Dateline Hernando County, FL.
Either history repeats itself, or banks never learn, or perhaps it is just that they don’t care. One or more of these scenarios is the essence of the story here.
A Brooksville, Florida family recently returned home to find it completely trashed out, the locks changed, and all their personal possessions removed from the home and destroyed.
Although the homeowners were late on their mortgage payments, there was no foreclosure action filed against them. Since Florida is a Judicial State, the bank has no rights to take control of the property or remove the contents inside until they obtain title to the home through a Foreclosure lawsuit, and then only if they are the successful bidder at the auction.
This case makes clear two concepts of which every homeowner should be aware.
Banks make mistakes, sometimes with severe consequences.
Local Law Enforcement at the highest levels side with the Banks or just don’t care, take your pick.
The basic facts here are that someone, broke into another person’s home, and stole (depriving the true owner the use and possession) of personal property. Florida Law defines theft as:
812.014 – Theft
- A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
a. Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.
b. Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.
If the value of the property is greater, than $300 the theft becomes “Grand Theft” and the crime becomes a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
It is inconceivable that when these facts were presented to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Department, they initially declined to investigate, and said it was a “Civil Matter” to be worked out in Civil Court, not the criminal system.
When questioned about the trash-out, 21 Mortgage Corporation said it was ok because Florida was a Self-Help State. WRONG!!! You had better have a Court Order awarding you possession and title to the home before you start doing things like this.
Yet it was not until the story broadcast on a local television station, that the Sherriff’s Department, changed their tune and decided to investigate the matter. Here, the bank, 21 Mortgage Corporation in Knoxville, hired a local company to do the job. The bank has since gone into “No Comment” mode.
Think about this, if you hired someone to remove every piece of personal property from someone’s home that you did not own, don’t you think the Sheriff’s Department would come down on you like a ton of bricks? However, apparently if you are a Bank hiring a company that does this, it’s OK.
Now flash back to 2009, and look at the case of Charlie and Maria Cardoso who purchased a home in Spring Hill, also in Hernando County, Florida for cash. There was no Mortgage even remotely involved. They rented the home to a single mother, who answered her door one day in July to find a crew of three men who told her they were there on behalf of Bank of America, to clean out the house and change the locks.
She called Charlie and Maria, the owners, who called the bank, who told them it was a mistake and the problem would be fixed. BOA placed a lock box on the front door. When no confirmation came that the “problem” was fixed, and the lock box remained on the door, Charlie and his son drove to Florida. He had to prove to the Sheriff’s Department that he owned the home, and was allowed to break into his own home through the back door and removed the lock box with bolt cutters.
In the mean time, the tenant had left; the water and electricity turned off, and the pipes had frozen.
Whoops, the Bank of America meant to clean out a house down the street and about 10 doors down. The Cardosos and a Realtor employed by Bank of America tried to tell BOA that it had the wrong house, but they pushed ahead anyway.
The couple, who are now suing BOA, hired an attorney. Seems like BOA did not listen to people they pay to advise them in these situations. Sound familiar?