Banks Changing Your Locks, Drinking Your Beer

There is a really fun legal gray area when it comes to foreclosed properties. Laws about how to handle the process are different around the country, and reports are popping up about banks cutting the locks off the doors of homes where people are still in residence, gerbils being confiscated — and let’s not forget the hapless Canadian tourists whose delicious beverages went missing after the locks were changed on their vacation rental.

From the Herald Tribune (emphasis ours):

Two Canadian tourists returning to their rental home from a day at the beach found evidence burglars had struck — or so it seemed.

Their laptop computer and MP3 player were missing, as were six bottles of wine. A half-empty beer opened by the intruders was still cold and sitting on the kitchen counter.

But why, then, had the locks on the front door been changed?

It turns out that a Sarasota company working for a lender trying to retake the property through foreclosure sent two men to the Punta Gorda home to break in and change the locks, even though the home was obviously occupied.

It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale, especially if there is any sign the home is occupied, foreclosure experts say.

The process of banks hiring people to break into homes, even when occupied, is just the latest oddity of the messy foreclosure crisis in Florida.

The Herald Tribune says these incidents aren’t treated like break-ins by police because there’s no criminal intent by the banks.

And here’s another story from Florida where a woman locked herself in the bathroom and called 911 because she thought the person sawing the locks off of her front door was actually some sort of scary killer or something:

Well, at least we live in interesting times.

Banks Breaking Into Occupied Homes In Foreclosure To Change Locks [Huff Po] (Thanks, Lee!)
Bank changes locks on occupied, foreclosed homes [Herald Tribune]

Comments

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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    No criminal intent? They stole items. They clearly had intent.

    • DanRydell says:

      No criminal intent BY THE BANKS

      • TalKeaton: Every Puzzle Has an Answer! says:

        So the police should go after the people that actually did the stealing. You can argue that they were “just doing their jobs”, but if your job requires you to break in and steal stuff, one should really have the good sense to say no.

      • Pax says:

        First off, lack of intent does not preclude an act from being criminal.

        Second off, the bank hired those men to (unlawfully) break into the home in question, and that IS criminal intent, right there.

        Thirdly, the thefts were a direct result of the crime of breaking and entering the bank hired them to perform; as such, as I understand it, the bank is fully co-responsible for those thefts.

      • Difdi says:

        The banks didn’t have lawful right to enter those places, nor to send agents to do it for them. If a bank doing that sort of thing is not a criminal act, then neither is hiring a hitman. Try again.

        • sonneillon says:

          Hiring a hitman is intent to kill a person.

          The banks give out work orders which are ignored by the contractors who jump the gun to change the locks.

          not the same thing.

          • puppylove says:

            Why don’t I see many people getting off using the “the hitman didn’t actually follow the work orders” defense in court?

    • _UsUrPeR_ says:

      It seems to me like if corporations can now fund political candidates due to their unique “individuality” as citizens, they should also be able to be prosecuted as a whole or in part. There is no reason that the individual who came up with the idea to hire contractors, the individual who actually hired the contractors, and the contractors themselves should all be brought up on conspiracy to commit theft charges, as well as the actual burglary.

      • peebozi says:

        Unfortunately, our “bought and paid for” politicians will need the corporations OK prior to passing that as law.

        those who pay most for a politician owns that politician…and taxpayers only pay them $150,000/year (for 3 months work), the best health insurance our money can buy and a healthy pension…not to mention all the payoffs they receive that are too illegal even for them to accept while in office.

  2. Alvis says:

    So I can break into people’s homes out of boredom without criminal charges, so long as there’s no malice?

    • apd09 says:

      don’t forget to change the locks.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      Drinking my beer and stealing my laptop would constitute malice in my book.

    • Framling says:

      It sounds more like you can break into people’s homes and steal their belongings so long as there’s a bank somewhere that doesn’t have any criminal intent.

      • guroth says:

        It’s more like you can hire someone to do criminal things as long as you have no criminal intent, and as long as you’re a bank.

    • trey says:

      if you break into a home in Florida we can legally kill you. it is called the castle doctrine and all that is required is that you have an assumption that you fear for your life. you hear about it all the time (once a month or so) where someone breaks into the wrong persons house and gets shot, there is even a caveat in the law that states you are not responsible after the fact… ie: you shoot them but dont kill them and they drive off and have an accident when they die, you are not responsible. the family of the person you shot cannot sue you due to the structure of the law. what i dont get is why these people dont shoot through the door when you hear someone sawing off you lock, to me that would be a logical reason to fear for your life, especially since the law states that they do not need to have a weapon for you to act.

