Bank tries to take wrong house
Bank of America failed to listen to its own realty agent, lawsuit says, but at least in this case didn't leave the house reeking from rotten fish.
You’d think that one sure-fire way to avoid foreclosure would be to pay cash for your house.
But Charlie and Maria Cardoso of New Bedford, Mass., who paid $139,000 in cash for a retirement home in Florida in 2005, experienced the embarrassment and expense of a foreclosure anyway, they say, when Bank of America tried to take their house by mistake.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Massachusetts, the couple said the bank changed the locks, took away family photos, power tools and other possessions, scared their tenant into moving out and disconnected the utilities, which caused the pipes to freeze.
Even Bank of America’s real-estate agent knew the bank had the wrong house, according to a St. Petersburg Times story about the lawsuit, and the bank still moved forward. Between the time representatives of Bank of America first showed up in July to change the locks until Charlie Cardoso arrived in Florida to reclaim the property last month, the bank was told several times it had the wrong house.
The foreclosure was supposed to take place on a house about 10 doors down and across the street. The bank was able to find that house and foreclose on it in September, the Times reported.
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"This is absolutely devastating for the clients and their worst nightmare," Carlin Phillips, one of the couple’s attorneys, told The National Law Journal. "(Bank of America) invaded their home that was bought and paid for. They had to travel to Florida to prove they owned their home."
Charlie Cardoso is an unemployed construction worker and his wife is disabled. They spent their life savings on the three-bedroom retirement home in Spring Hill, Fla., about 70 miles northwest of Tampa.
Bank of America declined to discuss the issue with the Times, but issued this statement by e-mail: "We have reached out to the Cardosos' representatives and hope to have the opportunity to work with them to properly assess and address their allegations. We are reviewing the allegations in the lawsuit, the actual events that led to them and the causes of those events, and will consider any hardship that resulted."
This isn’t the first time Bank of America has been accused of trying to foreclose on the wrong home. Two other homeowners, neither of whom had mortgages with Bank of America, filed suit after they said the bank refused to reimburse them for the costs of cleanup.
In Galveston, Texas, Dr. Alan Schroit and his wife arrived at their vacation house to prepare for a Halloween party last year, only to find the locks changed and a bank notice on the door. When they finally managed to get in, they were greeted by the “overpowering putrid smell of rotten fish,” from 75 pounds of salmon and halibut that had been in the freezer, according to the lawsuit as reported by the Galveston County Daily News.
“It was the most unbearable stench,” Schroit told Laura Elder at the Daily News. “It was so unbearable the police officer asked if we could leave the house so he could take the report; it was absolutely horrible, a gooey mess.”
Bank of America officials told the Daily News they had not had an opportunity to review the lawsuit. “Based on previous discussions with Mr. Schroit, we do not believe the case will show merit,” spokesman Rick Simon said.
A Kentucky man has also sued Bank of America after his home was damaged in an erroneous attempt at foreclosure, the Floyd County Times reported.
We’d like to be able to give you advice on how to avoid erroneous foreclosure, but we’re not sure even the savviest consumer can combat errors of this magnitude. We’ll only suggest that when you’re dealing with banks on major issues, be sure to get the name of everyone you talk to, keep notes and then follow up your complaints in writing to create a paper trail. Taking video wouldn’t hurt, either. It’s up to you whether you want to post it on YouTube, but we hear Bank of America watches.
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