Foreclosure as legal remedy reports about a Florida couple who foreclosed on a bank (yes, you read that right):

It started five months ago when Bank of America filed foreclosure papers on the home of a couple, who didn’t owe a dime on their home.

The couple said they paid cash for the house.

The case went to court and the homeowners were able to prove they didn’t owe Bank of America anything on the house. In fact, it was proven that the couple never even had a mortgage bill to pay.

Not surprisingly, homeowner Maurenn Nyergers ran up some costly legal bills defending herself against Bank of America’s egregious mistake, and the judge quite reasonably ordered BoA to pay Nyergers’ legal fees.  This is where things got interesting:

After more than 5 months of the judge’s ruling, the bank still hadn’t paid the legal fees, and the homeowner’s attorney did exactly what the bank tried to do to the homeowners. He seized the bank’s assets.

Additional coverage (and pictures) at the Daily Mail.

Lots of news and blog commentators are talking about this story with phrases like “sweet justice” and “very satisfying”, but I think several other lessons can be drawn from this story.

1.  Foreclosure is a very powerful legal remedy.  Cash can disappear, cars and boats can move, but land and buildings (generally) stay put.  Nothing gets an owner’s attention like the prospect of losing their real estate.  It’s amazing how fast BoA paid up once they realized a local branch was threatened.

2.  Foreclosure is open to everyone.  “Equal justice under law” is sadly an ideal not always present in the real world.  Nonetheless, this story illustrates how anyone owed money can use it to get paid.  “The system” does sometimes work!

3.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Consider all of the opportunities BoA had for this to be a non-issue:

  • They could have double-checked their paperwork to see if a mortgage existed before filing a lawsuit.
  • They could have double-checked their paperwork after filing their lawsuit.
  • They could have settled quietly with the homeowner after they realized their error instead of forcing a court to rule against them.
  • They could have paid their bill quickly to avoid further embarrassing publicity.

Instead, of course, BoA has created a national news story that makes it look disorganized, bullying, and a deadbeat.