Retiree Loses Everything After Bank Mistakes His House For Foreclosure

An eighty-two year old Tampa Bay man has lost everything he owns, including pictures of his dead wife, after a clean-out crew hired by Bank of America mistook his house for the foreclosure next door.

The St. Petersburg Times reports that Benito Sr. came back from vacation to find that his house was padlocked and everything inside was gone. A sign outside taped to his window was for a company that cleans out foreclosed houses.

When he first called the number, an employee said it was probably their fault, saying, “It had to be us. We had a work order to go out to 4255.”

The mistake may have arose from Santiago’s mailbox and confusing history surrounding his his address. It says 4205 on one side but on the other the “0” is missing. The land next door referred to as 4255 W. Humphrey St. doesn’t exist in the property records and both packages and services have been delivered to his house in the past intended for his neighbor.

Benito Sr. is now suing the trash-out company and the loan servicer for damages.

According to a lawyer specializing in lockout cases like this, even if he wins, the man will never see his possessions again.

“We have never gotten one piece of property back,” the lawyer told the St. Petersburg Times.

Tampa retiree says he lost belongings in foreclosure blunder [St. Petersburg Times] (Thanks to overit!)

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  1. snowtires says:

    This is what happens when you have idiots in charge of bigger idiots.

    • Bagumpity says:

      The bigger idiots need to sign a law making it mandatory that all personal assets be packed in a “ready to ship” manner, with a thousand or so pages of excruciatingly detailed language that in the end translates to “packed in a ready to ship manner.” Followed by a mandatory requirement to store said assets in a safe place (again, with a thousand or so pages defining “safe place”) at no cost to the owner for a minimum of three years, with penalties out the wazoo for damage or loss of goods.

      That’s the human thing to do.

      • kobresia says:

        That’s kind of pointless, since a lot of folks would just walk away from a house and leave all sorts of junk behind in it if they have nowhere to move it.

        However, if there was an appropriate punitive penalty for screwing-up and clearing the wrong home, it would be a smart cover-your-ass move to hold the possessions at a warehouse for a while. I think maybe a $1 million statutory minimum award for this sort of error would be perfectly reasonable. That would not get the lost property back, but the money would go a long way towards helping replace the replaceable items. Oh, and it might also help make sure that the people doing these things have their acts together. Seems this sort of crap has been happening far too often as of late.

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        There is no way for that to be possible, simply for the fact that nobody documents their own belongings, so there is no way to prove the loss. While I agree that their belongings should be put in storage, they should be kept no longer than 30 days starting with verification that the correct house was foreclosed.

        • jsmith says:

          I document my belongings on a monthly basis, it is actually really easy to do. Walk around and take the digital picks of the rooms in the house and then the pics of all the receipts for the month. Burn the images to a CD and drop them off a the security deposit box at the bank, so that they are next to the latest copy of my insurance paperwork and copies of identification documents.

          I used to have them stored on site in a fireproof safe but after seeing the condition of CDs in a fireproof safe, I elected for off site storage.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Whenever I read these articles on Consumerist, on my way home from work I wonder what I’ll find when I get home?

      1. A notice of foreclosure?
      2. Someone in my home claiming Squatter’s Rights?
      3. A corner lot with a razed house?

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      I think you have it backwards. It looks like the bigger idiots are the ones in charge.

  2. ubermex says:

    Obligatory post pointing out that if I made an honest mistake which cost someone everything they owned, my life would be basically over because I am not a rich corporation.

    • Cerne says:

      Obligatory post pointing pointing out that clean-out crews are normally just a few guys with an old truck. And that as long as the man is fairly compensated no one needs to have their lives ruined.

      • dgm says:

        You mean, no one other than the victim, whose life has already been ruined?

        How do you fairly compensate someone for a mistake like this? Possessions built up over a lifetime aren’t just “things” to most people.

      • Apeweek says:

        If this happened to me, there would be no such thing as fair compensation. Not everything has a pricetag.

        • FrugalFreak says:

          +1 infinity

        • MichiganWolverine2011 says:

          So if his house burned down while he was gone the insurance would be what? Everything has a value. Its sad it happened, but shit happens. There is nothing to guarantee that things wont. If you REALLY REALLY REALLY need to have something for the future make multiple copies and put in multiple places.

          • kennedar says:

            Most people I know have a fire proof safe for things that can not be replaced. Ours is secured to the floor so that it is difficult to be stolen. If someone had enough time and the right tools they could get it out, but by that time our dog would have bitten them a couple of times and the alarm people would be there. If there was a fire, our hard drive with family pictures and the jewelry with sentamental value but no monetary value would be safe. A clean out crew would be able to get it out, but most thiefs would not take the time.

            • rooben says:

              So you are awesome and this poor old man who just had everything i his home stolen, not burned, is not.

              Excellent point.

            • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

              i know that magnetic tape (video cassettes, audio cassettes, magnetic tape backup, floppy discs) will not always be protected by a fireproof safe in the case of a fire. I don’t know how well hard drives or DVDs will fare if the safe is not specifically designed to protect such items. Most older fireproof safes were designed to protect documents and currency, so just had to keep the temperature below 400F, give or take.

          • wackydan says:

            A fire, is considered accidental.

            This breaking and entering, and removing all contents of the home… Is a human error with liability.

            Your analogy is bunk.

      • George4478 says:

        Yep. They’ll give him $10 for the framed photo of his dead wife so that he can replace the frame.

      • RevancheRM says:

        Obligatory post pointing out that you doble-posted the word ‘pointing’.

        That is all.

        • dobgold says:

          obligatory post to tell you that in addition to you’re being an a*hole for pointing out a typo, either you made a typo or can’t spell. double, not doble.

      • Agozyen says:

        Define ‘fairly compensated’. The man lost pictures of his dead wife. How do you compensate for that? And yes, BoA and the clean out crew both need to be held responsible here.

