In Foreclosure Bungle, Banks Accused Of Illegally Breaking Into Homes, Stealing All Your Stuff

A new batch of lawsuits are accusing banks of essentially burglarizing people’s homes, reports the NYT. Before a foreclosure has been properly filed and processed, people behind on their payments have come home to find their locks changed and some or all of their possessions gone, taken by contractors working for the bank.

When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words “Together Forever,” that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

The problem comes from a section in most mortgages that lets banks enter and secure it if the loan is more than 45 days late, AND the house has been abandoned. But determining what constitutes “abandonment” can be difficult, especially if the occupants are away, and is often left to low-rent contractors.

After much legal battling, the foreclosure against Ms. Ash was revoked. Her husband’s ashes are still missing.

In a Sign of Foreclosure Flaws, Suits Claim Break-Ins by Banks [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. eccsame says:

    How much longer before the feds step in and make all foreclosures illegal?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Do you have a viable alternative? Free homes for everyone?

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        I think the alternative would be stronger laws and heftier punishments for banks that do this, along with a long list of legal hoops they have to jump through to prove they did due diligence in making sure they were correctly foreclosing.

        • Bsamm09 says:

          Good luck getting a house then. You think it’s tough now. They should , if they don’t, have a simple 1-2-3-4 step process that requires certified documents. Just because a small minority cannot or will not pay their mortgages, why should responsible people suffer? If the bank commits fraud, they should be severely punished.

          • DieBretter says:

            If, as you said, it’s just the minority of people that aren’t properly paying their mortgages, I don’t think placing more punitive fines is really going to ward off new mortgagers. If they only have to do something for 1%, or even .1%, that’s not going to statistically change the way they do business.

            Realistically, if it’s 1% of people, that would be 10 out of 1000. If it costs them $10000 in fines each time they do something errantly, we’d be talking maybe a single fine. If the fines jump up to 10 times that, I’m betting you that they’d be more willing to do proper due diligence in making sure that they have their is dotted and their ts crossed. Also consider that this is Bank of America, and they have royally screw up many foreclosures. They’ve foreclosed on homes that aren’t even the mortgagee on.

            The problem is that they *do* require certified documents, they *do* have a 1-2-3-4 process, they *do* require affidavits (you know, the things that the courts rely on that you’re telling them the truth).

          • Difdi says:

            If you or I were to break into a house, steal all the valuables and change the locks, what would the criminal charges be?

            The banks are claiming that they have done nothing wrong because they have enacted and re-enacted the first scenario many, many times. Since when is committing a dozen burglaries a defense against being charged with a single burglary?

            Breaking & entry is a strict liability offense in most places. Doing it in error or out of a mistaken belief the person breaking in had the right to do so does not alter the fact that a break-in occurred. Stealing and disposing of private property because someone told you you could do it does not grant the right to do it, unless that person is telling the truth; If it turns out the person was lying or mistaken, the fact remains that a burglary took place.

      • axhandler1 says:

        How about the feds step in and tell the banks, “Hey, look, everytime you or the people you contract out to foreclose on a house in error, or using fradulant paperwork, we are going to fine the bank a million dollars.” I’ll bet the banks would put a lot more effort into making sure all the foreclosures were legit before going through with them.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Which is not making all forclosures illegal. My point was eccsame’s comment was assinine in its futility.

          • eccsame says:

            the word is “asinine”

            I’m not against foreclosure. Just against foreclosure done poorly. My point is that when enough of these stories get attention and the movement starts to get traction, then all it takes is for some senator with a bee in his (or her) bonnet to step in and make things really, really worse.

        • ARP says:

          Even better, the fine is the exact amount still owned by that homeowner. Meaning, that person gets the house. That would probably make them increase their QA when doing foreclosures.

          wishful thinking, of course.

