Bank foreclosing mistake begs for restitution

“Hey, we said we were sorry, OK?”

A month later, it still doesn’t make much sense to Ohio resident Katie Barnett.

Barnett took a vacation in June, and came back to find an empty house. She found out who emptied it, and the guilty party has confessed. But no arrests have been made, and no charges are pending. That’s because Barnett made the mistake of having her house next to another house that was supposed to be foreclosed on by a bank.

Instead, it was Barnett with a house foreclosed on by a bank she’d never used. About six weeks later, Barnett has been given an apology, but only a partial offer to return everything to normal and help her buy new items to replace what she lost — now unrecoverable because the bank either trashed, sold or gave away each item it removed from the house.

She’s asked for $18,000, and is being offered replacement value — provided she meets impossible criteria.

“(They) demanded that I had receipts for all my stuff that they threw away,” Barnett said. “And I said, ‘Well, you know first of all, I don’t have receipts for all of my stuff. I wasn’t (expecting) a bank to come and to accidentally repossess my house and throw it all away. And second, if I did, where do you think it would be? In my house with all my belongings?”

It’s safe to say the bank was negligent in its methodology of foreclosing, as the bank president blamed the mistake on a GPS routing error.

I’m not willing to transfer this complaint on to Apple Maps, because the bank probably keeps a list with addresses for properties it owns, and the numbers on the document should match the numbers on the house. Bottom line, if you’re going to clear out 100 percent of a house, you should be 100 percent sure it’s the right house.

Maybe the bank is getting pushed around by its liability insurance provider as well, but Barnett shouldn’t be the one to pay for their argument.

I haven’t mentioned the bank’s name, though it’s pretty easy to find on a web search, because the laxity of foreclosure laws have led to numerous banks foreclosing on the wrong house.

And sometimes, we let banks be lazy, to the detriment of the public. Detroit’s bankruptcy filing told us that half of Detroit property owners didn’t pay property taxes, but missing from many explanations was the role of bank “walkaways” — processes by which banks start foreclosure proceedings by kicking the property owners out, but then not bother to tell anybody they’re not going to finish what they started. By not finishing the process, they don’t take on the responsibilities of land maintenance and property taxes, leaving the latter to the original landowner. Tell me what response you’d expect from a person who gets a tax bill for a place he’s not allowed to occupy.

This is the problem with the, “Corporations are people, my friend,” argument: When people come into your house without your permission, remove all of your stuff and then haggle with you over the price tag, law enforcement doesn’t just tell you it’s a civil matter. People are arrested. People are put on trial. People are required to pay full restitution.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by

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