An Ohio company is being sued by homeowners who claim that that its employees broke into homes that had not been foreclosed yet and removed, then destroyed, all the items in them, ABC 6 reports.
The company, Safeguard, is hired by banks to inspect houses on the brink of foreclosure, then clean and secure them after the foreclosure is official. But many Ohio residents claim that the “property preservation company” arrive days and weeks before a foreclosure is official and, without warning, removes all the property within them.
Michael Cole told ABC 6 that he was in the process of moving out when Safeguard “preserved” his home, removing many irreplaceable items, including VHS tapes of his young daughters.
“I could always go back to those videos and see the kids when they were little and see those times,” Cole said. “And they’re gone, completely. I’ll never see them again.”
Denise Wilkinson told WCPO that she was also in the process of moving when Safeguard came to “preserve” her home.
“They took everything – all my pictures, my family photos – all of that’s gone,” she said. “They’ve ripped my heart out.”
“I did not get notified in any way that I needed to be out of there on a particular day. I got nothing,” Wilkinson added. “No notification. No letter. Nothing telling me that you be out by this day or you have 30 days or whatever.”
When she complained to Safeguard, a company representative told her she would need to provide both a list and visual evidence of the property that Safeguard removed.
“They’re saying we need proof, pictures,” she said. “I don’t have it because you took all this out of my home. So, how am I supposed to have proof?”
Wilkinson is seeking $15,000 in damages.
At least 21 other complaints have been filed against the company with the Ohio Attorney General Office’s consumer protection division.
In 2013, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against Safeguard claiming that “[i]n many cases, Safeguard’s contractors broke into homes, changed the locks, turned off the utilities and removed occupants’ personal possessions in spite of clear evidence that the homes were still occupied.”
“This case shows the lengths that banks and their service providers will go to abuse and intimidate borrowers in foreclosure,” Madigan said. “This company was illegally breaking in to people’s homes, removing all their possessions and locking them out. It is a homeowner’s worst nightmare.”
Watch an investigation into the company by ABC 6 below.