Amid wrongful foreclosures and screwy paperwork, banks have been breaking into homes whose owners still occupy them, a flurry of lawsuits argues. Owners have returned home to find the locks changed and their property—from laptops to old photos to the ashes of a loved one—missing, the New York Times reports. In some cases, banks mistakenly think homes have been abandoned; most mortgages contain a clause letting banks enter abandoned homes to secure the property.
In other cases, mortgage payments are up to date, but the banks, apparently confused, enter anyway. Banks say these mistakes happen in only a tiny portion of a huge number of cases. But “volume is not an excuse for violating someone’s rights,” says a law expert. “This is in essence a burglary,” said one victim who sued a bank for breaking into her chalet and emptying it of her belongings.