Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mortgage companies not good neighbors make

My wife, Vicky, and I live on a brick street shaded by massive silver maples in a city of approximately 6,000 people in northern Ohio. Apart from the silver maples, which occasionally shed a huge limb and crush a car during a storm, peace and tranquility reign in our neighborhood of 70- to 90-year-old, wood-frame homes. Several of our neighbors use lawn service companies to maintain their properties, but most of them do their own mowing and cleanups. The lots are small, some as small as 50 X 100 ft., so there generally isn’t much to mow or maintain.

The property adjacent to our property, however, is twice the size of ours, and one of the worst eyesores in the city. The couple that lived there for more than 30 years is gone. The woman died of heart failure perhaps five years ago, and her husband suffered a stroke three years ago and was placed in the county home by his children. We miss them. They were good neighbors. Nobody has lived in the home since, and that's the heart of the problem.

Nobody apart from the neighbor on the other side of the property and myself have mowed the lawn, trimmed the shrubs or removed the weeds since then. We shared this chore for more than two years. For all practical purposes the house and property seemed to have been forgotten. Apart from a “for sale” sign placed in the front yard of the property for several months the first year of the home’s vacancy, there’s been no activity there. None. That was until this past April when a contractor showed up and informed us, the nearest neighbors, that he had been hired by a mortgage company (he wouldn’t tell us the name of the company) to maintain the property. He gave us a phone number to call if anything, such as vandalism, happened to the property.

He also informed us that his company had been contracted to mow and maintain 600 properties, most of them, we surmised from our brief conversation, wards of banks or mortgage companies.

He also informed us NOT to mow the property anymore.

“The mortgage company doesn’t want ANYONE on the property,” he said as friendly as he could.

More than six weeks later, nobody has mowed the property, that is apart from a scout leader and his son, who cut the front yard two weeks ago, an act of community service. Even they viewed mowing the back of the property, trimming overgrown hedges and cutting down the huge weeds growing alongside the property’s fence and house as more of a job than they cared to tackle.

When we called the number given to us by the contractor to report a gutter falling from the house and also the disintegrating condition of the property, we were assured both would be taken care of. The lady answering our call again warned us NOT to mow or ENTER the property. And no, she would not tell us the name of the mortgage company responsible for the home.

If you’re a contractor and you’ve read this far, share your experiences in maintaining foreclosed properties owned by banks or mortgage companies.

Has it been a profitable experience? Or a pain you know where?? — Ron Hall


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