Family mistakenly locked out of home even though mortgage payments current

State foreclosure rules overlooked

INDIANAPOLIS - A Hamilton County family is taking legal action after they were locked out of their Carmel townhouse.

Michael, who is father of three and husband, asked RTV6 not publish his last name.

His family has lived at 11889 Esty Way for 10 years until April, when they decided to move to a bigger home and rent out their townhouse.

Michael found a tenant, but he was forced to refund the money when their townhouse was locked and the utilities were turned off. 

"Our lender changed the locks on us," Michael said.

A notice was left on the Esty Way townhouse from Safeguard Properties, a company that works with mortgage lenders in securing homes being returned to the banks.

Safeguard's posting alerted the family that, "all persons entering this property (must) provide an explanation of their visit, sign and date the form."

Michael was locked out, even though his bank statements show he is current with his mortgage and his loan doesn't mature until 2033.

"That's the glitch. That's the problem and that's why we're hoping you can help," Michael told Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez. "We try to do everything honestly on the up and up. It's been very stressful. It's been hard."

The family hired lawyer Kathy Davis to deal with their mortgage servicer Green Tree Financial.

"The woman told me -- this is something that I will never forget, honestly -- she told me that they were the mortgage company, and if they wanted to change your locks, they could," Davis said.

Davis has handled more than 100 cases involving mortgage companies.

"This is something I have never heard of, ever," she said. "(It's the) first time I've seen something like this."

Davis has filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County seeking damages.

The family was unable to regain access into their property until late June.

"In this case, I don't know if they don't want to admit they made a mistake," Davis said.

Green Tree Financial and Safeguard Properties declined to comment on this story due to the pending litigation.

The state's Homeowner Protection Unit, which investigates such situations, had yet to receive a complaint from the family, but it wants consumers to know that they have rights.

"You are not at the whim of the bank," said State Deputy Attorney General Jenny Bellar.

Under state law, a homeowner must get 30 days' notice before a foreclosure is filed in court, and lenders must tell their customer that free foreclosure counseling is available.

After a foreclosure is filed, a homeowner has 30 days to request a settlement conference -- a one-on-one exchange with the lender with the goal of coming up with a resolution.

The eviction process begins only after a foreclosure sale.
"A lot of consumers want to ignore the legal process, hope it goes away, but it doesn't go away," Bellar said.

The Call 6 Investigators found foreclosure fiascos that caused headaches and heartaches around the country.

In 2009, a Kansas City, Kan., man was notified his home was in foreclosure though he was current and his loan was up in 2032.

In 2010, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home was foreclosed even though the owner did not have a mortgage.

In 2012, a California couple was distraught when a bank subcontractor removed all valuables to satisfy the foreclosure. The wrong home was targeted.

More information: Read Indiana's foreclosure laws

Follow Rafael Sanchez on Twitter: @rafaelontv  | Facebook: RafaelSanchezNews

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