Foreclosure Error Robs Texas Couple of $150K in Property
A Texas couple whose personal property was mistakenly scooped up in a foreclosure happening next door have yet to get their things back and were told by police that it doesn’t count as theft.
No Fence Can Hold Them Back
When workers from ironically-named Safeguard Properties, an Ohio company, showed up in Taylor, Texas, to ready the house next to Mike Moors’ property for foreclosure, they mistakenly also broke into his barn and took his boat, trailers and backhoe, as well as trunks of items with sentimental value, such as his wife’s wedding dress and the couple’s love letters, according to the Austin-American Statesman.
The Moors’ barn sits on property that is otherwise empty and is separated from his neighbor’s by a fence – or it was, until the workers removed the fence and broke into the barn, taking about $150,000 worth of property from the Moors.
Moors discovered the problem in January and filed a report for theft with the police but was told that because the company was acting in good faith, the case would be closed. “This happens all the time, not that it makes it right, but it is not a crime,” Moors said a detective told him in an email.
Safeguard was hired by CitiMortgage, which foreclosed on the neighboring home. Safeguard has yet to respond to Moors, other than to tell him its insurance company is looking into the matter – not exactly comforting news.
Foreclosure Mistakes Common
Mistakes surrounding foreclosures are actually not uncommon. “Unfortunately, wrongful foreclosures happen on a regular basis,” says Todd Allen, a lawyer with Goede, Adamczyk & DeBoest, PLLC in Naples, Fla.
“The banks and their counsel fail to do proper due diligence in preparing their foreclosure lawsuits,” Allen charges. “As a result, properties are sometimes foreclosed on when the bank didn’t have the right to do so. It often comes down to a paperwork error that is usually caught too late.”
It’s also not uncommon for banks like CitiMortgage to hire “asset protection” contractors, Allen says. “Their job is to go in and secure the property to prevent deterioration or waste. A side component is to empty the house of any personal belongs.”
The problem is the bank has little oversight over such contractors. “I am not aware of any laws or licensing requirements that regulate contractors who perform this type of work,” Allen confesses. “You would hope that the industry would regulate itself to protect their business model, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
So who is actually responsible here? Despite the police’s refusal to get involved and create a criminal action, Allen says the Moors should have a civil cause of action for conversion, or theft, against Safeguard Properties, and even CitiMortgage, if their property is not returned to them.
“The owner can sue for the conversion of their assets,” he explains. “Any lawsuit would undoubtedly include the contractor and the foreclosing entity that hired the contractor.”