For families in Long Island, foreclosures are a scary prospect, but some homeowners have been faced with an even more frightening scenario. A recent lawsuit in Illinois alleges that many individuals have been illegally harassed during evictions by subcontractors representing their lenders.
The Bank’s Side
As the economy has declined over the last several years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of foreclosures. Some families would fall behind on their mortgage payments and move out of their home, leaving it vacant and subject to deterioration and vandals. In an effort to maintain the value of the properties, banks hire property management firms to deal with the problems common to vacant homes. These firms then subcontract the actual work to smaller companies. The subcontractors first determine if the house is still occupied. If it is vacant, they then change the locks, winterize the property, and take care of other necessary maintenance.
This system tempts contractors to act dishonestly, however: because a vacant home will result in additional work for the contractor, he has a financial motivation to ignore evidence of occupancy. However, both the banks and the property management firms claim to exercise strict oversight to prevent this built-in bias from affecting their work.
The Homeowner’s Side
Unfortunately, families facing Long Island foreclosures or foreclosures in other parts of the country have a different story to tell. Homeowners recount incidents where obvious signs of occupancy were ignored and a property was incorrectly declared to be vacant. They report having their homes broken into and personal property destroyed or discarded. Others claim that they were told that they must leave their homes immediately, even though they were still in the midst of the foreclosure process.
A recent $26 billion settlement between 49 states and five major banks, called the National Mortgage Settlement, has direct bearing on this situation. Although the case that precipitated the settlement dealt with banks’ oversight of their foreclosure lawyers, the terms of the settlement require lenders to carefully monitor the activities of all of their third-party vendors. These vendors, of course, would include property management firms and their subcontractors.
If you are being harassed in this way by a property management firm or their representative, you do have legal recourse. Even though you have fallen behind in your mortgage payments and become involved in the Long Island foreclosures process, you should not be prematurely forced out of your home. Contact the law office of David Witkon today for a free consultation about your situation and your available options.