      • JennQPublic says:

        Do you really think a few guys with an old truck can easily afford to replace every possession this man owns?

        • Mimbla says:

          Perhaps not, but the company they work for can. He’s suing the company, not the individual members of the clean-out crew.

          Also, I am not surprised that BoA/Countrywide is involved here.

      • PsiCop says:

        There’s no way he will ever get paid the true “replacement value” for his stuff. Instead he will get a portion of its residual value, which is considerably less.

      • gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

        Hah. That man’s life was ruined by these idiots. Family heirlooms and pictures cannot be replaced and to suggest that is can be made better by giving him money makes no sense.

    • Razor512 says:

      If you or i went into someones house and took everything, we would be in prison for an extremely long time, if a company does it, nothing is done to them and it is up to the victim to spend even more of their money, in legal fees.

      • MeowMaximus says:

        +1! Lock the bastards up! Maybe that will serve as a lesson to make others more careful in the future.

        • Tiercelet says:

          Better yet, if the courts are going to insist on corporate personhood, lock the *company* up.

          Seize all its operating assets and forbid it from doing business for a period of twenty years. Do not permit any investors to withdraw any money invested.

          At the end of the period they can have their capital back, and get whatever the value is for a twenty-year-old, poorly-maintained truck. (After all, that’s pretty much what we expect petty criminals to do with their human capital . . .)

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      I’m going to guess that the clean out crew probably has insurance to cover this sort of thing. You’d have to, wouldn’t you?

      • sonneillon says:

        Yup E&O insurance, for exactly this type of situation. Generally it runs in the neighborhood of 50k-75k worth of coverage. He should still go after BOA because they are acting as GC and have bigger pockets.

  3. TuxthePenguin says:

    “The land next door referred to as 4255 W. Humphrey St. doesn’t exist in the property records and both packages and services have been delivered to his house in the past intended for his neighbor.”

    How is that even possible? There was obviously a mortgage on the property…

    • RandomHookup says:

      From the article:

      Santiago’s property is surrounded on three sides by Grand Reserve, a condominium complex that once used that address.

      Other people had used the 4255 address, but it wasn’t the legal address (though it may have been what the bank used as the mailing address).

  4. El_Fez says:

    /Obligatory

    Clearly it was all his fault. If he had painted the 0 on this mailbox like he should have, this would have NEVER had happened! That’ll teach him!!!!1!

    • RevancheRM says:

      Not to mention that he went on vacation. Who goes on vacation when the property next door has been forclosed on?! Come-on: personal responsibility here. Corporations have got to be able to rely on the nation’s citizens to be home when the hired/contracted clean up crews arrive, in order to prevent just these occurances.

      It’s common sense.

      • It's not fun. It's not funny. says:

        +1…first sensible statement made yet on this.

      • runswithscissors says:

        Oh lordy, you were continuing the sarcasm/joke by mock-OP blaming about the vacation, but it looks like the poster below me thinks you’re serious and AGREES with blaming the OP for going on vacation.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      I think he should have just paid his gorram bills on time.

  5. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    This is so sad.
    The clean out procedure needs to be fixed with so many errors. These companies should not be allowed to just throw things away. Even storage units allow time before things go to auction, not in the trash.
    Some things are just things, but some things can not be replaced. I have put much thought into what I would grab if my house was on fire, besides the living things in my home, I could do without everything except my laptop and backup drives because of the photos. Those precious memories documented to be shared forever, I just feel so sorry for this man.
    His items are in a dump, or were taken in by the people who cleaned him out. Just the thought of walking into what he did makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t know what I would do, it has to be a violating feeling like no other.
    This makes me angry.

    • caradrake says:

      Yes, I agree. I would totally support a law that requires clean-out companies to store all possessions in a storage unit for a set amount of time.

      How can anyone think that just because a house has been foreclosed on, it is totally cool to throw every single item in the trash (or pocket it).

      • kc2idf says:

        The problem is that some things will inevitably go missing or get damaged.

        I suspect that a better solution involves a waiting period and some padlocks, but I haven’t quite worked out the details.

        I think the waiting period should be not less than six months in order to deal with the fact that some people have summer/winter homes.

        Is it fair to the mortgagor? No. However, the current system assumes that the mortgagor is in the right, and there have been enough stories of botched foreclosures to demonstrate that this is not the case and that the homeowners need protecting.

        • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

          There needs to be a window of time when a homeowner can challenge a foreclosure to bring proof that the foreclosure is verified. The foreclosing entity then has their own window to deliver that paperwork. Meanwhile, the belongings in the house must be kept in padlocked storage for another 30 days starting from the time-stamped document PROVING that the foreclosure has been verified as the right location and can proceed.

          After 30 days from the , the belongings can be considered abandoned.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      I’m grabbing my sketchbook, my accordion folder of papers, and the red jump drive. With these things my empire can be rebuilt.

      • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

        Ah right, the accordion folder. I have just started getting in the habit of organizing my important papers and I actually have a fire safe lockbox. Stupidly I keep it in a separate location (In a drawer in my bedroom dresser) which I should keep by my desk and laptop.
        What types of things do you keep in there? Right now I just really have our social security cards. Maybe a credit card statement of each one, insurance info?

        • Jane_Gage says:

          Legal documents relating to the business/car, official copy of last will, copies of my tax returns for the past six years don’t fit in it, but they’re in a blue zippered bag behind the accordion folder.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      I’m not a vengeful man at all, but something like that would override my control. I’m wondering if if some of these guys got shot at wrong addresses, would that send a wakeup call to be dang sure it is correct.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        the homeowner should file criminal charges now. tresspass, breaking and entering, bulgary, etc.. since this was NOT the right home, those should stick and be between the 3rd party clean out crew and homeowner.

        IANAL but in cases such as this, wish I was.

      • ZachPA says:

        That’s an interesting question. What happens if these guys show up at a house in foreclosure, wrongly OR rightly?

