Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When the house burglar is your bank


By Huro Kitty/Flickr
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
We’ve reported before about robo-signing of foreclosures – banks moving to repossess homes automatically - without properly reviewing the case. But what the New York Times is reporting today is pretty amazing.
According to the paper, homes, including those that have been paid off, have been mistakenly repossessed by banks. Who have then broken into the houses, tossed out all the owner’s possessions and have changed the locks. All without first notifying them that they were being evicted.
The story gives an example of a woman who went to the family’s vacation chalet only to find everything – including the ashes of her deceased husband – discarded. She had been behind in her mortgage payments – but was trying to get a loan modification when her property was seized.
She’s now suing Bank of America. But is this the best way to hold a bank accountable?
If the neighborhood junkie breaks into one’s home and steals the jewelry and the TV, the cops will try to arrest him an and put him in jail. But how do you arrest a bank?
This opens a whole new set of arguments with regard to the Citizens United case – in which the Supreme Court ruled that, when it comes to First Amendment rights, corporations are like people.
Well, maybe they do have rights like people. But, then, what about theirresponsibilities?
If one is to argue that financial compensation satisfies those whose homes have been snatched away from them – their personal belongings tossed out – why then do we throw criminals in prison? Why not just make them compensate their victims like the banks?
Cases like these should be enough to remind judges that repossessions should not be handled pro-forma. The courts are there to protect the rights of us all. Not just the banks. Judges have to be ever vigilant to ensure that the process that led to people losing their homes was proper – and not just take the word of the financial institution. If they don’t – abuses like this will continue.
Gary Baumgarten is the news and programming director at the Paltalk News Network.

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