Man smells something fishy in bank's seizure of vacation home

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jan. 13, 2010, 11:13am

GALVESTON - When Houston resident Alan Schroit entered his Galveston vacation home to prepare for a Halloween party, he was greeted with the putrid odor of rotten fish.

Although he claims he does not have a debt with Bank of America, Schroit discovered the bank had seized the house and disconnected the utilities causing pounds of frozen fish to thaw.

Schroit's lawsuit alleges that on the evening of Oct. 25 the BofA personnel intentionally and wrongfully trespassed on his property, cut and changed the locks and maliciously turned off the power.

"The defendant committed the tort of trespass to the property, and was grossly negligent in changing the locks to the property and cutting off electric power to the property," the original petition says. The suit was filed Jan. 4 in Galveston County District Court.

Schroit insists he owned the part-time residence, which is located near the western tip of Galveston Island, free and clear of mortgage. He claims the alleged seizure occurred after his son left and secured the property.

He further explains that Bank of America representatives gained access to the residential portion of the elevated property and likely have noticed "the house was fully furnished and occupied," but went ahead with the takeover.

"Nonetheless, perhaps in conformance to the defendant's policy of no relief to borrowers, the defendant changed locks and cut off the power to the property by switching it off in the self-contained lower area, where the defendant also changed the locks," the suit says.

"The defendant then posted notice that the property had been secured at the direction of and by the authority of the defendant."

It was upon his return to the home a week later for what was supposed to be a Halloween party that Schroit noticed something wrong, the case says.

"The plaintiff gained entry to the upper home portion of the property and discovered by the overpowering putrid smell of rotten fish that the power had been shut off," it states.

"The plaintiff could not get into the downstairs, where the power shut-off was located, without a locksmith then unavailable."

Schroit asserts the abrupt seizure and the disconnection of electricity inflicted a huge amount of damage to the house, which also fell victim to Hurricane Ike a year ago.

He claims to have lost approximately 75 pounds of salmon and halibut he caught during an Alaskan fishing trip.

The inside of the freezer of which the fish occupied "melted, spoiled, and reeking melt water spread throughout the property and leaked through the flooring into joists and other areas," the suit says.

Schroit made a burglary report to the Galveston Police Department.

The plaintiff states he is not indebted to Bank of America and did not receive any notice of any claim by the defendant.

He notified Bank of America of the invasion but the financial institution "did nothing," the suit says.

"Despite the defendant having actual notice that its actions were wrongful, it made no attempt to assist the plaintiff in mitigation or cleanup," the original petition states.

Schroit believes the fair rental value of the property is gone, and that such a loss has caused him mental anguish.

The plaintiff seeks an undisclosed amount of money and a jury trial.

Houston attorney Barry A. Brown is representing Schroit, and Galveston County 122nd District Court Judge John Ellisor is presiding over the case.

Case No. 10cv0010

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