        Florida statute relies on the “castle doctrine”, in which your home is essentially your castle where you are free to defend with deadly force without first retreating. All it would take is a clean-out crew walking in on someone with an itchy trigger finger.

        Also, most states don’t make a distinction between someone who is the rightful owner of a home, and someone who WAS the rightful owner who is now living there despite foreclosure. Most states have laws that dictate exactly how the lender must go about evicting them, and until they do, the “squatter” has the all the rights of any other tenant, including the right to blast away at the clean-out crew who breaks in.

    • TooManyHobbies says:

      You really should keep a backup drive off-site. If your data is worth taking the time to grab in a fire, it’s worth spending $75 for a 2nd backup drive and swapping the one at home for one offsite once in a while. I keep mine at work (encrypted).

      • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

        Completely agree and I recommend this to so many people. I’ve gotten in the bad habit of using my 250gb external for side jobs requiring a system wipe. I usually don’t use it but the last few have had more data than my standard 16gb flash drive could hold. Every time I have a side job I tell myself how stupid this is, then I forget to handle it.

    • damageddude says:

      I’ve thought of what to take if we had to flee in a very short time. Aside from pets and children, it would be important papers (including insurance information), the computer, our phones, photos (although many older ones have been scanned in most have not), a few wall paintings and a handful of heirlooms. And if we had to flee super fast, probably just the papers, phones and the computer. A lot of the more recent pictures and even some older ones are online and can be reprinted/downloaded if need be.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i have a fire safe, it has a handle. it’s got my backup drive, a few pieces of jewelry that have any actual value and a couple of pieces with a great deal of sentimental value, a bit of cash, my passport, insurance and house legal documents. if there’s a fire, hopefully it would be ok. if i had to evacuate my property quickly, like in a weather emergency, i’d grab it on the way out the door with the cat carriers and the dog’s leash

      • It's not fun. It's not funny. says:

        if your fire safe is like mine then it is not secured to the foundation of the house…in which case it would have gone the same as any pictures or clothes you have.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          ish… it’s not secured to the foundation but some of the cabinetry would have to be removed before its location was evident. i know what to reach behind and under to get it, but the cleanout crew would not likely be disassembling wall cabinets.
          but mainly, since IT-Princess was mentioning ‘what to grab in a fire’ i was making a suggestion based on what i set up in case of fire/evacuation.

          • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

            And I appreciate the information as I have all the necessary items, just in the wrong place. Hopefully I am never in the situation where I am losing all my possessions but I should (we all should) be prepared. I understood you were talking about a fire type situation, not a lock out or robbery situation.

            • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

              well mine would work for a robbery as well since the safe is hidden, but accessible if you know exactly where to look.
              actually, in a really bad fire, mine is located in such a way that it would drop into the crawl space if the floor or wall near it was compromised, thereby hopefully saving the items inside [there's a time temperature limit even on a fire safe]
              but i can easily reach into where it is and pull it out to run out the door in an evacuation situation.
              reminds me though – i should probably throw vet records in there for the pets, and their rabies tags.

              • dee1313 says:

                I wouldn’t worry about the vet records since the vet probably has those on file already. If you have plenty of room in the safe, by all means go for it then.

                I plan on storing a lot of things online (in the cloud), like photos and scanned receipts of big ticket items that would need to be replaced. Basically, I’d need a service that I could have all my memories on and a “in case of fire” thing with photos and receipt scans of what I own. That way the only thing I have to grab is the fireproof safe with my legal documents, my hard drive for my Xbox, my husband and my kitties.

    • KMan13 still wants a Pontiac G8 says:

      seriously, my 7TB file server would be my greatest loss in a situation like this.

  6. Rebecca K-S says:

    Retiree Loses Everything After Bank Forecloses On Wrong House

    a clean-out crew hired by Bank of America mistook his house for the foreclosure next door.

    NOT. THE. SAME. THING.

    • zibby says:

      Yah, but the true thing just doesn’t sound as sexy.

    • Coffee says:

      Agreed…when I read the headline, I thought to myself, “Wow…how could the foreclosure go through successfully? That’s terrible.” Then I read the actual article and it says he lost personal possessions that were in the house (that he will likely get reimbursed for and then some after his lawsuit is successful). I know that he can’t replace the memories, but that’s still totally different than him “losing everything”.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        I think you missed the point of my comment.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          I wasn’t sure what your comment referred to myself. It’s not precisely clear.

          Did you mean that “losing everything” is not the same as losing all your home posessions?

          • Rebecca K-S says:

            Sorry, really thought it was blatantly obvious. Rephrase:

            Bank Forecloses On Wrong House

            a clean-out crew hired by Bank of America mistook his house

            Not the same thing.

          • Cosmo_Kramer says:

            No, she means that the article title states that the bank made a mistake, while the article makes it clear that the bank didn’t foreclose on the wrong house. The trash-out company apparently screwed up.

          • K-Bo says:

            The bank didn’t foreclose on the wrong house, the cleaners cleaned the wrong house.

    • Anonymously says:

      “Bank steals, destroys all important possessions of 82 year old man. Left with nothing but failing memory of dead wife.”

      Yeah, that sounds better anyway.

      • Vulpine says:

        The bank didn’t make the mistake, the clean-out crew did.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          The clean-out crew was acting in agency of the loan company. Ergo…all fail.

          • Cosmo_Kramer says:

            In what way did the bank fail? The cleanout company said their work order was for the 4255 address.

            • kella says:

              The bank failed by hiring an incompetent clean-up crew. If it were bank employees then it would definitely be the bank’s responsibility, and you don’t get to absolve yourself of responsibility by saying “they’re an independent contractor”.

              If the clean-up company can’t afford the REPLACEMENT value (not residual) of the property, plus a million or so in compensation (you don’t get to break into someone’s house, steal and destroy everything they own, for profit, and not get slammed if you screw up) then the bank should be held responsible.

