The housing crisis has gotten so bad, even solvent homeowners are feeling the effects.
Despite the economys recent modest strides, over 13% of homeowners are currently behind on their mortgages. And as more and more consumers default, confused banks occasionally find themselves foreclosing on the wrong house.
Thats what happened to 46-year-old Pittsburgh resident Angela Iannelli, who came home last October to find her front door padlocked. Once she finally got inside -- with the help of a bolt cutter -- she discovered that her house had been ransacked, power and water lines had been cut, floors and furniture had been damaged, and antifreeze had been poured in sink drains and toilets.
As Iannelli later discovered, Bank of America incorrectly identified her property as vacant and in default, and sent in a contractor to lock and clean out the house.
But worse, Luke was gone.
Iannelli searched the whole house, but to no avail: the contractor who secured the property had also snatched up her beloved 11-year-old blue macaw. It would be a week before Iannelli was reunited with her feathered friend.
Adding insult to injury, Bank of America was less than helpful.
When Iannelli called to complain, the bank initially told her it didnt know where Luke was. When it finally relented, it told her that she could pick up the bird from the contractor -- 80 miles away. Unsatisfied, Iannelli kept calling back, until the bank told her it was tired of her calls and suggested that she contact the police.
Iannelli has predictably filed suit, and is seeking upwards of $50,000 in damages. Her complaint, filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, says that Bank of America improperly told Snyder Property Services to enter, seize, padlock, winterize and take possession of the house, and that the banks de facto foreclosure process and seizure proceedings have caused her severe emotional distress, embarrassment and ridicule.
If you or I had done to Bank of America what Bank of America did to my client wed be in prison for 10 years, said attorney Michael Rosenzweig of Pittsburgh-based Edgar Snyder & Associates, who is representing Iannelli.
The situation is bad enough by itself, but Bank of America is facing suits from three other homeowners who allege their houses were wrongfully seized.
One couple who paid cash for their Florida vacation home found the door padlocked and the electricity shut off, causing the pipes to freeze. A Texas plaintiff also had his power shut off, meaning that the 75 pounds of salmon and halibut he had frozen in anticipation of a Halloween party was, shall we say, less than fresh.
A contrite Bank of America spokesman said the company has zero tolerance for events like those that spurred the suit, and promised that the bank will quickly review the allegations in the lawsuit, the actual events that led to them and the causes of those events, and consider any hardship that resulted.