    • Moongirl55 says:

      Exactly. While foreclosure regulations certainly need some revision, the bottom line is: You take out a loan to buy something of value, then don’t make payments on that something, you lose that something. Be it a car or a house. Interesting that Mimi thought she still got to vacation in a chalet she wasn’t paying for.

      Not that I am any fan of BoA, but sounds like they had some legal standing if there is a clause in the mortgage that allows them to enter and secure after 45 days of non payment — although that is a pretty short time period and certainly not in the homeowner’s favor.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        And if I don’t make payments on my house, the bank should take away my husband’s ashes and all other personal belongings? That makes no sense.

        • human_shield says:

          Foreclosure is a process that is detailed in the contract you sign. The bank can’t come foreclose because I’m a day late on my payment or my check was lost in the mail and I had to write another one a week later.

          • megafly says:

            This is all very reasonable except the bank doesn’t actually have the signed contract. They have an affidavit that they “lost” the contract when actually the deliberately destroyed it so they wouldn’t have to keep it on file.

            Every Foreclosure in the US in the last 10 years has been a fraud!! The banks deliberately destroyed documents they were supposed to keep on file and lied about “losing them”…Millions of time.

      • YOXIM says:

        Did you even read the article? It states very plainly that this was a wrongful foreclosure, which was later overturned. So how exactly did she not have the right to be there?

        Also, a vacation home =/= abandoned just because no one is vacationing there at the time. It’s pretty easy to differentiate an abandoned residence from an occupied one. Just because I went to work doesn’t mean I abandoned my house. If there is furniture and other personal belongings in the home, I’d say that’s a pretty good sign it’s not abandoned.

  2. humphrmi says:

    It really boils down to money (bad PR costs money too). So until the lawsuits and bad PR mount up enough to hurt their bottom line, they won’t care.

  3. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Wow, stealing the remains of a murdered husband.

    This is a new low.

    • Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

      I completely agree that this is disgusting, but no where in the article does it say he was murdered. Just saying… :-)

      • 339point4 says:

        “During the California real estate boom, Ms. Ash and her husband, Robert, thrived. Mr. Ash bought the house in Truckee in 2003. Two years later, he was stabbed to death in a road-rage incident near Truckee. (The driver was convicted of second-degree murder and is in prison.)”

        Just saying.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        Instead of ‘just saying’, may I recommend ‘just readin’?

    • gerrylum says:

      Hmmm… i don’t think it said anything about her husband being murdered.

    • JAlfaro87 says:

      Did we read the same article or ???? Murdered? or just died?

    • Zowzers says:

      curious as to why the fact that the husband was murdered make his remains more valuable sentimentally then any one else dead loved ones; regardless to cause of death.

      • JohnnyP says:

        His life was taken then his remains stolen.

      • Thyme for an edit button says:

        I didn’t say that so don’t go putting words in my mouth.

        Though I am sure to this woman, the remains of her husband are “more valuable” than the remains of some stranger.

        • Zowzers says:

          you specifically noted that he was murdered to emphasize and lend weight to your end statement. i.e. the bank being evil and horrible. Had you said they stole the ashes of her deceased husband it would not have had as much shock value to readers.

          I’m simply pointing out that the manor of death is irrelevant to the severity of the theft. If her husband had died of old age rather then having been murdered it would not diminish her grief over the theft at all.

      • Megalomania says:

        there was no implication that there is more ‘value’ attached to his ashes due to the manner of his death… though if you weren’t hell bent on being an asshole, perhaps you might have considered that having her husband taken from her by another person would make it more traumatizing when his remains were stolen as well.

        • shawnamuffin says:

          That’s an interesting way to put it. Does make it more sad :(

        • Zowzers says:

          thats pure speculation. Would you honestly say that had this happened to a 2nd person who’s husband had died of old age or cancer; that they would be feeling less grief?

      • flip says:

        Are you really that stupid? Not only was her husband violently taken away from her but, your feeble mind questions why shes hell bent over her late husbands ashes being taken….and to think there are people out there with the same mental capacity as you just scares me….

