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Deed typo haunts couple in foreclosure suit years after they sold

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Barbara and Rick Borchers sold their house and paid their mortgage in full eight years ago.

But now, all these years later, another lender, Bank of America, is suing them for foreclosure on the same house. When the process server knocked on their door, lawsuit in hand, the Borchers thought it must be a mistake.

"Everyone I tell says, 'That's impossible, it's a scam, somebody is pulling your leg,'" Barbara Borchers said.

The lawsuit is no mistake. But it starts with one – made by the title company the Borchers hired to handle their sale in 2003.

The lawsuit, real estate experts say, illustrates the complexity of foreclosure and how innocent people can get pulled into someone else's financial trouble.

When the Borchers sold their home, the title company made a typo on the deed, according to the lawsuit and public records.

Instead of "Bloomingdale Section R," the deed reads "Bloomingdale Section H," a legal description for a different house in the neighborhood. The mistake stuck with the home through three more sales.

The last buyer in the chain is the one who fell behind on payments and may lose the home to foreclosure. But the error on the deed means that mortgage holder, Bank of America, can't take the home back because the property mortgaged is listed incorrectly.

The bank can't get the clear title required for a transaction until the error is fixed.

The bank named the Borchers – and all buyers after them – in the lawsuit.

Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said she had no details on the case.

"We will research the situation, but at this time we can't comment on this situation," Bauwens said.

Barbara Borchers said she reached an attorney for Bank of America and he advised her to seek her own legal counsel to represent her in the case.

Borchers said the attorney told her the bank doesn't want money from her. Instead, it wants her to fix the mistake.

An angry Borchers said it isn't her mistake to fix.

"The court should stand up for the little guy in this," she said. "We didn't make that mistake. I didn't type these papers."

Bank deeds with the wrong legal description were filed in public records four times.

Each time, real estate professionals, including the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office, failed to catch the mistake. But none of them are named in the lawsuit.

Warren Weathers, of the property appraiser's office, said errors show up on property records from time to time.

"We usually catch these problems," Weathers said.

Foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa said he thinks the title companies are to blame.

"You would think when it's the title company's job to prevent that sort of mistake that one of them is going to catch it – much less two or three," Stopa said.

This type of mistakes is why homeowners get title insurance in the first place, said Ron Donalson of Alday-Donalson Title Agencies of America. The homeowners should be able to go back to the title company and ask it to correct the deed.

But in this case, the Borchers' title company is out of business.

Stopa and another real estate attorney, Tom Ice of Ice Legal, said the couple have little recourse now that the company is out of business.

Stopa said the Borchers could plead their case to the judge and try to get dropped from the suit. Or do nothing. Either way, the deed will eventually get cleared up, he said.

Meantime, though, the suit could cause them trouble, Stopa said, if it shows up on their credit report or a background check.

That's what infuriates the Borchers.

"I'm sure it's just a matter of signing a few pieces of paper, and it would have been all fixed. But no, (Bank of America) has to go through a lawsuit and include us in the lawsuit."

sbehnken@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7804 Twitter: TBORealtyCheck