When Jason Grodensky bought his modest Fort Lauderdale home last December, he paid cash. But seven months later, he was surprised to learn that Bank of America had foreclosed on the house, even though Grodensky did not have a mortgage.
Grodensky knew nothing about the foreclosure until July, when he learned that the title to his home had been transferred to a government-backed lender. "I feel like I'm hanging in the wind and I'm scared to death," said Grodensky. "How did some attorney put through a foreclosure illegally?"
Bank of America has acknowledged the error and will correct it at its own expense, said spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens.
Grodensky's story and other tales of foreclosure mistakes started popping up recently across South Florida. This week, GMAC Mortgage -- one of the nation's largest mortgage servicers and a major mortgage lender -- told real estate agents to stop evicting residents and suspend sales of properties that had been taken from homeowners in foreclosure. The company said it might have to "correct" some of its foreclosures, but was not halting those in process.
In Florida courts, which have been swamped with foreclosure cases for several years, mistakes "happen all the time," said foreclosure defense attorney Matt Weidner in St. Petersburg. "It's just not getting reported."
And the legal efforts required to resolve a foreclosure mistake are complicated. "Unwrapping it is like unwrapping Fort Knox," said Carol Asbury, a Fort Lauderdale foreclosure attorney. "It's very difficult."
The process is under increasing scrutiny, as Florida's court system struggles with the mountain of cases that have resulted from the housing crisis.
Grodensky said he spent months trying to figure out what happened, but said his questions to Bank of America and to the law firm Florida Default Law Group that handled the foreclosure have not been answered. Florida Default Law Group could not be reached for comment, despite several attempts by phone and e-mail. Grodensky said he has filed a claim with his title insurance company, but that, too, has not resulted in any action.
It wasn't until last week, when Grodensky brought his problem to the attention of the Sun Sentinel, that it began to be resolved.
"It looks like it was a mistake in communication between us and the attorneys handling the foreclosure," said Bauwens.
Court records show Countrywide Home Loans filed a foreclosure case in Broward County civil court against the former owner of the home on Southwest 14th Street in 2008. Bank of America took over Countrywide at the end of that year.
The following year, Grodensky and his father Steven bought the house for cash as an investment property. Jason Grodensky's brother Kenny Sloan lives in the house now. They negotiated a short sale, which means the lender agreed to accept less than the mortgage amount. Documents show the sale proceeds were wired to Bank of America. The sale was recorded in December 2009 at the Broward County Property Appraiser's Office.
But in court, the foreclosure case continued, the records show. There was a motion to dismiss the case in July, followed the next day by a motion to re-open it. A court-ordered foreclosure sale took place July 15. The property appraiser's office recorded the transfer of the title to the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) the same day.
Bauwens said the lender would go back to court to rescind the foreclosure sale.