              • Cosmo_Kramer says:

                I didn’t say that the bank doesn’t have any financial responsibility here, I’m merely saying that we have no information that should cause us to believe that the bank made a mistake here. These are two entirely separate issues which are clear if you read and understand the words that I’m writing and not what you think I’m intending to say.

                Your suggestion of $1 million in punitive damages for this mistake is pretty hilarious though. This plaintiffs’ attorneys like to get stupid people on juries.

                • hmburgers says:

                  Cosmo,

                  Let’s see how you feel about that $1M in damages after the “clean out crew” has come and destroyed every single one of your possessions.

                  When you’re 25 you might not care about the things because money can replace them, but when you’re 45, 65, especially 85, the money and replacement of things isn’t nearly as important as their value to you. Not only that, but this poor bastard probably don’t exactly have the time, energy or knowledge to go out dealing with replacing everything anyway.

                  The banks should be required to move the items to storage for a minimum of 30 days and tack that cost onto the foreclosure in states that allow recourse. That would effectively eliminate the sting from “mistakes” like this and yes, it would raise the cost of foreclosures but given that this type of problem seems to keep happening I’d say something needs to be done other then “fast and loose” followed by “oops, the insurance will handle it”

        • Sian says:

          Banks need to be made to hold their cleanup crews responsible for mistakes like this. If a mistake is made, the cleanup crew should be liable for everything. As they inevitably can’t pay for it all, they get closed up and the bank is responsible for the rest. Nothing can be done to restore the sentimental value of personal possessions, so every effort must be made to at least financially compensate the victim as quickly and as completely as possible.

          If held to those standards, both banks and cleanout crews will be forced to make DAMN SURE they have the right house.

        • OnePumpChump says:

          And BP had no responsiblity for the oil spill.

  7. cynical_reincarnation says:

    How did I know this was BoA’s work….

    • thompson says:

      It wasn’t. It was the cleanout crew’s screw up. I’m no defender of BOA, but in this case they didn’t do wrong (though they should be responsible for the actions of their agent, it wasn’t their ‘fault’).

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      Oh look, Ben caught someone with his inaccurate article title.

    • simonr27 says:

      I really can not fault BOA on this… The clean out crew were the ones that screwed up.

      and yes… i will never use BOA for anything

    • tbax929 says:

      The funny thing is that if the bank that was foreclosing were USAA, everyone would be adamant that it’s not the bank’s fault; it’s the clean-out crews fault.

      But the hatred toward B of A is so strong that they’re going to get blamed even when (in my opinion) they’re not at fault for this screw-up. Amazing.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So they saw one side of the mailbox and it said “42 5″ and the other side said “4205” so the company thought to themselves “Must be 4255?”
    What idiots.

    • K-Bo says:

      I think they probably only looked at the side that said 42 5 and assumed the missing # was a 5.

      • K-Bo says:

        Seems like procedures should be more rigorous, checking maps, ect. Not just there’s the house number, we are good. I mean if that’s all the do, someone who knows they are about to be foreclosed on can just trade their mailbox number with a neighbor. Most people ignore their mailbox numbers, and would take a while to notice.

      • El-Brucio says:

        Well, they did have a one in ten chance of being correct. That seems like perfectly reasonable odds.

    • cspschofield says:

      Not that I think something this awful should have happened to this man. Not that BOA shouldn’t have to build him a duplicate of the playboy mansion and staff it with strippers, if that’s what he wants.

      BUT

      I am getting goddamned tired of hardly anybody putting clear, easy-to-read-from-the-street, numbers on their house or business. I waste a great deal of time, and probably cause aneurysms in people driving behind me, driving slowly and peering at front doors and mailboxes. I have basically given up getting mad delivery men who can’t find my house. I have a number displayed prominently on my mailbox, but it’s a long goddamned road and I guess that if they guess the wrong direction at the turn, they could easily wander too far to get back before they find a house with a number telling them they aren’t even close, and then they’d have to find ANOTHER NUMBER to know they were going the wrong way.

      *sigh*

      OK, tangental rant over.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        MAYBE we don’t want YOU to know our address or where we live! Nothing states we have to make ourselves easy to find. People that we want there already know where we live.

      • Kate says:

        I have 3 sets of numbers on my house and property. One on the fence out by the road, one on a post in the front yard and one on the house by the door. I still get packages and mail and people dropping by for other people.

      • Alexk says:

        Your assumption is that clearly marked addresses necessarily make a difference. I regret to report this is not the case. I have my address in two places: on the tree in front of my house, and, in five-inch-tall wooden numerals, on the side of the attached garage.

        And STILL some independent contractors go to the wrong house, or come to mine.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        Some HOAs restrict things like visible-from-street-sized numbers/curb numbers and such, which I think is absolutely ridiculous.

        Our street has numbers on the curb and on the houses, but they skip around oddly due to the development planning for extensions that were never built thanks to a street widening project in the 1980s. It confuses the hell out of people! The icing on that particular cake was that the city messed up our street sign, too; imagine how much fun *that* made things. They wouldn’t correct it, but a few months ago someone ran off the road and knocked down the sign, and the new one has the right street name now! We’ll always have delivery services wondering how they got from 1234 to 1245 in three houses, alas.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      You know, that was my first thought, too. Apparently, they saw 42 5, and didn’t even bother to look on the other side, shrugged and got to work?

      This is where I’d call someone. The bank? Someone, to make sure it was the right place, or I’d back off until I was sure.

