Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

AARP Real Possibilities

New Book

Dating After 50: How to get back in the game

April Discount

40% off of the AARP Smart Driver Course!


Contests and

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 


Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.


Home & Community Webinars

Family & Caregiving Webinars

Popular Articles




AARP Games - Play Now!

Poll: Are You a Real Techie?


Bank Takes Over Home Without Cause

Property is damaged after mortgage lender orders wrongful seizure

When Brian Carlson, 52, left his Cornville, Ariz., home last summer to go to San Diego to receive treatment for Parkinson's disease, he took pains to make sure that the house he shared with his wife would be well taken care of, with both a gardener and a friend regularly checking in.

But within 10 days, a contractor for Carlson's mortgage lender, Wells Fargo Financial, broke into the home — claiming it was abandoned — and proceeded to change the locks and "winterize" the property by turning off the water and putting antifreeze in the pipes.

The house was left with a shattered window and the contents of Carlson's toolbox dumped on the floor, he says. In addition, shelves in the garage were disassembled and knobs on the home's air-conditioning unit were broken, rendering the cooling and heating systems useless.

"I was shocked. I had no idea why they would do that to our house," says Carlson. "We never missed a payment."

Carlson's not alone. Andrew Garcia, a North Dartmouth, Mass., attorney who's now representing Carlson, says he has nearly 40 clients and prospective clients across the country with similar experiences.

The reasons for the seizures vary, Garcia says. Some occur because of poor record keeping by banks. In other cases, homes are in the foreclosure process but are seized without following proper legal procedures.

trashing out

— John A. Rizzo/Getty Images

"These contractors come in and they say no one's here so it's abandoned and they seize it," says Garcia. "This is like a 'shoot first, ask questions later' mentality."

Sometimes the server or bank gives improper instructions. In Carlson's case, the trouble likely started when he called Wells Fargo Financial to ask about the possibility of a short sale.

Based on that call, "we did believe the customer had permanently vacated the home," says Wells Fargo spokeswoman Veronica Clemons. "Once we learned otherwise we immediately reversed everything."

Now living in Escondido, Calif., Carlson sold the house but is considering suing those responsible for seizing it, an experience that he says changed him and his wife, Jewles.

"It's unnerving," Carlson says. "We have fear knowing that people can come into a home without a court order and do this sort of thing."

Michelle Diament is a frequent contributor to the AARP Bulletin.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.


Members can download new coupon offers available monthly from Kellogg's.

ADT Home Security

Members save 20% off installation of any NEW ADT Home Security System.

Members can earn exclusive points offers from Walgreens.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today