City demolishes Rita-damaged home before bank gets injunction

By Steve Korris | Apr 26, 2007

Monday morning, April 23, Wells Fargo Bank applied in Jefferson County Circuit Court for an injunction to keep the city of Beaumont from demolishing a house Hurricane Rita damaged.

Before a judge could hear the application, the city tore down the house.

Tuesday afternoon, 30 hours after the bank filed its application, only the foundation and heaps of rubble remained at 6015 Westgate Drive.

Wells Fargo had offered to post bond to protect the city's interests while the bank improved the property, but the swift demolition canceled the need for any bond.

The bank did not own the property. It tried to save the home because the owners defaulted on the mortgage.

According to Wells Fargo, the bank planned to foreclose, take title and fix the house.

Now Wells Fargo holds a mortgage on an eyesore.

The bank's attorney, Steven Leyh of Houston, did not identify the owners. He attached to the application a sheet showing that in 2000, Franklin American Mortgage provided $74,961 at 8.75 percent interest, for a monthly payment of $589.72.

At some point the mortgage passed from Franklin American to Wells Fargo.

In 2005, Rita struck the neighborhood.

In the aftermath, the city ordered repairs on the house.

According to the application, Wells Fargo hired a contractor to bring the property into compliance.

Leyh wrote, "Plaintiff's contractor approached the City to seek the necessary permits to begin the City ordered repairs, but was rebuffed by the City."

"The Defendant's reasoning for failure to issue the necessary permits was that Plaintiff was not the owner," he wrote.

He wrote that the owners agreed to obtain permits but they did not obtain permits.

The city started demolition proceedings at a hearing last Dec. 5. After the hearing the Board of Adjustment issued a demolition order.

Wells Fargo's application sought to block the order by injunction or restraining order.

Leyh wrote, "Plaintiff stands ready and willing to make the necessary repairs..."

He wrote that the bank could not foreclose until the property was repaired.

"Defendant has threatened irreparable harm to plaintiff's property and rights by manifesting intent to immediately demolish the improvements located on the property," he wrote.

"If plaintiff's application is not granted, harm is imminent.

"Plaintiff will be unable to complete its enforcement of its security interest in the property, which will result in plaintiff's inability to recover the amount advanced for purchase of the property.

"There is not enough time to serve notice on the defendant to hold a hearing on the application because the order from the Board of Adjustment states the demolition could begin any day."

Demolition began that day or early the next day.

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