    • Bsamm09 says:

      What I don’t understand is why they did not have a life insurance policy on the husband. If he was making a lot of money he should be insured, to protect against tragedies like this.

  4. Buckus says:

    Another win for Bank of America. You stay classy!

  5. JAlfaro87 says:

    What a bunch of crap. I hope she sues their pants off. I really really hate this Julian Assange guy and consider him an enemy of the state but it would be nice to see the threat he made against BoA come to pass and that he would release the Appx 5gb of info he has on them.
    These companies need to be held more accountable. Someone need to lose their job for something like this. A lot of people actually.

    • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

      You are disgusting. You say those things about him, yet you want to profit from his activities?

      You can’t have it both ways.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Yeah, that was a pretty hypocritical paragraph there.

        I imagine popularity of Mr. Assange would have been higher had he started with corporate documents and THEN moved on to political documents.

      • JAlfaro87 says:

        Oh please, this comes to mind “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

        Its kind of like if North Korea and Iran decided to go to war against each other. Who would you root for? Both….

        and in closing a favorite quote of mine, “We must always seek to ally ourselves with that part of the enemy that knows what is right” =)

        • abz_zeus says:

          I love the treason but hate the traitor – Julius Caesar

          The problem with calling Mr Assange a traitor is that he is Australian (& as someone said “what’s treason in Auz – loosing to England at cricket) not an American

    • jason in boston says:

      Enemy of the state? On the same token as the New York Times?

      I gave money and server space to wikileaks. Does that make me an enemy of the state?

  6. rpm773 says:

    Looking for Mr Ash’s ashes….

  7. dragonfire81 says:

    And once again, I guarantee there won’t be a single day of jail time for anyone involved.

  8. rahntwo says:

    I make all my own Ashes at home!

    • Rachacha says:

      If you make all of your ashes at home, what do you do when your home is taken away from you by the bank? “I make all of my ashes in the alley near the corner of 5th and Main” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it :-)

  9. RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

    ‘“There is a stigma that we go in, kick the door in and throw grandma out head first and board up the windows,” Mr. Jaffa said. “We are doing a lot of good out there.” ‘

    Jaffa is the head of a foreclosure contracting company. Now, I feel for him that there’s a stigma attached to his work, and maybe it’s exaggerated, but “doing a lot of good out there”? I’d feel better if he said “It has to be done, nobody likes it, but we try to be professional.” I get the idea this guy feels like he’s some kind of hero.

    • coren says:

      But if not for him, banks couldn’t reclaim someone else’s property and throw away their husband’s ashes! He’s doing good work out there Radar, don’t you see?

  10. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Interestingly, Ash’s case seems the least clearcut of those mentioned in the article. She was behind on the mortgage (although there seems to have been a modification process ongoing), and it was a vacation home, so it’s the kind of place that could easily be vacant for some time, leading to a reasonable presumption of abandonment.

    Also, the foreclosure wasn’t “revoked,” which implies it was invalidated. BoA rescinded it.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Her’s just sounds like a mess; probate court, “missing” paperwork, stuff sent to the wrong address, etc.

      • econobiker says:

        And a grieving widow with multiple properties and seemingly no organization or planning in regards to the payments etc. The husband might have handled everything and she did not do all that much so when he was killed, it was a morass to untangle what was going on in their properties/ finances.

  11. DanKelley98 says:

    I think a few criminal prosecutions over breaking and entering plus theft to the “low-rent” contractors” as well as the bank officials who initiate this activity would quickly put this crap to an end.

  12. CheesyRings says:

    It amazes me how corporations do this and get away with fines..but if it was a regular Joe..they would be serving hard time behind bars.

    • c!tizen says:

      What will really amaze me is when we read the article “Bank contractor shot dead while attempting to foreclose on wrong home.”

      Then, with out a doubt, we’ll see the home owner protecting his property thrown in jail.

