Karl and Vicktoria Hanson thought their foreclosure nightmare was long over. It may be just beginning.
The Hansons say they thought they lost their Plant City home to foreclosure and that the bank owned it now. They moved out years ago and say what they believed to be the final foreclosure document arrived a year ago.
They recently applied for another loan, and when they pulled their credit report, they leaned they still own their old house after all. They found they owe the mortgage to a company called Green Tree Servicing LLC.
"We were absolutely stunned," Karl Hanson said. "We had never heard of Green Tree Servicing."
That's bad enough, but it got worse when the Hansons went to check on the home that is still technically theirs. They found graffiti, holes in walls and snarky messages left by vandals. The place was trashed. The marble fireplace was splattered with paint and vandals had cut holes in the walls and ripped out copper wiring.
The Hansons raised four children in the house. Seeing it this way is depressing.
"It's really sad," Karl Hanson said. "The yard was just perfect, and all the paths through there was beautiful gardens. The fish ponds with the fish in it. It was really, really nice."
So how does this happen?
The Hansons say they moved out of the house when they could no longer afford the payments and Bank of America filed for foreclosure. They say there was no way they could keep the house and they didn't feel right living there without paying. They did, however, keep an eye on the home and made sure it was secure. But when they thought the bank finally finished the foreclosure process last year, they stopped dropping by the home.
The Hansons called 8 On Your Side, and we discovered that instead of foreclosing, Bank of America sold the loan last June to Green Tree Servicing. That means the Hansons still own their old house, and they're still on the hook for the mortgage and past-due fees.
Brent Lindahl, of Green Tree Servicing LLC, said the mix-up was due to confusion during the transfer from Bank of America. He said Green Tree does not intentionally drag its feet on foreclosure actions. Lindahl says the lender did try to notify the Hansons that it had purchased the loan but sent the notification to the property address, and that's likely why the couple didn't see it.
Lindahl said Green Tree is willing to work out a deal with the Hansons to either foreclose quickly or short sale the property. He said the lender will not require the couple to pay a deficiency judgment. Sometimes lenders sue former homeowners and force them to pay for the difference between a short sale sales price and the loan amount.
Now the home is trashed, worth much less, and much harder to sell. The Hansons hired attorney Stephen Hachey to help negotiate a deal with green tree and sell the house. The liability, he said, could be a bigger issue than the past-due mortgage.
"Because they are the owner of that property, they are liable for any acts that may occur on that property," said Hachey.
The Hansons didn't understand the foreclosure process, and they're not alone.
"We get calls daily from people who, like the Hansons, they went to apply for a new loan for a new property and the lender pulls up this credit report and says, ‘Hey, you still own this property’," Hachey said.
The bottom line here is that a foreclosure isn't over until a judge says it is. Homeowners shouldn't abandoned homes until they are sure they no longer own them, Hachey said.
In this case, Hanson admits he made mistakes but still wonders why the bank never notified him the foreclosure stalled.
"I still cannot understand what the end game is for the bank to have it drag on for years and years and years," Hanson said. "It makes no sense to me."