There is a house on a busy corner at the entrance to my neighborhood that has been vacant for 6 or 7 years, and it is becoming a disaster.
At one point it was a nice ranch, but the family that lived there moved out and apparently walked away from the mortgage.
Since then, the house has fallen into significant disrepair, the deck falling off the house, most of the wooden fence falling down. The lawn is mowed once a month at best in the summer by a contractor hired by the bank, the fence only recently repaired haphazardly. Last winter someone broke in.
Last week, my wife and I were driving into the neighborhood when we saw a woman in the yard taking pictures. Being the pain-in-the-rear that I am, I stopped and got out to talk to her. Could the house finally be going on the market? Would the neighborhood eyesore finally be addressed?
Not anytime soon, it seems. The woman said she was taking pictures for the "bank" to document the condition of the home. She said she was not aware of any plans to sell it. I ranted a bit and asked her to let her employer know that those of us in the neighborhood were sick of looking at this dump that was lessening our property values.
Sadly, houses like this are all over our region and the country. The financial crisis of 2008-09 left banks with a huge glut of foreclosed homes, and they just take their sweet time doing anything with them. It makes no sense, because the homes just become less valuable as they rot away.
As we see around us, the course of action that makes sense rarely seems to be taken these days. So what if these homes lose value, these banks are making more money than they know what to do with, and if the revenue slows down, they can just raise fees on account holders like us.
That takes me to my other ongoing bank gripe.
Twenty years ago, my wife and I refinanced the mortgage on our home. We had escrowed our property taxes, and planned to continue to do so.
Then, early the following year, I got a notice that my property taxes hadn't been paid. After a couple of sleepless nights, we figured out that during the refinancing, somehow the bank got its signals crossed, and the taxes weren't paid despite the fact the money had been deducted from our account.
The bank took care of the late fees and penalties, but I was a bit perturbed and decided that I would no longer escrow the taxes, and I would just pay them myself.
A short time later, a $150 fee appeared on my mortgage statement. I inquired, and was told that the fee was imposed because I decided not to escrow my taxes anymore.
So, to sum it up, I was being charged a fee to have the bank stop doing something that its staff badly botched in the first place.
I have refused to pay the fee ever since, ignored it on my statement for years, but now with our mortgage nearing an end, have appealed to many different bank higher ups as to the lunacy of the situation. And I have been flat out told that there is no precedent for waiving this moronic fee.
Maybe some good will come of it, though. Maybe the bank will take some of its ill-gotten $150 and put it into a fund to do something about the rotting foreclosed homes dotting our neighborhoods.
-- Don Lehman