  3. Sky75 says:

    How long before one of these contractors gets shot? I live in Texas and know plenty of people who would not hide in the bathroom but rather get the rifles out if someone started sawing off the lock of their home.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      This probably happened during the depression in the 1930′s too. Apparently we are more restrained than we imagined.

      /time to listen to Woody Guthrie

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      The video is from Florida, home of the castle doctrine. I wonder too. But this lady knew she was behind on mortgage payments, she only refuted that she had her utilities cut off.

      So what was up with a 10 minute 911 call before they got there?

    • Promethean Sky says:

      That’s probably what it will take to put a halt to this BS.

    • sonneillon says:

      As a contractor I can say if they follow the rules. It’ll never happen, but stupid people will sometimes try to take shortcuts and incidents do happen. But here is how it is supposed to work.

      Determine residency status of house.
      Determine foreclosure status of house.
      Call Sheriff to come and clear the house.
      After given the all clear drill out and replace the locks.
      Install lockbox and send a copy of the key to the banks.
      Paperwork.

      If you want to shoot a sheriff enjoy your needle.

      • Conformist138 says:

        But, what if I didn’t shoot the deputy?

        • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

          +1 for giving me my first laugh of the day.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        > If you want to shoot a sheriff enjoy your needle.

        Except there are no sheriffs involved here.

        That is why any reasonable person takes them to be burglaries.

  4. sir_eccles says:

    Quote 1 “It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale”

    Quote 2 “these incidents aren’t treated like break-ins by police because there’s no criminal intent by the banks”

    These two sound mutually exclusive

    • ChuckECheese says:

      It’s common for the police to not enforce laws they find boring, and to not protect poor individuals over the rich and corporations. The law has nothing to do with it.

      • mythago says:

        +1

      • woogychuck says:

        Very true. Remember that a corporation is treated like a person in the US, unless they do something wrong.

        It’s no surprise that corporations have the right to act as a person when buying politicians, but you almost never see a board member do prison time when their company steals or commits murder.

        • Difdi says:

          In all probability, it would be the CEO, not a board member.

          • DH405 says:

            The board elects a CEO, a CEO hires a guy, a guy hires a hitman, a hitman kills someone. Where does the blame fall? What if the guy says the CEO told him to do it? What if the CEO says the board told him to do it?

            • sonneillon says:

              Then everyone under the CEO testifies in exchange for sweet heart plea bargains or immunity and the CEO does 20-life while everyone else does probation or 1-5.

          • peebozi says:

            the statement is still true.

      • Difdi says:

        Of course, if one of those poor people, even in a castle doctrine state, were to use force to defend themselves against the home invasion, odds are we’d hear about a barricaded homeowner under siege by police SWAT teams on the news…

  5. grapedog says:

    God bless Texas and Florida, where I can shoot people for breaking into my house. Sadly, they would largely be innocent… if only it was the banks loan officers themselves trying to change my locks, that would be more fair.

    • Hobart007 says:

      Actually, usually the property preservation companies who handle things like that are the source of issues like this. Banks don’t take each home on a case by case basis as they come along but rather have sets of rules designed to keep them out of legal trouble. The issue is that some of the vendors flaunt these rules. If caught by the bank they can be and sometimes are fired.

    • full.tang.halo says:

      I was thinking kinda in the same vein. You rent a house in FL, that house becomes “your home”. Someone tries to break in on “banks orders”, this being a “forcible felony” in Florida (Burglary/Robbery & Home Invasion), castle doctrine kicks in. You shoot and kill these people committing a “bank sanctioned” home invasion. As person protecting my home in FL, I should be criminally I’m protected, use of deadly force in response to a forcible felony, and civilly I’m shielded from lawsuits by other statutes keeping “I broke into your house and hurt myself” lawsuits. Now, where does that leave the banks liability, “these incidents aren’t treated like break-ins by police because there’s no criminal intent by the banks” intent or not, one would think the banks would open them selves to lawsuits of negligence(negligent homicide?) by the family of the people whom the banks hired to cut off and change locks.

      This whole cavalier approach to foreclosure seems to have limitless possibilities down the rabbit hole of bad things.

      • partofme says:

        It might be more interesting if you’re a renter. I’ve often wondered about this as a renter, myself. Consumerist had articles in the past about renters being kicked out on short notice because of a default by the landlord. If someone came to my apartment, breaking in legally on a foreclosure of my building that I had no knowledge of, would I fight back? Probably. What would your legal opinion be then?

