Foreclosure is a stressful period in any homeowner’s life. The feelings of uncertainty that come with not knowing if they will be allowed to keep their homes, plus the embarrassment that is felt by many takes an emotional toll on them. Still, some very unlucky homeowners experience an added shock when they try to enter their homes and find out the bank has changed the locks. Is it right for homeowners with homes under foreclosure to be without a place to live in before the foreclosure is complete? The answer is no. Working with a Miami foreclosure defense attorney is essential to avoid these unfortunate situations. He will ensure you know your rights as a homeowner and defend those rights.
Why Would a Bank Change the Locks?
A homeowner has the right to live in their home throughout the entire foreclosure process. Even after the foreclosure is completed, if the property is still occupied — the occupants have to be evicted before the bank can take over the house and change the locks. There is only one exception, which is that mortgages often have a clause that gives the bank the authority to secure a property that has been abandoned. A home is collateral on the loan used to buy it, so in the case of abandonment, the bank will most likely take over the home in order to protect its value.
The Property Is Secured
A bank should verify that a house is vacant before taking steps to protect the property’s value. These are some of the standard practices:
- Change the locks of the house so that only authorized individuals will be able to enter the premises.
- Remove everything left inside the property. All personal effects that do not add value to the property will be thrown away.
- Winterize the property. The property will be prepared for cold weather conditions; often, the waterlines are drained.
- If the property is not in a good state, the bank might make structural repairs on the house.
These steps are taken to prepare the property for sale. By making these modifications, they maintain or increase the home’s value and prevent more serious and expensive problems from occurring in the future. What if the house had not been abandoned? Such drastic actions by the bank will negatively affect homeowners.
The House Is Deemed Abandoned
How can a bank declare a property vacant if the homeowners are still living in the house? This inconvenient and at times terrifying situation happens for a few reasons. When a homeowner stops paying their mortgage and drops contact with their loan servicer, the bank will want to check if the house is inhabited or not. Loan services hire a field services company to determine if the property is occupied or vacant. The final decision can be subjective.
For instance, a homeowner is out of town for a while and the property is not maintained properly. The field servicer will see signs of inactivity such as overgrown grass, unpruned hedges, and a dirty exterior, and come to the conclusion that house is no longer occupied. However, field servicer do not always make innocent mistakes. Field service companies are not only responsible for determining if a property is inhabited, they are also in charge of changing the locks and removing the property from abandoned homes. So, they have an incentive to say a house is abandoned even if it is not.
The Homeowners Take Action
Most banks send correspondence to homeowners warning that they have hired a field servicer company to check on their property. Homeowners must not ignore this message since the field servicer will not always make the correct call. Contact the loan servicer immediately by calling and mailing a physical letter informing them that the house is occupied.
If a bank’s takeover of a house was not prevented in time, homeowners must take these steps to assert their rights.
- Break Off the Bank’s Locks
If a homeowner has been locked out of his home, he has the right to break the bank’s locks and replace them because it is still his property.
- Call their Loan Servicer
Homeowners must inform their loan servicer that they are still living in the house and demand that they treat it as an occupied property, not an abandoned one.
- Call the Field Services Company
Field service companies sometimes leave contact information at properties they deemed vacant. Homeowners must call the company and tell them of their mistake.
- Get an experienced Miami foreclosure defense attorney
Foreclosure entails a stressful and complicated legal process that homeowners should not attempt to handle on their own. It takes expertise to skillfully respond to surprise situations like a homeowner being locked out of his home. If you are interested in learning how our experienced team at Graham Legal can help you through foreclosure while protecting your rights, give us a call for a free consultation.