Couple's paid-off home foreclosed mistakenly

SafeGuard Properties sued in 31 states for "legalized burglary"

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – A Broward County couple wants answers from the bank that foreclosed on their home mistakenly.

The couple returned from New York to find their locks had been changed and some of their stuff was gone. But it turns out the whole thing was a mistake.

"I said, 'Mel, we've been robbed.' We couldn't believe what had happened," said homeowner Harriett.

Mel and Harriet said they still feel violated three weeks after realizing someone broke into their home. But it wasn't burglars that broke in, it was the bank.

When they returned to their home a lock box was on the door, the power was turned of, stickers were all over their stuff and the kitchen was cleaned out.

The snowbirds then discovered their Coconut Creek townhome had been foreclosed in December.

"I was shocked, totally shocked," Mel said. "Why? We haven't had a mortgage in 15 years."

Harriet called the number on the sticker and learned the company hired by the bank to take over the property got the wrong address.

"They said, 'Miss, you're not on our list.' I said, 'Obviously I'm not on your list, you shouldn't have been in my house,'" Harriet said.

The company, SafeGuard Properties, of Valley View, Ohio, is one of the biggest players in the foreclosure game, hired by most big banks to take back homes in default.

But it's still unclear how this happened. The couple's unit number in the Karanda Village complex isn't even close to the one workers were supposed to take over.

The actual unit the bank was looking for is about six buildings down from where Mel and Harriet live, and once they realized the mistake they put a lock box on the correct unit as well.

"It should have been evident to that company that this was not an abandoned property," said Attorney Scott Sobol.

Sobol calls this foreclosure foul up "legalized burglary," and it turns out Safeguard has been accused of making the same mistake before. In fact, according to The Huffington Post, homeowners in 31 states, and the Attorney General of Illinois, have sued the company for unlawful break-ins.

The company is accused of hiring unscrupulous sub-contractors to do its dirty work.

"When you're coming to take over someone's house, you should make sure you're in the right place," Sobol said. "It's not like this company was coming to deliver flowers, they were coming to take over this property."

"Safeguard has acknowledged the error and has been working with the homeowner to resolve it," a spokeswoman for SafeGuard said in a statement. "Errors such as this are rare, and we are sorry when they occur."

The couple said their home still smells like must from being without power for six weeks, and they're concerned about mold, but mostly, they're embarrassed. After a lifetime paying their bills on time they're dealing with a foreclosure.

"We are very much embarrassed by these stickers and I would like our neighbors to know that we've done nothing wrong," Mel said.

The couple is still calculating their losses and working with SafeGuard Properties to settle the matter without filing a lawsuit.

SafeGuard declined to tell Local 10 which local contractor it hired to seize the property but says it's conducting a thorough review of the situation and will take appropriate corrective action.