City Fines Man For Not Cutting Grass At House He Lost Through Foreclosure

A man in Arlington, Texas, recently found out that even though the bank foreclosed on his house two years ago, the city thinks he should be held responsible for maintaining the property.

When the man went to renew his license last July, he found out the city had issued a handful of outstanding fines and warrants in his name over things like un-cut grass, an old fence and operating an alarm without a permit.

“I feel like I’m being punished for something I didn’t do,” he tells CBS 11 in Dallas. “It’s really frustrating and costing me a lot of time.”

He’s currently fighting the city over the allegations, but in the meantime he’s paid $150 so he could renew his license and has also been maintaining the property.

“I don’t want to go to jail over nothing – never been to jail – don’t want to go to jail,” he explains.

The City of Arlington tells CBS 11 that because the title has changed to a new homeowner, the old one is still responsible.

However, the TV station’s legal expert disagrees: “If it’s foreclosed, it’s not his… You have to remember cities are all about grabbing money from you I mean they try anyway they can.”

In fact, we’ve written before about banks being fined for failing to maintain foreclosed properties, so it would seem that the city is either mistaken in believing this former homeowner is responsible or it is bullying him into paying a fine because he’s more likely to pay than the bank.

Man Fined By Arlington Over His Foreclosed Home [CBS 11]

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  1. GMFish says:

    because the title has changed to a new homeowner, the old one is still responsible.

    That makes no sense.

    • rambo76098 says:

      Sounds like they (the city) didn’t transfer the house out of his name in their system at the time the bank took ownership, and then proceeded to post the violations to his name instead of the current owner, the bank.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        Arlington FAIL. Simple as that. In traditional terms it is called “incompetence”. Call the mayor.

    • RobHoliday says:

      I had to read that 3 times, thinking I was not comprehending something. Then I realized that it does not make any sense.

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      Well…it is Texas…they still do not know who killed J.R. for christ sake.

    • KishuT says:

      Typical Consumerist post. Proof reading doesn’t exist on this site, didn’t you know?

    • ablestmage says:

      I think it’s supposed to say “hasn’t” since the bank probably hasn’t sold it to anyone else yet.

      “…that because the title hasn’t changed to a new homeowner, the old one is still responsible.”

  2. phsiii says:

    Yeah, presumably there’s not a NOT in there and whatnot. A knotty problem.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Probably, “because the title has not changed to a new homeowner, the old one is still responsible.

      • Difdi says:

        Then again, it IS Arlington and it IS Texas. Giving a corporation a free ride by sticking some random uninvolved person with the bill isn’t unheard of.

    • GMFish says:

      That’s what I assumed, but we’re dealing with the government in Texas so we can’t entirely be sure.

  3. agent 47 says:

    Of all the companies in the world that will try to scam money out of you, your government is at the top of the list. After all, if you don’t pay, their collection agents have guns and badges.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Shut up and pay your taxes like everyone else.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      S’Why I use the name Rusty Shackleford on all official documents.

      Sh-sh-SHAA!

    • tbax929 says:

      My fair city has decided the best way to get money from us is to install traffic cameras (for our safety, of course) at every intersection and then shorten the length of the yellow light. If you’re lucky enough to get one of these tickets, it’s $330, plus points on your license, plus you have to go to Traffic School and pay for that. I know very few people who haven’t been nailed by one of these cameras. I know people who’d never had a ticket who now have several.

      But it’s all for our safety, so at least they care about us.

      • Firethorn says:

        1. Class Action Lawsuit – especially if they’ve violated DOT standards on yellow timing.
        2. Run for office on the very premise of removing the lights if it’s pissed off that many people.

        As for the owner in the op, sounds like it’s still unoccupied, and the bank isn’t maintaining it, and it’s at least partially still in his name. I’d consider moving back in and go for ‘adverse possession’.

      • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

        I got caught by one in Scottsdale last year driving home from Cali to Kentucky. Their photos have me dead to rights running a red but fail to take into account that I was driving an E-150 passenger van, towing a 5×10 trailer, partially loaded, and with a total length of over 30 feet and a total weight of around eight thousand pounds (the van is 6k, the trailer is 1k empty).

        I did all the math based on the recorded info, speed limits, and timings for how long it had been red, and the stated length of the yellow (3 seconds), and it’s clear that it would have been impossible for me to have safely stopped the vehicle in the distance traveled since the light went yellow at the stated speed limit, which I have no doubt I was traveling at. The most likely outcomes would have been A) Someone ending up in the back end of me as I did a full emergency panic stop, or B) jacknifing the whole assembly, creating a huge mess, and quite probably taking the two vehicles visible on either side of me along for the disaster. When you can confirm that you can cut through the light by one measely second instead and do so without harm, that is clearly the better option of the three.

        Of course, I called and aksed what would happen if I didn’t return the form identifying the driver that they mailed regular mail…which would be foolish self-incrimination and a waiver of my right not to do so, and all they could do was try to decide if they had me ID’s right and summon me to court within 6 months. Since according to their local law, they MUST have the subpoena delivered by a court officer directly, I decided to call their bluff. Sure enough, 9 months after the photos in regular mail, nothing has happened. I’m betting they realized getting me in court would cost more than the fines.

        • Alisha Gray says:

          Well played, sir. :)

        • rambo76098 says:

          Many states with statues that tickets must be served are having this problem. You can pitch them with no consequences!

          Here in Columbus, the city was nice enough to make them a civil fine (so you can’t go to court to challenge – it ain’t about the money at all, huh!). The upside is you can not pay the tickets, and all they can do is report it to a credit agency, where you can dispute it and they never follow thru cause it’s only $97.

      • Powerlurker says:

        What cities should do if they really want the money to roll in is convert those red-light cameras to insurance cameras. A number of states have their insurance info in a central database that is linked to the license plate number. Just take a picture of every license plate, and run it against the database.

  4. deejmer says:

    I’d get arrested and call the state police once the locals took me into custody.

  5. bsh0544 says:

    Was he perhaps sent a letter expressing an intent to foreclose, which he took to mean “we’ve foreclosed on your house”?

    • pythonspam says:

      Foreclosure proceedings do not stop you from being liable for maintainance on your property.

      However, once you vacate or are evicted, I think the bank should take ownership if not official full Ownership. The bank’s name is on the title, so the bank should be responsible.

      • Powerlurker says:

        In many cases, banks are drawing out the forclosure proceedings or at least dragging their feet on taking actual ownership of the property so they don’t have to pay maintenance costs and property taxes.

  6. crispyduck13 says:

    The wife (presumably) posted this in the article comment section:

    “We did have an attorney & he presented them with all the paperwork showing we didnt live in this house anymore & they still wouldn‚Äôt drop the case against my husband! & whats crazy the bank had the alarm turned on not us! So the BANK should beliable for this no permit ticket NOT MY HUSBAND!!!”

    Sounds extremely messed up. So now these people who lost their home have to spend money they probably don’t have on a lawyer to fix a situation that never should have happened in the first place. Wonder if a bank rep will be called in for court, since it’s their alarm system and all…

    I am also curious as to why the title of the home is still in the guy’s name, that should have been changed immediately by the bank, otherwise they don’t technically own it.

    • axhandler1 says:

      I was gonna say, if the title is still in his name, go in there and rip the alarm system out, tear out all the grass so you don’t have to mow it, and voila, no more fines.

    • Marlin says:

      Does not matter if they don’t live there, matters if there was a legal foreclose. i.e. are they still the legal owners?
      If there was a foreclose then its not their place. If there is no foreclose yet they still legally own it.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Well the city is claiming the house is still titled in his name. If a legal forclosure occured wouldn’t that result in the title being changed?

        • vastrightwing says:

          Come on! We know how banks are about paperwork. I’m not surprised the banks didn’t change the title. 1) It costs money to change the title. 2) changing the title would then make the bank responsible for the property. 2 reasons NOT to update the title.

