Article Courtesy of The Orlando
By Mary Shanklin
Published November 2, 2014
Brent and Angela
Richards had fallen behind on their house payments and mailed their keys
to their bank in February 2011. Three years later, their foreclosure
case was only recently resolved..
In addition to sending PNC Financial Services Group the keys, the couple
filed for bankruptcy and no longer owed anything on the house. PNC
continued to push to foreclose on them.
"We continued to get phone calls from the mortgage bank and I kept
telling them: 'It's not my home. I have surrendered it,' " Angela
Richards said. "We kept getting harassed."
In frustration, their attorney in June 2011 created a company that was
meant to ridicule PNC: "The Plaintiff in this Action is an Idiot LLC."
The Richardses deeded the house to that company in hopes of severing all
ties to the starter house they purchased for $139,900 in 2004.
"These people just really wanted to do the right thing," said Orlando
attorney John Englehardt, who represented the Richardses.
After three years of legal maneuvers, and more than $12,000 in
attorney's fees, Orange County Circuit Judge A. Thomas Mihok ruled two
weeks ago that PNC bank should remove the couple from the foreclosure
action because they no longer had a connection to the house.
Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of
Consumer Advocates, said banks have been notorious for being difficult
for homeowners to work with during foreclosures.
"How tough can it be to say: 'Hey, I gave you the keys to my house. Now
leave me alone,' " Rheingold said after learning the details of the
"One reason people file bankruptcy is for a fresh start," he added.
"Here's a couple who made the gut-wrenching decision to give up their
home and try to restart their lives and, instead, they have this 'idiot'
bank who won't take no for an answer."
PNC is not a standout among its peers for mishandling foreclosures.
Ocwen Financial, for instance, faces criticism by the New York
Department of Financial Services for missteps including misinforming
homeowners about deadlines to resolve foreclosures.
A spokesperson for PNC said last week that bankruptcy resolves former
homeowners' debt but the bank still has to pursue foreclosure so it can
take title to the property. Tampa attorney Daniel Consuegra represented
PNC in the case against the Richardses; he declined to comment.
Of course, in the Richardses' case, the "Idiot" company had owned the
grayish, 1978 house located just east of Goldenrod Road for three years.
But PNC continued to pursue the Richardses during that time.
For Angela Richards, the judge's recent decision has meant the end of
years of harassing calls from debt-collection companies assigned by
PNC's mortgage servicers.
"I still can't believe the length of time that it took and that it had
to go to that extreme," said Richards, who works for a private
elementary school. "I'm relieved that it is finally done and over with."
Englehardt, who often represents mortgage companies in foreclosure
cases, said lenders have had so many cases that they are ill-equipped to
deal with unusual ones.
"What I was dealing with here, and I see this time and time again, is a
big mortgage company putting into place a system for dealing with
mortgage foreclosures and the system is very rigid," he said. "It leaves
no room for someone to come up with a resolution."