Imagine returning home from vacation and finding your home cleaned out. The thieves grabbed all the furniture, all the gadgets, all the kitchenware, and left you nothing. That’s what happened to an Ohio woman recently, and the police are refusing to help.
That’s because the perpetrator was First National Bank. Except Katie Barnett was not behind on her payments; the bank just repossessed the wrong house.
Fair enough. Mistakes happen. The bank is going to pay her back though, right?
The housing crisis has generated all manner of outrage and gnashing of teeth. Municipalities and pension funds were swindled, homes were lost, and taxpayers had to bail out the very entities that helped the crisis spiral out of control. But robbing (OK, burglaring, I’m being colloquial) completely unsuspecting bystanders is a new low:
Katie Barnett says that the First National Bank in Wellston foreclosed on her house, even though it was not her bank.
“They repossessed my house on accident, thinking it was the house across the street,” Barnett said.
Barnett, who had been away from the house for about two weeks, said she had to crawl through the window of her own house in order to get in after she used her own key that did not work.
Some of the items in her house had been hauled away, others were sold, given away and trashed.
How can something like this happen:
It turns out the bank sent someone to repossess the house located across the street from Barnett’s house, but by mistake broke into hers instead.
“They told me that the GPS led them to my house,” Barnett said. “My grass hadn’t been mowed and they just assumed.”
Damn you Apple Maps! Seriously though, this is why banks should only work with quality repossession agencies like Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation. Anyone get that? Pat yourself on the back.
I get why the police backed off the case — the bank made a mistake and presumably would set things right. Except the bank considered that, and opted for cartoonish supervillainy instead:
Barnett said that according to the bank president, this was the first time something like this has happened.
She presented him with an $18,000 estimate to replace the losses, but the president refused to pay.
“He got very firm with me and said, ‘We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,’” Barnett said. “I did not tell them to come in my house and make me an offer. They took my stuff and I want it back.”
The shock of having her house broken into and belongings taken by mistake has now turned into anger.
“Now, I’m just angry,” Barnett said. “It wouldn’t be a big deal if they would step up and say ‘I’m sorry, we will replace your stuff.’ Instead, I’m getting attitude from them. They’re sarcastic when they talk to me. They make it sound like I’m trying to rip the bank off. All I want is my stuff back.”
Apparently, the bank thinks it lives in the world of The Purge. But no, you can’t steal people’s stuff and get away with it. This story is the most bipartisan thing ever, with DailyKos and The Blaze getting riled up over it.
Now an observer might be tempted to say, “Well, the bank has a right to protect itself from someone making an inflated estimate of the damages,” and that’s fair. Except that’s not what the guy is quoted as saying. When he says, “We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,” he’s recognizing that the estimate accurately reflects replacement value and claiming that the bank is not willing to pay to replace the stuff they stole.
It’s all about not making the victim whole.
But the worst thing about this story is that it’s not as rare as one would hope:
Sadly, stories like this are all too common. In September 2012, subcontractors hired by Wells Fargo mistakenly foreclosed on the wrong home in California, destroying a man’s vacation home in the process.
A review of court records in 2012 by The Huffington Post revealed more than 50 lawsuits have been filed against banks and subcontractors who have entered and “foreclosed” on the wrong properties. Most of the suits are tied to two largest property management contractors in the U.S.: Safeguard Properties and Lender Processing Services.
Meanwhile, a petition has started to demand that the bank pay her back.