  9. nopirates says:

    http://www.fieldassets.com/services

    from the web site:

    Security

    securityWithin two (2) business days, FAS will re-key and secure openings on abandoned, vacant or foreclosed property. FAS will perform necessary eviction lockouts and remove personal property, as appropriate. Our specific security services include:

    Re-key and Secure Openings
    Re-key all doors
    Secure garage doors (both auto and pedestrian) and gates
    Disable all other exterior locks after foreclosure
    Utilize hasp and padlock if handset cannot be installed
    Install client specific, custom-coded lockboxes with backup key hidden at site
    Secure openings within one business day from date of request
    Board properties when potential vandalism or other threats pose an immediate danger or risk
    Perform complete or partial board-ups as requested by client or as required by local authorities
    Eviction Lockouts
    All eviction lockouts will be completed as directed by the client and in compliance with local regulations
    No actions taken without presence of local authorities
    Complete documentation with photographs of all trash and personal property handled by the crew. A special effort will be made to take a picture of the local authority and crew at the site and upon entering the property

    look at the last two lines:

    “No actions taken without presence of local authorities

    Complete documentation with photographs of all trash and personal property handled by the crew. A special effort will be made to take a picture of the local authority and crew at the site and upon entering the property”

    somebody in this case is LYING

    • Thalia says:

      I don’t see why anyone needs to be lying for this result to be here. The “local authorities” don’t check the notices an make sure the cleaners are in the right house. They’re basically there to provide back-up in case the former owner goes berserk.

      • nopirates says:

        from the article:

        “In February, an attorney representing Field Asset Services sent Santiago’s attorney a letter denying any wrongdoing.

        “FAS has found no record of servicing the property belonging to your client,” company attorney Chris Helling wrote.”

        if the local authorities were there, perhaps they have a record of attending the ‘trash out’

    • sonneillon says:

      That is what their website says, but that is not how it works. They contract everything out to different groups. The groups call the police who show up about 30 minutes later. They tell the police what they are doing and drill out the locks. The police make sure nobody is in there and then leave. Then they move as fast as possible and go to the next place because they are getting paid a flat rate. The inspector gets paid between 5 and 10 bucks, the cleaners between 40 and 60 bucks.

      I used to do this and the company rules were given lip service, and if a mistake is made well shit that’s why I had insurance, but I never had that come up.

  10. MickeyG says:

    This is so sad (and angering)

  11. ForReason says:

    “may have arose”
    *Facepalm*
    The correct tense of the word is arisen, Ben, not arose.

  12. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    So… article title says the bank foreclosed on the wrong house, the article says the trash-out company went to the wrong address. Why did you feel it was necessary to lie to me in the article title? That’s not a very nice thing to do.

    • Sian says:

      The trash-out company was acting as an agent of the bank. I don’t see any real inaccuracies in the title.

      • JennQPublic says:

        The bank did not foreclose on the wrong house. The bank foreclosed on the RIGHT house, the clean-out crew cleaned out the wrong house.

        There wouldn’t be any confusion over this if the headline wasn’t so outrageously inaccurate.

      • Cosmo_Kramer says:

        Well for starters, the bank didn’t foreclose on the wrong house, and the original article title clearly stated that the bank foreclosed on his house.

        The original title, which you can see in the URL, was “Retiree Loses Everything After Bank Forecloses on Wrong House.”

        Now Ben has changed the title to “Retiree Loses Everything After bank Mistakes His House For Foreclosure.” I don’t know what he intended to accomplish with that change, because anyone reading that will assume it means the same as the first title. So for whatever reason Ben changed the title to something that is STILL wrong. That’s journalistic integrity right there.

        A more accurate title would be “Retiree Loses Everything After His House Is Mistaken For Foreclosed House.” If there is room it would be best to add “Neighbor’s” between “For” and “Foreclosed” – “For Neighbor’s Foreclosed House.”

        You can blame the bank, although that would be a really stupid thing to do. What you can’t do is say that the bank foreclosed on this guy’s house, because it didn’t.

        • It's not fun. It's not funny. says:

          Is this ok?….”bank causes same destruction to contents of home as if it was rightfully foreclosing on the home

          • Cosmo_Kramer says:

            I don’t understand the desire to focus the blame on the bank while ignoring the responsibility of the trash out company. Ben is doing it, you’re doing it, a lot of other people are doing it. What did the bank do here? They hired a company. Did they vet that company sufficiently? Maybe, maybe not. How could we know? This incident is not proof of insufficient vetting, and it is not proof that systemic issues in the company caused this incident. This could be the first significant mistake this company has ever made.

            So you can focus your ire on the bank if you want, but I think that’s pretty silly considering what information we have about mistakes that were made by the bank here (we know of none). Me? I think it’s more sensible to focus the blame on the company that took all of this guy’s belongings and threw it in the trash. That company was not Countrywide.

  13. Snowblind says:

    Why? Why don’t they require the Sheriff show up and verify the address before they touch a single item?!

    • nopirates says:

      according to field asset services’ own web site, they are supposed to:

      http://www.fieldassets.com/services

      “No actions taken without presence of local authorities

      Complete documentation with photographs of all trash and personal property handled by the crew. A special effort will be made to take a picture of the local authority and crew at the site and upon entering the property”

      (i pasted this above, also)

      • Snowblind says:

        Either the Local Authorities are negligent, or the company is lying.

        I suspect the latter, as the agency would have been named in the suit.

        Either way, it is a 4th Amendment issue, there seems to be serious issues with due process in either case.

        • Sarge1985 says:

          Not really. The 4th Amendment protections against Search and Seizure apply only to government entities, not private.

          • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

            Then again, if the police are there, are they not considered a government party to the search and seizure?

            • kobresia says:

              No. It’s trash-out, which is perfectly legal to do with abandoned property. Property left in a foreclosed home is considered abandoned as soon as the occupant loses the legal right to occupy the structure.

              Understand your Constitutional Rights: Your protection against *UNREASONABLE* search and seizure only applies to acquiring evidence that is to be used in a court of law. I think you’ll find that invoking your 4th Amendment rights only will stop unreasonable search and seizure for potential evidence as far as a police investigation is concerned; even then, it will not necessarily stop the search or seizure, just the ability of the police (or anyone else) to use it as evidence against you. If police have a compelling reason to believe that they can make a case for searching your home or car for criminal activity without your consent (probable cause), they can do so and whatever they find stands a good chance of being used against you. A warrant basically sets the scope and justification in advance, which is mostly just a precaution that more solidly guarantees the evidence gathered is going to be admissible.

