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Exclusive: Bank locks woman out of home illegally

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Friday, May 14, 2010 12:31 EDT
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Wells Fargo Home Mortgage illegally locked a Maryland woman out of her home this week as part of a foreclosure action, Raw Story has learned.

The woman arrived Wednesday at her condominum in Jefferson, a rural hamlet about an hour’s drive northwest of Washington, D.C., to discover the locks had been changed. Foreclosure proceedings had been initiated months earlier, but no paperwork was filed for an eviction as required by law.

The woman reportedly called the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, which confirmed the incident.

“Our deputy responded. When he got there he made some calls to see if there was any court paperwork, anything like that, and couldn’t find any,” said Cpl. Jennifer Bailey, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman. “He reached out to the mortgage company and found out they didn’t have any paperwork.”

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman told Raw Story on Thursday that the lender would look into the incident. She had not responded by Friday morning.

The incident was far from unique. A side effect of the nationwide foreclosure crisis is sloppiness and fraud that has wrongfully cost families the roof over their head — or at least inflicted panic before the situations were resolved.

An investigative report earlier this month, a collaboration between ProPublica and USA Today, cited scores of examples.

Banks sometimes move for eviction and even auction homes while a decision on a loan modification is pending, the story noted. The sheer size of the lenders, such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, breeds disorganization that homeowners find frustrating to navigate.

“We believe in many cases people are losing their homes when they should not have,” Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, said in the story.

While some incidents result from confusion among a lending firm’s departments, some situations are less forgivable.

SouthCoastToday.com, in Massachusetts, reported Thursday that a RE/MAX unit must pay thousands of dollars in penalties and take remedial actions as part of a settlement with the state attorney general’s office. RE/MAX Classic of Fairhaven had issued notices to residents in at least three communties that threatened to change the locks on their homes if they did not call a broker with 24 hours. The notices were illegal.

In the Jefferson incident Wednesday, Bailey, the sheriff’s spokeswoman, said authorities were not treating it as a criminal matter against Wells Fargo, at least at this time.

Nationwide, home repossessions last month reached the highest level in at least five years, and foreclosure fiilings are expected to rise in 2011, a leading research firm reported Thursday.

RealtyTrac said home repossessions nationwide hit 92,432 in April, the highest figure in the five-year history of the company’s monthly report. And the forecast is even gloomier:

“Last year we saw the number of households receiving a foreclosure notice jump from 2.3 million to 2.8 million. This year we’re forecasting somewhere in the order of 3.1 to 3.2 million households receiving a foreclosure notice which would set yet another record and it’s likely we will exceed that at least marginally in 2011,” Rick Sharga, vice president of Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

There was some good news: April marked the lowest point in the report’s history for new foreclosure filings. But because actual seizures hit a record high, some analysts said the drop in new filings may simply mean that banks are clearing out a backlog of foreclosures before issuing a growing number of notices in the months to come, as Sharga predicts.

 
 
 
 
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