The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

East Hanover Homeowner Sues Bank for Illegal Break-In

Returning from a vacation to find one's house burgled and vandalized can be extremely disconcerting. But it's especially upsetting when it turns out that the culprit is homeowner's mortgage lender.

According to a civil lawsuit filed in a Morris County, New Jersey court, the lender hired subcontractors to break into the plaintiff's home. In addition to damage to doors and locks, they ground cigarette buts into the floor and left papers in disarray. They also left a sticker on the door stating that that the house was vacant or abandoned.

Mortgage Lender May Have Jumped the Gun on Foreclosure Proceedings

Lenders bringing foreclosure actions can often get expedited treatment if a house is vacant or abandoned. Yet in this case, the lender had not yet begun a foreclosure proceeding. It also needed to have found that the house had at least two of fourteen characteristics for it to be deemed vacant, e.g. overgrown vegetation, no utilities, accumulated mail, or a lack of window coverings.

The homeowner had lived in his home for forty years but, as a result of a back injury, was sidelined from work and began to fall behind on mortgage payments. Still, he thought he had reached an understanding with his lender. He had agreed to a trial plan, which provided that, if he paid an agreed monthly payment on time for three months, he would receive a mortgage modification afterwards.

Lender Mistakenly Claimed Mortgage Payments Were Late

These mortgage payments were supposed to be deducted automatically from his bank account and, according to the plaintiff, they were on time for the entire trial period. While he was away for a two-week vacation, he called his bank to check on the status of his mortgage modification. They claimed his mortgage payments had not been received. He disputed this and arranged for his bank to send the lender proof that the payments had been made. The lender then acknowledged that they had been received and told him to look for the application materials for his mortgage modification when he returned from vacation.

Instead, he found his house in disorder and wrongly labeled as abandoned.

It is not clear whether a subcontractor hired by the lender to check on the status of the house made a mistake or whether the lender actually ordered the break-in.

Homeowner Declines Bank's Offer to Settle Lawsuit

According to the plaintiff's attorney, the lender offered to settle the litigation out of court, but for an amount the plaintiff did not consider adequate compensation for the damage to his home and the psychological distress and public embarrassment the incident caused.

When dealing with banks seeking to collect payment or foreclose, it is easy to feel powerless, but with an experienced litigator at your side, you can stand your ground. If you are involved in a financial or business dispute that has gotten out of hand, an expert trial attorney may be your best solution.


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