              So, in short, the po-po can accompany the trash-out company to secure the premises and make the removal official so they can do their job of throwing abandoned stuff away without having all the neighbors report a burglary. They’re not there to gather evidence against anyone, though I suppose if the trash-out company notices evidence of criminal activity as they do their job, the police would then be able to conduct a legal search and seizure.

  14. Voluntas filiorum neminem curant? says:

    It’s unfortunate that we haven’t yet come up with some sort of system where we can more easily differentiate one house from another, maybe like putting a series of numbers on the front of the house, so that when someone is looking for a particular home, they know to look for the corresponding number on the front.

    Yep, it’s a shame no one is smart enough yet to come up with some sort of system like that, could have saved this couple all that trouble…

    • RandomHookup says:

      Well, it would help if the system in place didn’t do things like have “Highland St.” a few blocks away from “Highland Ave.”

      • Voluntas filiorum neminem curant? says:

        Oh dear GOD, yes! There was one part of a city I lived in once where everything was named after the same tree. I can’t remember where – maybe San Antonio, but it was something like Poplar Ave, Poplar Dr, Poplar St, Poplar Way all within a block of one another. Add to that it was in one of those housing developments built like a maze.

        • PunditGuy says:

          The corner of 9th and Temperance in downtown St. Paul. Guess the address. You’re right! It’s 489 Temperance.

          I’m guessing temperance had nothing to do with that numbering scheme.

      • sprybuzzard says:

        A nearby town has East Walnut St perpendicular to West Walnut St. Still boggles me.

    • runswithscissors says:

      Are you blaming the OP by saying the old man shouldn’t have been missing a number on his mailbox and so got what he deserved?!?!?

    • megafly says:

      This would make a perfect foreclosure defense. Simply change the house numbers.

    • Tiercelet says:

      I don’t think they count as a couple any more when one of them is dead.

  15. Red Cat Linux says:

    At what point is the industry going to arrive at the conclusion that perhaps taking someone’s house away might require just as much care and research as selling them the house did in the first place?

    Title searches, or at least a passing look at the property information stored in the public records before a company is allowed to totally destroy a life time of someone’s possessions and memorabilia.

    Even if there was something in the guy’s insurance to cover this, the damage done is like a fire, except more thorough.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      You know, I thought that most loan files contained a photo of the house. If not, then they should. A photo should be provided to the clean out crew. Easy as pie.

      • econobiker says:

        “I thought that most loan files contained a photo of the house.”

        Maybe the pics are with the original loan documents which were transferred and sliced/diced during the credit default swap nonsense… yeah the pics have probably disappeared.

      • Sudonum says:

        I’ve closed more houses than I can count, on either end of the transaction. I have never seen a photo of the house included with the file. Not Florida, California, or Louisiana. Now, if the foreclosure company had access to the MLS, they could probably pull up a picture from the most recent sale.

    • Bob Lu says:

      “At what point is the industry going to arrive at the conclusion that perhaps taking someone’s house away might require just as much care and research as selling them the house did in the first place?”

      actually they are paying as less care and research..

    • kajillion says:

      When our justice system isn’t owned by, and specifically set up to benefit the people perpetrating these kinds of things. Read: Never.

  16. dolemite says:

    Have we learned nothing as hardworking Americans? Going on vacation is never worth it!

    • abruke says:

      Really, the correct solution to this problem is just to rig your front door to explode if anyone tampers with it while you’re away on vacation!

  17. galm666 says:

    Can Benito go and set fire to the loan servicer’s HQ and the trash-out company’s building? I don’t normally advocate eye-for-an-eye, but maybe this will serve as a lesson to other companies who may make the same mistake.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Well, yes, he can if he’d like to spend his remaining years in prison.

  18. Vulpine says:

    Bad headline. Based on the article it was the cleanup crew that messed up, not the bank.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      I see someone doesn’t understand agency…

      • Cosmo_Kramer says:

        I see someone doesn’t doesn’t understand English. Read the title, read the article. They didn’t foreclose on the wrong house, therefore the title is inaccurate.

      • blueman says:

        Wow, you’re not only arrogant but wrong. That’s a twofer!

        Nobody said the bank wasn’t responsible. The post was directly related to the inaccuracy of the headline. Which still stands. A point you can’t seem to grasp.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      These professional burglars are minions of the bank. The bank in question should take responsibility for their actions and not be forced to by the courts or vigilantism.

    • JHDarkLeg says:

      All companies are responsible for this contractors in some form.

      • Cosmo_Kramer says:

        Which is not relevant to the accuracy of the headline, because the headline refers to the foreclosure which was not mistaken – they foreclosed on the right house.

  19. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    What the deuce, man? When are they going to establish better checks and balances for this sh*t? I’m sick and tired of seeing people’s homes get ransacked because of idiotic mistakes!

  20. Blueskylaw says:

    So if this clean-out crew went into a house full of antiques, do you think they would end up in a landfill or do you think they would be taken and sold by the crew?

  21. bonzombiekitty says:

    I’d like to see some regulations about property clean outs and such of foreclosures to the extent that the previous owner must be present to verify the property is correct in order to just go and haul away everything. I.E. Previous owner shows up and says “Yep, that’s my previous property, take everything away”

    In instances in which the previous owner can not be present or is uncooperative, there should be a posted notice on the property for a minimum of two weeks with the date and time of the clean out.

  22. Hi_Hello says:

    They should kick the ceo out of his house and let the guy live there. Let the ceo take nothing with him except for the clothes on his back. Give the old man everything the CEO has in his house.

    All call it even.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      It would be hilarious karma if some forged clean out orders were executed on the people who cause these.