  13. full.tang.halo says:

    Still waiting for the story where some of these idiots break, I mean “go into secure”, someones house that’s armed. Banks willingness to take on that kind of liability amazes me.

    • physics2010 says:

      Yep. Same here. I don’t always answer my door when I’m at home. I’m sure there are many people that do the same.

  14. TandJ says:

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    • ARP says:

      Ignorant Troll. Republicans hate America, want all poor people to die, and molest children. See, I can make wild and unfounded accusations too!

      They’re doing this BEFORE the house is foreclosed. Until the foreclosre is final/official, that person still owns that house. Period.

      If the bank didn’t want to go through the foreclosure process, they should not have loaned the money.

    • deejmer says:

      I love how Obama bashers neglect using…..logic. No one is saying you should be given free cars, houses and education. We are only saying that these fucked up, massive, federal-teet-sucking banks should follow…oh wait, what is that called again…THE LAW.

      I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if you were booted from your house, your possessions taken and disposed of when a bank didn’t even follow proper procedures (and in some cases they are committing all out forgery). I have a feeling you might look for help from the very gov’t/president you abhor so much if it helped your cause.

      I’m guessing your Fox news channel doesn’t show investigative reporting showing these abuses like a REAL news outlet like NPR does….so I forgive your ignorance.

    • Bongo25 says:

      Are you incapable of reading the original article? You should stop posting on websites until you develop reading comprehension because you’ll notice banks are breaking into people’s houses prior to the foreclosure going through. In many cases, banks are foreclosing upon houses illegally when people aren’t behind on any payments as well.

    • KathleemB says:

      Are you really that much of an asshat, or do you just play one on the internet?

    • JennQPublic says:

      Yes, this story was ENTIRELY about Obama. Glad you are smart enough to read between the lines.

  15. ARP says:

    Simple- put the people who do it in jail and those who approve or request it. Until the home is officially theirs, they’re engaging in burglary and/or conspiracy to commit burglary. Once a few BOA employees go to jail, they might change their minds about their policy.

  16. StB says:

    So the owner stops talking to the bank and then cries when they foreclose? Seems like she should take some responsibility for her actions.

    • deejmer says:

      Scenario: You owe me $20 and I keep calling and asked for it, but you stop answering my calls.

      Your logic: YAY! I can now break into your house and take $20, or hell, anything else I think is worth $20. You didn’t take responsibility so I did it for you. There.

      • tubedogg says:

        Scenario: You stop making payments on your mortgage (more than 45 days past due), and stop returning any communication attempts from your bank. Your house is inspected 3 times over a several day period, at different times of the day, as well as your neighbors are asked if they’ve seen you around lately. They haven’t, and there’s no evidence anyone is still residing in the property. (Personal property is not an indication in and of itself that somebody is still residing there; people abandon stuff all the time when they move out of a house they are abandoning due to foreclosure.) You return from “vacation” two weeks later to find your locks changed and the property winterized (antifreeze in the pipes etc). Was this your fault or the bank’s fault?

        In the vast majority of these cases it’s because the mortgagor has stopped communicating with their bank, and there’s evidence the house is abandoned. Honestly, most people behind on their bills don’t want to talk to their creditors and answer questions like “When are we getting paid?” So they avoid them. Communication from the mortgagor stating “I am living here” stops all this from happening until foreclosure has gone through, even if everything else points to the house being vacant.

        And granted there will still be mistakes, regardless of whatever fines or other punitive measures you impose, because the banks are run by people, and people make mistakes. But the “mistakes” that occur because the mortgagor stopped talking to their bank are not the sole responsibility of the bank.

    • ARP says:

      The house is not theirs until foreclosure is complete. Period.

    • El_Red says:


  17. backinpgh says:

    It’s getting to the point where banks should be required to secure removed belongings in storage for a year in case the owner comes to retrieve the items. They should have to eat that cost since they are effing up so badly.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Agreed! This is one of the few posts in this thread that makes any sense.

