Innocent…Really!


Inquiring minds are shaking their heads from side-to-side while reading of the incredible mistakes in the foreclosure market:

Christopher Marconi was in the shower when he heard a loud banging on his door. By the time he grabbed a towel and hustled to his front step, a U.S. marshal’s sedan was peeling out of his driveway. Nailed to Marconi’s front door was a foreclosure summons from Wells Fargo, naming him as a defendant. But the notice was for a house Marconi had never seen — on a mortgage he never had.

Tom Williams was in his kitchen thumbing through the mail when he opened a letter from GMAC. It informed him that the bank would confiscate his house unless he immediately paid off his mortgage balance of $276,000. But Williams had never missed a mortgage payment. And his loan wasn’t due to mature until 2032.

Warren Nyerges opened his front door in Naples, Fla., to find a scraggly-haired summons server standing on his stoop. He plopped a foreclosure notice from Bank of America in Nyerges’ hands. But Nyerges had paid for his house in cash. And he’d never had a checking account, much less a mortgage, with Bank of America.

As bad as these stories are, we know that mistakes are made in this world. Especially as paperwork clerks get overloaded and stressed. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that this real estate downturn is worse than usual:

There are no official statistics for these homeowners, but lawyers, real estate agents and consumer advocates say their ranks are growing. In November, during foreclosure hearings on Capitol Hill, senator after senator scolded the banks about wrongful foreclosures. They said their offices were deluged with complaints from people who had done everything right but were being treated by banks as if they had done everything wrong. And the Florida attorney general’s office is also investigating the issue as part of its foreclosure probe.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” says Ira Rheingold, an attorney and executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Diane Thompson, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, has defended hundreds of foreclosure cases. “In virtually every case, I believe the homeowner was not in default when you looked at the surrounding facts. It is a widespread problem throughout the country.”

Homeowners in Florida, Nevada, Texas and Pennsylvania have filed lawsuits alleging that they were victims of mistaken foreclosure. In many of those cases, the bank went so far as to haul away belongings and change the locks on the wrong homes.

One last story:

One such suit was filed in March by Pennsylvania homeowner Angela Iannelli. She was up to date on her payments when, she says, she arrived home in October 2009 to find that Bank of America had ransacked her belongings, cut off her utilities, poured anti-freeze down her drains, padlocked her doors and confiscated Luke, her pet parrot of 10 years. It took her six weeks to get the bank to clean up the house.

Iannelli’s lawyer says the parties are in the process of “mutually resolving the issues” and the lawsuit is “in the process of being discontinued.” Bank of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her case.

How does a company not realize pretty quickly that there is a mistake and stop all proceedings? What is wrong with our legal system that companies feel they can’t confess to their mistake?

And does the Homeowner’s FICO score go down because of this?

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