Attorneys for Dimitri Jansen, a local schoolteacher whose former home in North Port is in foreclosure, said such the contempt order against Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, is “unprecedented.”
Jansen says his mother’s name was mistakenly added to the mortgage he obtained in 2006, that the bank has ignored requests to remove her name from the foreclosure documents and thus wrecked her credit history, and that the bank held up a pending short sale.
Another Sarasota judge, apparently frustrated with U.S. Bank, had ordered the bank’s president to be present in court on Friday. The bank instead sent a senior representative, who declined to comment.
Sarasota Circuit Court Judge Charles Williams found the bank in indirect civil contempt. It is unclear what, if any, sanctions the bank will face at the next court hearing in February 2013.
“Fundamentally, they refused to respect the court,” Jansen’s attorney, Matt Weidner, said of U.S. Bank. “What this shows is willful negligence.”
Like many other foreclosure cases throughout the country, Jansen’s is a tale of paperwork mistakes.
In addition to his regular mortgage, Jansen applied for an additional $10,000 loan that is designed to be forgiven if the homeowner stays in the house for 30 years, through a special state program for teachers. BB&T, the original lender, told him he had to have a co-signer on that loan.
The bank reversed course a couple of months later, saying they were mistaken about the need for a co-signer and that Jansen’s mother was not eligible to sign anyway because she was not going to be living in the home. Jansen signed new mortgage paperwork and the loan was later sold to U.S. Bank.
The home went into foreclosure in 2007 after Jansen was laid off. Jansen believes that when the mortgage was sold, the old paperwork with his mother’s name on it went into the file, resulting in confusion.
After two years of fighting, U.S. Bank agreed in 2009 to a court order to remove Jansen’s mother’s name from the documents.
Jansen negotiated a short sale for the home in August, but when he contacted the bank, he was told his mother was still on the mortgage documents and she would have to sign off on the sale. The requirement from the bank has held up the short sale, Jansen said, and the family that is waiting to move in.
He will also have to pay taxes on the property if the sale does not go through before the end of the year.
Jansen said the case has been hard on his elderly mother, and they have had difficulty getting credit agencies to remove the blemish from her record. He was not surprised the president of U.S. Bank did not appear in court on Friday.
“That’s really the attitude that they’ve conveyed throughout the last five years, that they’re not responsible for anything,” Jansen said of the bank.
In court documents, the bank argued that it would be “logistically impossible” for the president to appear in court.
Jansen’s attorneys called the judge’s decision a victory for homeowners in foreclosure who have been victimized by banks.
“It’s unusual for a court to hold an institution in civil contempt,” said Elizabeth Boyle, an attorney with Gulfcoast Legal Services. “But it’s appropriate in this case because of the lawless actions of the bank.”