When John Beal set his sights on a target, he knew just what to look for. If nobody was home, he might decide to break in.
Beal wasn’t a burglar. He used to work for banks and loan servicers, locking up and protecting homes that he determined were abandoned by homeowners.
“Typically, the first thing is to just kind of do a drive by and see what you’re up against,” said Beal.
His job was to scout properties and look for evidence that homeowners who had defaulted on their mortgage payments had walked away from the house – and the loan.
Shaggy lawns, moss on the driveway, broken windows. All could be signs of abandonment.
“The value of the property decreases, the loan is in default, there’s not [an] asset to try to turn around and recover any dollars,” Beal said of bank efforts to secure and protect abandoned properties.
It’s a tricky business accessing property that the bank doesn’t truly own, and Beal says the industry known as “property preservation” has plenty of faults.
“The pressures are pretty intense,” said Beal.
A KING 5 Investigation shows that those pressures may be one reason behind numerous complaints filed with attorneys, housing assistance groups, and the Washington Attorney General’s Office. Typically, a homeowner complains that they have not abandoned the home, yet but have been locked out or found their personal property is missing.