  23. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Can he not call the cops and file criminal charges of breaking and entering against the clean out company? How is it legal for someone to break into your home and take your stuff with no repercussions? The bank also locked him out of his own home, which seems like, at the least, a criminal trespassing charge.

    • kella says:

      Unfortunately, the cleanup crew could argue they lacked the intent to commit any crime, but there should probably be a strict liability (no intent required) crime for breaking into someone’s home, destroying everything, and taking payment for doing so.

  24. The Lone Gunman says:

    With the prevalence of monitored home alarm systems, I don’t understand why there seems to be so many of these incidents that don’t go unchallenged by a police response to an alarm call when the ‘cleaners’ break into the home without the proper kill code.

    Even cutting the power to my home won’t shut down the system.

    • pinkbunnyslippers says:

      The cleaning crew would probably say “here are our orders” and then provide all the legal documentation that entitles them to be there. The cops aren’t going to stop and read whether or not they’re at the wrong house. They SHOULD but they won’t.

  25. MurderGirl says:

    The amount of OP-blaming and author-bashing is getting out of hand. It’s well past time for Consumerist to look into moderation.

    • runswithscissors says:

      I’ve been saying this for years now. We had a moderator once, but I think she’s long gone.

      I’ve encountered at least 2 commenters blaming the old man for this (one for him going on vacation, the other for him missing a number on his mailbox).

      I would NEVER send a story in to the Consumerist because I know that no matter how perfectly I’d acted, I’d get shredded in the comments by OP blamers.

      If you’re ever curious as to why OP blamers feel the need to always blame the OP, look up “Just World Theory” on Wikipedia. Basically they believe at some level that if they blame the OP it means that they themselves can avoid ever being a victim of anything because “bad things only happen to people who make mistakes or are stupid. If I’m smart and don’t make mistakes, then bad things won’t happen to me.”

      It’s a defense mechanism, but it makes the world a worse place for everyone. Ultimately it is a lack of empathy, arrogance, and cowardice – all stemming from fear – that fuels it.

  26. savdavid says:

    and was it worse, BOA obviously doesn’t care since they do this over and over and over to people

  27. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    First of all, the contracted clean-out company was acting in agency of BOA. Ergo, BOA’s fault along with the clean-out company.

    Secondly…everytime I hear one of these stories, I have the same thought…which basically boils down to awarding all of BOA’s liquid assets to the person who they violated, and then let BOA collapse and have to sell off all it’s loans etc. to other companies.

    Benito Sr., whoever you are, you are infinitely more deserving of BOA’s assets than they are.

  28. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Bastards of America strike again!

  29. Hub Cap says:

    These crimes will never stop until BoA is dealt a severe enough financial penalty to drop them to their knees, teach them a lesson they will never forget, and stricter laws are enacted and enforced mercilessly.

  30. FrugalFreak says:

    I do believe I’d find out who the owner is. Wonder if he has photos, etc?

  31. Tom Servo says:

    But we don’t need any more regulations on foreclosures, because regulations bad. And socialism.

  32. Grungo says:

    Man, I would love to be the plaintiff’s lawyer on this one. This is awful for the residents, but at least they should get compensated.

  33. PBallRaven says:

    5 million american dollars. No less.

  34. Splendid says:

    Its always Florida.

  35. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    Completely agree and I recommend this to so many people. I’ve gotten in the bad habit of using my 250gb external for side jobs requiring a system wipe. I usually don’t use it but the last few have had more data than my standard 16gb flash drive could hold. Every time I have a side job I tell myself how stupid this is, then I forget to handle it.

  36. MichiganWolverine2011 says:

    I hardly think this was completely the cleaning companies fault. The address was confusing on the sign, and the owner KNEW that it has happened multiple time int he past. I am glad every person here is perfect in their job, and when your boss tells you to meet him in meeting room A, and the door that says meeting room a is a completely different room then he intended somehow you should be fired.

    • dlr143 says:

      This was a mans life, his house, his memories. Everybody involved ever step of the way was negligent in how this matter was handled. If you are going to have the balls to enter someone’s home in a foreclosure process, you had better know how to look up records, read a map, verify ownership and make sure the key fits. If everything hinged on a mailbox in a major action such as this, that is ignorant and thoughtless business beyond words. Bank of America is the (laughingly) ‘professional’ in foreclosure here. They had a greater responsibility to be sure of their target. If Bank of America and their partners in business get thrown off by a mailbox, they should not be too quick to admit it. Imagine how irresponsible they have the potential to be with the finances of their clients.

  37. crb042 says:

    Instead of tighter regulations on banks, I think all we’d need is a regulation forcing Foreclosure Stupidity Insurance.

    Something like this happens, the bank must have a policy ready to pay out some generous sum to the victim.

    Eventually, banks that do a poor job of controlling their own stupidity (or a poor job of choosing who they hire to carry out this work) will suffer increased premiums on such a policy and the free market will make the banks wise up.

    … or at the least, the victims won’t be in too much trouble here.

  38. megafly says:

    How is this not Burglary? If you break into someones house and take EVERYTHING. How is it not grand larceny?

  39. topgun says:

    Another sad point is that had the victim done something similar, he would be crucified, sued, loose all possessions, spend thousands in litigation maybe even serve time.
    Because it was big, bad BOA, it will come down to a shrug, a less than favorable payment and the costs will be passed along to consumers. WTF!

  40. OldSchool says:

    This has happened Far to many times and there need to be Real penalties such as:

    1) Criminal Breaking and Entry Charges against “cleanout company” supervisor
    2) Felony destruction of property against the banks designated agent
    3) Punative Damages of not less then $1,000,000 in addition to replacement value of any destroyed property

    Nothing that doesn’t hit their bottom line hard and result in jail time for their people who fail to exercise due diligence will be effective.

  41. Lyn Torden says:

    There needs to be a law … requiring these companies to store everything in one place for at least 60 days. Exemptions would include perishable foods, combustible materials, old dead bodies.