        • Difdi says:

          It would depend on whether you knew they were there righteously, or if they were home invasion burglars.

          If they are escorted by police, and announce themselves, you probably wouldn’t get away with shooting them. On the other hand, if they just run up and start trying to cut the locks off without a word, shooting them through the door is probably legal.

          A grayer area is if they have the wrong house. Say, that they want 321 East street, their papers say 321 East street, and you live on 321 East avenue. You point out the mistake, and they try to break in and evict you anyway. At that point, in a castle doctrine state, even shooting a cop is legal; Just, well, good luck surviving the night, as his buddies race over to shoot you to death before anybody notices that the “victim” was engaged in a home invasion burglary at the time.

          • partofme says:

            For the “DRAW AND QUARTER THE BANK OFFICERS!!!” crowd, this is why you’re wrong. Just like you would want some discretion in the case that you have no knowledge of the legality of their entrance, they want some discretion in the case that they have no knowledge of the illegality of their entrance. They will certainly pay a civil penalty (and you will not get off scot-free even if you have the legal right to shoot someone). You can calm down.

            • full.tang.halo says:

              Florida “Castle Doctrine”

              From Florida Firearms; Law, Use & Ownership by: Jon H. Gutmacher, Esq – Page 199

              “The Bill (Senate Bill 436) provides that a person who acts in self-defense in accordance with the provisions of the bill is immune from criminal prosecution and civil actions. This provision is slightly different than the defense to civil actions under s. 776.085, F.S. in that the bill does not require proof that the intruder was attempting to engage in a forcible felony. Under the bill, the intruder’s actual intent IS IRRELEVANT. The bill, in effect, creates a conclusive presumption of the intruder’s malicious intent.”

              My non lawyer understanding, biased on a book written by a Florida lawyer, specializing in gun related law, you break into someone’s home in Florida, it is conclusively presumed the person has malicious intent merely by breaking into ones home. And if you were to shoot the intruder you would be “immune from criminal prosecution and civil actions”.

              I make no claims on the morality of the issue should someone actually shoot a person doing this job for the bank.

    • Inglix_the_Mad says:

      I’ll give you a quote from a current Wisconsin State Trooper (he was an county sheriff at the time):

      “If someone has broken into your house, shoot them. Not once or twice, empty the whole dang clip (or the wheel) into them, just make sure of two things: 1) they’re dead so you can’t be sued by the perp, and 2) if their arm fell outside the door or window, nudge it back in. We don’t expect homeowners to react rationally to a potentially life-threatening situation. You probably would empty the clip anyway, and if they’re inside your house, well tough luck for them.”

      So basically, the average cop in Wisconsin (he said this around his coworkers and they agreed), isn’t going to do anything but fill out the forms for self-defense if you’re in your house.

    • sonneillon says:

      If the contractors do it right they send a sheriff to clear the house.

      • trey says:

        but these didn’t do it right as you say. so i guess it is only a matter of time before one of them gets shot, thank goodness for the castle doctrine.

        • sonneillon says:

          Depends. I have never seen a contractor not use a sheriff or an officer, and I have been working with a property preservation firm for 2 years. I’m sure it happens and there have been incidents with assault on contractors who didn’t knock, and I once got bit by a dog, also on some of the paperwork an officer needs to sign off on it.

          • trey says:

            then we can count you as one of the people that actually follows the law (thank you)… i hope the ones that break into houses (like the ones in the article) meet with an owner that shoots first and asks questions later… thank goodness all he has to tell the cops in Florida that he (she) feared for their life. they will shake their hand and congratulate them on a good shooting. castle doctrine, one of the many reasons i love Florida

  6. Pooterfish says:

    “There is a really fun legal gray area when it comes to foreclosed properties.”

    “It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale, especially if there is any sign the home is occupied, foreclosure experts say.”

    Gray area?

  7. grapedog says:

    “especially if there is any sign the home is occupied”

    It’s either illegal or it’s not… it shouldn’t matter whether or not it “looks occupied”.

  8. SilverBlade2k says:

    I say file a lawsuit to get your belongings back, plus a few hundred thousand.

  9. sdwc says:

    What kind of person would steal another man or woman’s beer? That’s pure evil. Lucky this happened to Canada’s best friend (most of the time). If a Canadian’s brew was stolen in another country, I believe that’s a legitimate reason to declare war.

