Brighton, N.Y. – Residents of Meadow Drive are taking Wells Fargo to small claims court. They want to recover the money spent on evicting people who moved into a vacant house in foreclosure.
Santashia Reed and Christopher Newton were evicted from 44 Meadow Drive on February 5. They had lived there nearly a year. In an interview with 13WHAM News they said they did not buy the home, paid no rent and paid no taxes. They claimed the owner, who walked away from the property, agreed to let them move in. The owner denied ever meeting the couple or giving them permission to access the house.
Neighbors first reported the couple to police last year. Police said because the couple had lived there for some time, they had to be evicted in a civil court. Neighbors contacted Wells Fargo, which held the mortgage and had been maintaining the property. Wells Fargo said the foreclosure wasn’t complete, so there was nothing it could do.
“(Wells Fargo) should take some responsibility when things don’t work out as they really planned,” said Ron Northrop. “As soon as things got complicated, they backed away.”
“They took responsibility for the upkeep and the taxes on the house. However, once it became occupied, they were no longer to be heard from. The bank didn’t step up for anything,” said Meg Northrop.
The neighbors contacted the owner of the house who had walked away from the property several years ago. The owner agreed to let the neighbors hire a lawyer on his behalf to process the eviction. The neighbors spent $4,000 on legal fees, a moving truck, Sheriff’s deputies and a locksmith.
“We had no idea it was going to be that kind of money,” said Ron Northrop.
Several days after the eviction, a code violations official with Wells Fargo emailed the neighbors, saying the bank again controlled the property and the foreclosure would wrap up later this year. “Wells Fargo does not press charges for illegal entry but we do monitor property monthly to make sure it remains secure and to keep vagrants out,” the official wrote. The email also encouraged the neighbors to report suspicious activity.
“We feel like we did their job,” said Northrop.
“They should have gotten involved right in the beginning and none of us can understand why they didn’t,” said Ann Vitale.
Wells Fargo sent 13WHAM News this statement: "If the property in our servicing portfolio is delinquent and vacant, but has not yet gone to foreclosure sale, we will maintain and secure it.
"We have limited ability to maintain occupied properties given consumer protections and responsibilities. We determine the best way to resolve issues depending on whether the property is occupied by homeowner, tenant or other party."