He says the insurance company agreed and told him it would not renew the policy. But three months later, Bank of America's loan servicing department applied a forced homeowner's insurance policy.
A spokeswoman for Bank of America wrote in a statement to ABC News, "We apologize to Mr. Gana for our error in adding homeowners insurance to his mortgage payment. Normally, when there is no homeowners insurance on a property, it is in the best interest of all parties to insure the property in case of loss. This was unusual as the property had already been destroyed. We have refunded Gana's account for the insurance premiums."
"There were other factors that contributed to the actions that we took on Mr. Gana's mortgage and property. We have contacted Mr. Gana and we will work with him directly to address his concerns. We urge customers to always ensure that they have updated their mailing address and phone numbers with the bank so that they are alerted immediately to issues relating to their mortgage. Also, current information on their mortgage is always available online," the spokeswoman continued.
A Deadly Storm, Missing Belongings
Hurricane Ike was one of the deadliest and costliest to the state of Texas; damage was assessed at slightly below $12 billion, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.
Gana's house had an outstanding mortgage of approximately $170,000 before the storm. Despite being left with just a slab of concrete, Gana says he continued to pay the mortgage, hoping to rebuild at the same address.
But, despite the alleged timely payments, the bank scheduled an auction for November 2010, which Gana says he learned about two days before it was to take place. He says that's when he learned the house was headed for foreclosure.
In addition to his home, his mailbox was washed away. And, despite many efforts to change his address through the bank, Gana says the bank refused to send his mail to his location abroad. To keep abreast of any important communications, Gana says he instructed the bank to call, email or fax him.
That's why Gana says he was unaware of the hike in the mortgage due to the forced homeowner's policy and the pending foreclosure.
After retaining a lawyer, Gana was able to avoid foreclosure.
"They never foreclosed on me but somehow, some part of Bank of America thought they foreclosed on me," said Gana.
Although he avoided foreclosure, the bank confiscated what remained of his belonging on the property, Gana alleges.
"When I saw my stuff was gone, I was livid," Gana told ABC News. "They thought they had foreclosed on me after I just paid them [around] $130,000." Gana said a court settlement in May gave the bank the checks he received from FEMA for the storm damage, so he was left with a mortgage of $41,792.
In documents obtained by ABCNews.com, a letter dated on May 20 says an agreement between the two parties would leave Gana with an unpaid balance of $41,792. But a June account statement shared with ABC News by Gana placed the balance at more than $93,000 -- far greater than the what the alleged May agreement stipulated.
Frederick F. Hoelke, an attorney for Mr. Gana, wrote to ABC News that based on instructions from a judge, "Mr. Gana's loan would be reinstated at the same payment as when he initially took the loan out."
A phone call to the Houston attorney's office of Bank of America was not returned.
In September, Gana received a letter from Fannie Mae, which he supplied to ABC News, stating, "Your mortgage loan that is serviced by Bank of America/Fannie Mae is currently delinquent and you may soon be facing foreclosure."
Now he's back to where he started.
"All of this confusion has occurred because Bank of America put a forced Homeowners Insurance policy on a home that no longer exists," Gana wrote to ABC News.
"I feel like a [small] fish in the water, bleeding, and a huge shark keeps swimming by, taking chomps of me," said the 56-year-old, who says he has shelled out $25,000 to fight the foreclosure.