          No, this wasn’t a mistake by the bank. The bank knows what it’s doing.. yes it knows.

          • varro says:

            Either the bank foreclosed on it, which means there should be a trustee’s deed at the county recorder’s office which transferred the title (which means the bank should pay all the zoning fines), or the bank didn’t actually sell it, which means that the homeowner still owns the house, but is also liable for zoning fines, water bills, HOA fees, and all the other crap that banks stiff cities out of when they foreclose on houses and let them rot.

            • JiminyChristmas says:

              Or, Option 3: The bank did foreclose and didn’t properly transfer the title or file the proper documents with the county.

              This wouldn’t be the first, or even just the 100,000th time that a bank has mishandled a foreclosure and/or made errors in transferring or recording a title. Just last month the US Dept. of Justice reached a settlement of $25billion with the five biggest mortgage banks over mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses – and even that was widely perceived as a slap on the wrist.

  7. rpm773 says:

    “I feel like I’m being punished for something I didn’t do,” he tells CBS 11 in Dallas.

    That’s because you are. You didn’t cut the grass!

    I’ll show myself.

  8. Marlin says:

    If the foreclose did take place, and there is court record, then I would sue the city in small claims court for not only the money but time as well.

    • Jawaka says:

      The home was foreclosed on but is he still living there?

      Also, what license was he trying to renew?

  9. KrispyKrink says:

    “The City of Arlington tells CBS 11 that because the title has changed to a new homeowner, the old one is still responsible.”

    What? The title HAS changed and he no longer has any legal responsibility over the property whatsoever. And the city thinks this means he still is responsible for the actions of the new title holder? That’s bullshit any way you shake it. He should no longer be on the defensive, he needs to go on the offensive and sue the crap out of the city AND the new title holder.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      Anyone with a web browser and this guy’s address can verify who holds current title on the place.

      It’s entirely possible that the bank simply screwed up the title transfer. Goes on all the time.

      Might even be a good subject for a Consumerist article.

  10. cosmotic says:

    Submit an invoice to the bank.

  11. msmith6044 says:

    what licence is he trying to renew ?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Warrants are typically attached to driver’s license info, so I’d guess it’s that. If you get pulled over for speeding and you have a warrant the cop will know and arrest you on the spot.

    • wynterbourne says:

      A lot of cities in the DFW area, including Arlington, require a permit for you to own a home alarm. This was because of the expense of repetitive responses to false alarms. If your alarm goes off and you don’t have the license you get fined.

  12. MrEvil says:

    Odds are the city of Arlington tried to collect from the bank, and the bank ignored them or their shark-tank full of lawyers intimidated them.

    Personally what I’d do is sue the bank that foreclosed on the property. Sue for damages plus your time and money already spent fighting this, then when they decide to settle out you bargain down to an amount enough to pay your fines. Surely the fines can’t be more than $10,000

    • Lyn Torden says:

      Sue the bank AND the city at the same time. That gives the judge the opportunity to tell the city to go after the bank. If you leave one party out of the suit, they can’t be ordered to do anything.

  13. cosmotic says:

    Submit an invoice to the bank.

    • Skipweasel says:

      Better yet, foreclose on the bank for failing to keep up payments.

      • varro says:

        The city should keep up on the bank to make sure the property tax payments are paid, then strike as soon as the house would be liable for foreclosure…..it might not be as bad in Arlington, TX as it is in Florida…

  14. Lyn Torden says:

    Just move out of Arlington. Then you don’t have to deal with the incompetence of all those people at city hall.

  15. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Easy fix. Run for city council seat that’s been vacant for years. Expose City Chairman’s conflict of interest in requiring the low-flow toilets his company manufactures be installed in residential houses. PROFIT.