    • Froggmann says:

      I know landlords at least in this state need to store your stuff for a short period of time after an eviction I don’t see why it can’t be the same for a foreclosure. After all when it all boils down once you default the bank becomes the landlord and your ass becomes the evicted tenant.

      • Eggman9713 says:

        Same with our state. If you are evicted from a rental unit and either can’t be found or abandoned the property, the landlord has to store your posessions for a couple of months and only then can sell or dispose of them (Anything with personal info on it must be destroyed)

  18. MurderGirl says:

    There’s only one way to stop the banksters, and that is asset forfeiture. RICO the bastards!

  19. AI says:

    Why oh why do criminal laws against robbery exist if not all people committing robbery can be charged with it? The bank robbed a house illegally. If it was the Mafia, the police would find a way to charge the people that physically took the items, as well as Boss for authorizing it. Somehow though, if you replace the word ‘Mafia’ with ‘Bank’ though, the police can do nothing.

  20. jbandsma says:

    They don’t even have to be in foreclosure. I was acting as agent for a friend’s house while she and her husband were stationed elsewhere. The house was unoccupied for less than a week, preparing it for the family’s homecoming, payments were up to date and the bank even had written records of my being agent for the owners, including a copy of the power of attorney.

    They went into the house anyway, changed all the locks, ‘winterized’ it (like you need antifreeze in the the pipes in SC in August) and put up a notice on the door. We had one hell of a time getting the house turned back to them. While there were no furnishings or belongings to remove, the owners got back to find newer appliances had been replaced by old, barely functioning models, the sink missing from the bathroom and the copper stripped out of the heating/ac system…things that had not been done on my last inspection just a day or 2 before they ‘secured’ the property.

  21. oldwiz65 says:

    The banks know full well they can get away with pretty much anything they want. So far we haven’t seen them taking small children and holding them for ransom, but that might be a bit too much for their paid lackeys in Congress to ignore. The banks get away with it due to the millions in dirty money they funnel to most of the reps in Congress plus the people in the agencies that are supposed to oversee them. The banks know that the worst that can happen is an administrative slap on the wrist. They know full well they are immune to criminal prosecution. And by contracting to outsiders, the banks do even more to avoid any kind of legal responsibility for what they are doing; it’s the paid contractors that can get in legal trouble, not the banks.

  22. oldwiz65 says:

    Just makes me wonder if some of these banks are really just fronts for terrorist organizations?

  23. CalicoGal says:

    I’m a little behind in my hard copy magazine reading (damn you Internet!) so I just read this article this morning.
    It is very good and timely given this post…

  24. Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

    In capitalist America, bank robs you!

  25. jjups says:

    Dont worry, this wont stop. The government just had a bank admit to Fraud as a business model. Any arrests, nope. Just a fine. A fine to a bank doesnt do anything, because the consumer ends up paying the fines. Start prosecuting for criminal offenses vs. giving fines and you will finally see accountability.

  26. Hi_Hello says:

    you know when a person steal stuff… they tend to go to jail… instead of fine, can we lock CEOs of company in jail for a few month without access to the outside world?

  27. SilverBlade2k says:

    Someone needs to file a lawsuit so far up their ass that banks have to sell off their office buildings in order to pay for it

  28. Good Cop Baby Cop says:

    I know Mrs. Ash’s story is the least clearcut of the examples given, but it broke my heart the most.

  29. coren says:

    Corporations are people, the courts have said so. Arrest the entire corporation: bank of america is in jail and can’t do business today.

  30. Atticka says:

    If I were her, I would make it my life mission to pursue this to the maximum extent the law allows.

    While not akin to physical rape, an argument can be made that this is the equivalent to emotional rape of the worst kind. She had her private home vandalized and irreplaceable items lost.

    She mentions in the article that she wants to leave this mess behind, stay strong Ms. Ash and fight this to the bitter end and get every last cent you can from the banks!