Orlando foreclosure battle spurs 'Idiot' company

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

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 case.

"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."