Foreclosure Contractors Face Greater Scrutiny

February 3, 2014

Banks are calling for more thorough background checks of workers who are hired to watch over homes in default or foreclosure, following hundreds of consumer lawsuits and thousands of complaints over alleged break-ins.

Complaints and lawsuits accuse some handymen and home inspectors who are hired by banks to look after the properties of breaking into still-occupied homes and stealing valuables. Many of the homes involved are in some stage of default, but the home owners are still in possession of the home.

In the cases reported, contractors have been accused of ignoring “obvious signs of habitation, kicking down doors and crawling through basement windows in order to gain access, then changing the locks,” Huffington Post reports. “In some cases, they are also accused of helping themselves to valuables found inside.”

A new screening system that banks are planning to implement is aimed at checking contractors for past criminal convictions, such as theft or fraud. In several of the consumer lawsuits, a background search of the contractors who were accused of the alleged break-ins and thefts revealed lengthy criminal pasts.

"The intent is to give communities a high level of confidence that the people walking around in homes are not going to cause problems," says Eric Miller, the executive director of the National Association of Mortgage Field Services, the trade association that is helping to create the new standards. Miller says the purpose of the new guidelines will be to prevent contractors with recent criminal convictions from entering such properties. The same guideline would apply to all foreclosure contractors, even those who are hired to mow the lawn.

Source: “Foreclosure Industry Says It’ll Do a Better Job of Screening Its Workers After Widespread Break-Ins,” Huffington Post (Jan. 30, 2014)

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