  16. tripnman says:

    Isn’t there an upside to this? If his name is still on the title – it’s his. Pay the fines then move back into a home for which there is no bank attempting to collect a mortgage payment. Win win! If he can sit there for 10 whatever years, then adverse possession will kick in and he’s clear. Just mow the lawn in the meanwhile.

  17. The Porkchop Express says:

    “I feel like I’m being punished for something I didn’t do,”

    Technically….

    • Tunnen says:

      Bureaucrat The Porkchop Express, you are technically correct — the best kind of correct. I hereby promote you to grade 37.

      =P

  18. varro says:

    Instead of harassing a former homeowner who lost title to the home 2 years ago, why not just put a lien on the property and let the bank deal with it when they want to sell it?

  19. missminimonster says:

    I live in Arlington. This doesn’t surprise me.

  20. u1itn0w2day says:

    Besides not being the owner some of the technicalities made into law or policy don’t seem right.

    First an old deed still being in his name? Sounds like the city in Deleware not booting before doing a thorough check of ownership. Just a search of his name and property could’ve showed a foreclosure or sherriffs sale although a repo might not show up on public records.

    Then a permit for an alarm system. The police already know what addresses they came to for a false alarm so how does a permit prevent them. Unless it’s a full low voltage electrical inspection process this doesn’t make any sense. And even then technical & weather issues can arise. If it’s a problem warn the home owner and alarm companies, that’s where the legislation should be.

    All expenses on this should fall back on the bank. If they can robo call and robo sign why not robo update the public record. The foreclosure paper work should’ve been enough to clear these fines but like the lawyer said the government wants it’s fundraisers to produce no matter what.

  21. Press1forDialTone says:

    Once the foreclosure is complete, whoever owns the property under the house
    is responsible for it’s upkeep. Period.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Exactly. But the city in it’s haste to collect those fine dollars doesn’t want to take time to verify ownership other than the deed. I can’t believe the bank doesn’t have to file somekind of paper with the government when they foreclose on a property even if a basic repo.

      For some reason I’ve seen foreclosees still pay taxes but don’t bother with the bank. I just can’t believe there isn’t paper somewhere in the system that shows it’s not his property.

  22. mcgyver210 says:

    Seems to me that Arlington Texas is actually running a criminal enterprise by strong arm robbing a citizen that has no reason to take care of property he hasn’t owned in years. He should get interest & be able to sue the city of Arlington IMO for damages as well as being forced into taking care of property that doesn’t belong to him or be jailed by their Enforcers.

  23. GadgetsAlwaysFit says:

    Since no one is stepping up to help them, neither the bank who owns the house or the city who knows he doesn’t but cares not. What happens if he puts some kill all down? Will anyone mind? I mean the grass clearly won’t need any cutting since there won’t be any and the bank interested in the upkeep of the home.

  24. SoCalGNX says:

    San Bernardino, CA has this same problem.

  25. Robert Nagel says:

    The problem is that cities look at the banks as a funding source and nickle and dime the banks for all they can. In this case the bank has foreclosed and taken title to the property, but they haven’t registered the title with the county to keep themselves out of the line of fire. If the city can’t easily find out who owns the property, they can’t extort any money from them.
    When they want to do something they can then file the paperwork and do what they want.

  26. Levk says:

    That man gonna be rich when he sues the city I would they want to fine me that is ok, I sue em and get a house elsewhere.

  27. dicobalt says:

    I have had to call the city on several houses like that down here. The weeds grow over the rooftop it gets so bad and it attracts rats and ticks around here. The banks fail to maintain the houses they get in foreclosure. There is a house just 2 doors down from me that has a fine notice sitting on the fence for over a month. Whoever is responsible for managing this stuff is a real screwup. It further enforces my view that real estate business and everyone in it are nothing but scam artists doing illegitimate business.

  28. physics2010 says:

    More than likely the bank evicted the man, but then didn’t finish foreclosure proceedings. That’s what happens in Detroit, kick the people out and let the house rot.

  29. wrbwrx says:

    Why have I not given up up on the consumerist with incoherent posts like this?