  42. brinks says:

    Is there such thing as Wrongful Foreclosure and Cleanout insurance? There should be, given how often it happens. Or at least Bank of America Owns Your Mortgage insurance.

    • Tiercelet says:

      There should be, and it should be required to be purchased by the banks and cleanout companies.

      I’m not going to pay a tithe to one corporation because of the pronounced risk that another corporation’s going to screw me over.

  43. moonunitrappa says:

    And why aren’t lockout companies required to keep goods for X number of days???? This would resolve these stupid mistakes unless you’re gone for months at a time from your house.

  44. psm321 says:

    I don’t think throwing everything out without some right to claim it out of storage within a set period of time should be allowed EVEN FOR LEGITIMATE foreclosure clean-outs.

  45. BradC says:

    Suing for damages? How about criminal charges? An organized group of people broke into his house and took all his stuff. Throw a few of them in jail and I’m sure the companies involved will find a way to fix their clerical errors.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Won’t happen; the companies hide behind a corporate identity and can simply vanish overnight.

    • Tansey says:

      I wish someone would serve jail time for this because that’s what they basically did: broke into his house and stole all his stuff. I hope he didn’t have any pets because those are usually dropped off at the local shelter and euthanized in foreclosure situations when the people aren’t home at the time. I have 2 pets, a dog and a cat. They’re my and my husbands babies. If something like this ever happened to us inreally wouldn’t care about anything but my pets. Material things can be replaced, pets, who usually become members of the family can’t. I’d go ballistic on all the companies involved.

      Sorry, went off on a little rant there. It’s just this crap has been happening far to often and it seems like nobody is doing anything about it. Someone needs to make an example out somebody, whether it’s a bank, cleaning company, whatever. Give someone a harsh ass punishment as a warning to double, triple, quadruple check and check a few more times. These are people LIVES their ruining with their “mistakes”. Somebody needs to step up and protect us “little guys”. Something needs to be done to teach the banks they’re not untouchable. Someone needs to be held accountable and not be able to buy their way out of this crap anymore.

  46. coren says:

    I don’t think the bank mistook his house..

  47. oldwiz65 says:

    The banks are careful to hire cleanout companies that can simply disappear if there is a problem. The company that cleaned out the man’s house will simply file bankruptcy and disappear with the goods then re-open under another name in another location or state.

    Wonder how much they sold his belongings for? If he had a few decent things they could have made quite a nice amount on top of the fee they charge the loan company.

    Basically, none of the cleanout companies are even legit in the first place, and the fact that the bank was BofA just shows they don’t care who they deal with. They probably prefer it this way as it is cheaper than a legit company and they don’t have to worry about a mistake of any kind.

  48. yzerman says:

    Take them to the cleaners! Grand Theft!

  49. yzerman says:

    I want to know how a cleaning/moving company can be so ignorant to not be able to tell the difference between a home someone lives in and one where they took off and left a bunch of junk in?

  50. ElBobulo says:

    We have a street here in the Portland, OR area named:

    Northwest South street.

  51. rooben says:

    So you are awesome and this poor old man who just had everything i his home stolen, not burned, is not.

    Excellent point. Not everyone can afford a $500 dollar safe. My $60 safe would have walked away with the rest of his possessions.

  52. mcgyver210 says:

    These type of Break-ins & Grand Thefts would stop if.

    1. Someone went Dirty Harry on the Home Invaders & they got what every criminal caught deserves.
    2. The Banks were held to a very high damage reward that made them think twice before foreclosing illegally.
    3. All Bank employees who are involved go to prison for being Accomplices to the Theft.

    This isn’t a mistake since it happens way to often. What it is is THEFT period.

  53. DovS says:

    This has been happening far too often lately. We need stronger penalties for accidentally stealing and destroying everything someone owns.

  54. quail says:

    Those clean out crews are supposed to throw everything away. Legally they can’t keep or recycle anything. That said, ask a clean out crew if jewelry or booze ever made its way to their home.

  55. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I have a friend who is an actor and his day job is doing these kinds of clean outs. He worries about the people and such. He’s a good guy. He would feel awful if he accidentally did this to someone. But I think he checks pretty carefully.

  56. dlr143 says:

    There are things that suck more, however, this rates high on the list. There should be pictures, maps and double checks up the wazoo before entering a home for the purpose of foreclosure. Further, whether it is required or not a legally appointed representative for the homeowner and/or the homeowner/s themselves should be present. Bank of America lost my respect as a consumer a long time ago, this just reconfirms that they really are not a business that I will ever do business with again. The mailbox missing a number is no big deal. Professionals know that house numbers can change. Ours did in a former neighborhood. We were assigned our next door neighbors address and they were assigned a new one. Was anyone thinking that maybe they should double check their ‘FACTS’ as I assume the key didn’t fit. I have access to public info about our current neighborhood even if I had never met a single neighbor. When you put THE NAME of the homeowner together with a neighborhood MAP, the mailbox becomes a non-issue. I am furious over the way Benito Sr. has been mistreated through sheer negligence. It is times like these when I would not mind being a lawyer to represent Benito Sr. I would latch on to every party involved like a vicious bulldog and they WOULD PAY for what they did to that poor man. May God bless you Benito Sr. and may your memories serve you well.

  57. huey9k says:

    Give him the clean-up company’s assets.

  58. Tansey says:

    That poor man. THIS is what people should be using law suits for. I hope he wins and wins big.

  59. gregpaul says:

    In cases such as these, which are becoming distressingly more common, the foreclosing entity should be responsible for treble damages. No amount of money can replace family memories, or treasured items but high damage awards will make the banks look long and hard at their paperwork to make sure no errors are about to be made.

    Ideally, this regulation would be done at the Federal level to make sure there are no “bare spots” where banks can run roughshod over [people with impunity. banks will of course fight this tooth and nail, and probably use the tired and oft-used phrase “job killing” to describe this proposal…wait and see if I am right.