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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Error ensnares woman in foreclosure lawsuit

CLEARWATER - Deloris Bell sold her house in 1995, so she was shocked when in March a bank filed for foreclosure on the house and named her in the lawsuit. She said she called the attorney's office handing the foreclosure and was told not to worry. "I called and the guy said, 'It's just an error, just file for a new deed, and we'll correct it and take your name out of the paperwork,'" Bell said. Bell called her title company and filed for the new deed right away. But two months later, more court filings showed up, and her name was still listed as a defendant. The attorney's office again said it was an oversight.
"He said, 'Oh, not a problem, I see it right here, it's on the computer, it's been corrected. We'll take your name off,'" Bell said. That was in June, but her name was still on the lawsuit. Lawsuits like Bell's, real estate experts say, illustrate the complexity of foreclosure and how innocent people can get pulled into someone else's financial trouble. When Bell sold her home, the title company made an error on the deed. She should have been dropped from the suit as soon as the deed was filed. But attorney Mark Stopa, not associated with this case, said he's not surprised she wasn't. "Banks and attorneys working for banks are so swamped with work and are sometimes sloppy," Stopa said. Fixing the problem would be easy, but it's sometimes difficult for consumers to get the bank's attorney to be responsive. "It's frustrating, too, because it's so simple; it's called a notice of dropping party. One piece of paper that says (Bell's) no longer a defendant in the case. It would be so easy to do, and it's a shame she can't get somebody to do that," Stopa said. Eventually, these cases can be worked out in court, and the deed can be cleared up. But in the meantime, foreclosure suits can cause problems, Stopa said. They might show up on a credit report or a background check. Even worse, Stopa said, if the defendants are ordered to pay money in the case, that could include someone like Bell, who's completely innocent. "If you're named in a suit, and you have no legal right to the house and don't live there, you should fight to get your name off the suit." In Bell's case, she tried and had little luck. Friday afternoon, though, after inquires from The Tampa Tribune and News Channel 8, Bell said she got good news. "The attorney called and said they're dropping me from the suit," she said. "I'm so relieved."

sbehnken@wfla.com (813) 259-7804 Twitter: @shannonbehnken

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