There have been several recent reports in the media and Blogosphere of lenders and squatters gaining access to Northwest homes vacated through the foreclosure process: AG’s Office Investigating Squatters; The Lafayette Report – Legal Alert; Bend Foreclosures on the Rise.
The justification provided by lenders may be that they received a report that the property was vacant and unsecured and that they were simply securing the property by changing the locks, winterizing and safeguarding the home from property damage, vandalism and theft. Squatters are merely seizing upon the misfortune of others.
As stated by attorney Brian McLean from Leahy, P.S. in a LinkedIn discussion on the topic, “Common language in deeds of trust permit the lender (within reason) to enter and suspect property secured by a deed of trust. The lender may also change locks where the owner has failed to perform as covenanted (for example, keep payments up-to-date). Such an approach seems reasonable when the property ‘appears’ abandoned.
Regardless of who or why persons other than deed holders are entering, altering or residing in homes, the issue should be on the radar screen of homeowner associations. Since the owner has vacated the premises and likely has no further contact with the home, the homeowner association board or manager may be the only person or entity with knowledge of the activity. If a manager or board notices activity at a vacant home under foreclosure, they should make immediate inquiry. The association’s actions are not entirely altruistic, as they could result in better preservation of the property and a quicker conveyance–both resulting in higher income to the association via payment of monthly assessments.