‘Better Call Behnken’ helps sort out mortgage mess surrounding dilapidated house

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) — Residents in Palm Harbor’s Baywood Village want an abandoned, dilapidated house gone. But, the house has been stuck in foreclosure limbo for years, and now it’s stuck in demo limbo.

The homeowner, Bonnie Post, told Better Call Behnken that she turned the home back over to the bank. She says she gave permission last year for the county to tear it down and does not understand why the county and the bank don’t take action.

“I just assumed they were going to take responsibility for tearing it down, like they said they would,” Post said, pointing out that she gave permission last year for the county to move ahead with demolition.”

But, court documents show that Post, after she abandoned the home, hired an attorney and fought the foreclosure for years. Her case was dismissed in 2013, but she did not move back or start taking care of the home. Instead, she moved to another house in Palm Harbor. She fought a foreclosure there too, and won that case as well.

Her old neighbors near the dilapidated home on Westwinds Drive are furious.

County officials tell Better Call Behnken they want to tear the house down because it is not only an eyesore, but now neighbors claim it is dangerous and has rats. But, Pinellas County Code Enforcement Director Todd Myers says the county has not been able to obtain approval from the lender involved with this home. That has residents fuming.

“The home is worth nothing, so it’s only land value. So, I would think they would want to tear it down and get out of it what they could,” said Diane Gray, who lives across the street and said the abandoned home is driving down her property value.

This house has been empty and decaying for years after owner Post left and stopped paying her mortgage.

Myers said he did get permission a year ago from both Post and Bank of America. But then, he contends the bank changed its mind.


SEE HOW ‘BETTER CALL BEHNKEN’ HAS HELPED OTHERS-


“It is difficult because it makes our job more difficult, it is what brought you here to talk to me today,” Myers said.

So, we called the bank for answers and things got even more confusing. A bank spokesman says another bank is servicing the loan, and it’s unclear which lender gets to make this big decision. The spokesman called back later to say it may not even be necessary for the bank to grant permission.

The bank did promise to keep investigating this situation to find out what can be done to help these residents.

On Friday, bank Spokesman Rick Simon sent this statement to Better Call Behnken:

“Bank of America is committed to working with the county, Ms. Post and the subservicer that manages her mortgage toward resolution of this situation within the next 30 to 60 days. Given the complexity of the situation — including the dismissal of the foreclosure, the property owner’s apparent disinterest in the property, legal requirements and other considerations — it is not a process that can be completed in a day or even a week, or be completed by the bank alone.

“Without title to the property, which would have been gained if the foreclosure had been completed, neither the bank nor the subservicer has legal standing to grant approval for demolition. Unless the county pursues a demolition order, any resolution likely will require participation and cooperation of all of the mentioned parties working with the interest of the community at heart in the coming weeks.

“Since this story was brought to Bank of America’s attention two days ago, we have begun collecting information from the subservicer regarding the status of the account and the property, and have ordered a review of the current condition and value of the property.

Once this information is collected in the coming week, we should be in a better position to explore options that might be available and open discussions with the necessary parties. We pledge to move forward toward resolution as quickly as possible under the circumstances, and appreciate the community’s patience as we work through a complex situation.”

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