Stripping foreclosed home can lead to a lawsuit

A client called to say that he just moved out of his home in foreclosure and, on the way out,  he took the following:  Stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer.  Not satisfied with taking just these items, he disconnected and hauled away the exterior air conditioning  and put that big whopper in a storage locker. He had moved all the way across the country, so he really had no use for any of this stuff and it struck me as kind of excessive. His lender thought so too.

The reason for the client’s call to me was that his lender had called demanding  the  a.c.  be returned and threatening to file an insurance claim on his homeowner’s policy if it wasn’t returned. I told him to return the a.c.

Increasingly, lenders  will file claims against an owner’s homeowner’s policy if a home in foreclosure is stripped of fixtures. The lender is an additional insured on the insurance policy and is entitled to payment.  Homeowners need to be careful about this because after the insurance company pays the claim, the insurance company will sue the homeowner for the money it paid out.

Generally, it’s okay to take appliances like washer, dryer, refrigerator or stove. When I arrange “cash for keys” agreements for clients at the end of foreclosures, the lender will usually allow the owner to take these appliances along. But taking a furnace, a.c. unit or kitchen cabinets from a home in foreclosure is crossing the line and should not be done unless you want to be lit up with a lawsuit later.

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