  10. Harmodios says:

    If they also feed my hog, I’d be in redneck heaven.

  11. Primarylupine says:

    Wait until one of the “contractors” gets a load of buckshot in the groin. Then they may re-think their strategy. Especially if it happens during the typical screwup of foreclosing on a house they don’t own.

    Of course they won’t get into any trouble, the cops will nail the shooter for attempted murder or whatever else they figure they can charge the homeowner (or occupant) with.

    • full.tang.halo says:

      Not in sunny Florida, Castle Doctrine

      • sonneillon says:

        We send the police to clear the house. Castle doctrines do not protect people who use deadly force against officers of the law or officers of the peace.

  12. catnapped says:

    “Pay your bills and this won’t happen!!! Sheesh, people!!!”

    (just the preemptive “blame the victim” post to get it over with)

    • caradrake says:

      “If you’d just saw off your own locks, things like this wouldn’t happen!”

    • runswithscissors says:

      Just drink all your booze before you go out, people! Quit buying McMansions on WalMart salaries! I have no sympathy at all!

  13. mac-phisto says:

    “It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale, especially if there is any sign the home is occupied, foreclosure experts say.”

    “The Herald Tribune says these incidents aren’t treated like break-ins by police because there’s no criminal intent by the banks.”

    wait. wtf am i missing here? let’s run through that again:

    It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale, especially if there is any sign the home is occupied, foreclosure experts say.”

    “The Herald Tribune says these incidents aren’t treated like break-ins by police because there’s no criminal intent by the banks.

    can someone explain to me how knowingly breaking the law is NOT criminal intent again?

    • FrugalFreak says:

      +1 They are not excused of consequences of breaking the law just because they think they are. the triple standards of America sucks and is reason I don’t have faith in Capitalism being great anymore. No jobs, wealth only for top, uneven laws equal FAIL.

  14. Griking says:

    How did the home owners not notice the changed locks on the doors? For that matter, how did they even get back into the house?

  15. FrugalFreak says:

    hang a sign on the door that says occupied and point a camera at it. when they ignore it, and enter, BURN tthe bank & contractors. Gives a new term to evil from Banks.

  16. hypochondriac says:

    How hard is it to make one of these change locks letters? Would it be possible to make a few with the address of properties owned by the Bank CEO an board members, or maybe the address of the people who actual broke in. The bank can say our policy isn’t to invade an occupied house the contractors violated it not us

  17. Mackinstyle1 says:

    What kinda scummy people do you expect to take away houses for a living?

    Also: Better have been Canadian beer or I’m calling Stephen.

  18. vinmega says:

    Thats not a good idea for the bank to put employees/contractors in a dangerous situation.
    You have a high probability of getting shot and coming out in a horizontal position..

  19. drburk says:

    The good news is this couple will be able to pay off their mortgage with the money they win in suing their bank, the contractor and I’m sure their overzealous lawyer will go after the police for doing nothing.
    It seems hard for the police to ignore the number of laws broken here. Unlawful entry, vandalism, theft (or is it robbery since the contractor had a weapon (saw, crowbar, nail gun, knives, with them), etc.

  20. sodium says:

    The banks did this to a house my parents own. They didn’t drink their beer since the house is empty, but they are in the process of going through a Deed in Lieu. The house is still in my parents’ names but the locks have been changed twice (by 2 different banks). I don’t really know the laws that are involved with this, but it sounds illegal.

  21. StarVapor says:

    It won’t be long before one of these clowns the bank’s hire to break into homes gets terminally perforated by a homeowner’s or a tenant’s high caliber ammunition as they enter the dwelling.

  22. InvisibleEcho says:

    They’re climbin’ in your windows; they snatchin’ your ‘quipment up!
    Tryin to steal em so yo yall better
    Hide your beers, hide your locks
    Hide your beers, hide your locks
    And hide your mp3 player ’cause they stealin’ everything out here.

  23. maynurd says:

    Quote “It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale”

    When the bank hires a contractor, would they not be considered to be a representative of the bank which hired them??

  24. maynurd says:

    Quote “It is illegal for any bank representative to enter a property if they have not yet retaken it at a foreclosure sale”

    When the bank hires a contractor, would they not be considered to be a representative of the bank which hired them??

  25. bwcbwc says:

    Taking someone’s laptop isn’t criminal intent? Even if they have repossessed the house they don’t have a lien on the personal property. Especially of people who aren’t even involved in the transaction.