Home Owners Say Foreclosure Tactics Go Too Far

September 11, 2013

Some home owners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments are accusing the property management firms hired by banks to secure the properties of being too aggressive in their tactics. Home owners are accusing these firms of breaking into their homes, damaging their personal property, and bullying those who live there. 

Banks have been faced with more than 10 million foreclosures since the start of the mortgage crisis. To handle the high number, some of the nation’s largest banks have turned to property management firms to help them determine occupancy and preserve the properties until the homes can be resold. 

But some of these firms are facing questions on their potentially illegal tactics in securing the properties. For example, Safeguard, the largest of these firms, is facing numerous complaints about some of its subcontractors from consumers who allege that overly aggressive tactics have been used. 

In Illinois, a lawsuit filed by the state’s attorney general accuses Safeguard subcontractors of wrongfully dispossessing hundreds of home owners in the state through tactics such as breaking into homes despite evidence that home owners still lived there, bullying tenants to get them to leave even though the tenants had no legal obligation to do so, and even damaging the homes in some cases.

Lisa Madigan, the state’s attorney general, says her office had received more than 400 complaints about Safeguard in particular. 

Safeguard officials maintain that they follow a system in determining the occupancy of a property before starting any work.

“We adhere to the highest standards in the industry and are proud of our record of quality,” Diane R. Fusco, a spokeswoman for Safeguard, told The New York Times. “Not only do we work quickly to correct and resolve the issue with the home owner, we fully investigate the matter to identify and address the root cause.”

Banks say that securing and maintaining properties is an important step after home owners have stopped paying their mortgage. The step helps to deter vandalism and preserve property values. If a home owner is more than 45 days late on mortgage payments, lenders will usually send out the maintenance firms to determine whether the home has been abandoned. 

Source: “Invasive Tactic in Foreclosures Draws Scrutiny,” The New York Times (Sept. 9, 2013)

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