Banks' Paperwork Foul-Up Cost Atlanta Woman Her Home

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Sidnetta Smith (pictured at left) had to uproot herself and her children and move to North Carolina, leaving half of their belongings behind, when Bank of America foreclosed on their Atlanta home and evicted them.

That's painful enough, but there's an added rub: Smith's home wasn't BofA's to take – because the bank wasn't her mortgage lender.

Her loan was with Freedom Mortgage, and, Smith said, she had been current on her payments. But a paperwork foul-up had BofA thinking it owned Smtih's mortgage, and when the bank didn't receive her payments, it snatched her house, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

It's a nightmare that's been plaguing Smith since August 2009, when her original lender, a firm called Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, bellied up under a $3 billion mortgage fraud scheme. After TB&W closed, the government transferred many of its mortgages to BofA, but Smith had hers refinanced with Freedom Mortgage. Freedom resolved her debt to TB&W and issued her a new loan. But in the transfer from TB&W to BofA, many records of monthly payments and mortgage payoffs were temporarily lost. It wasn't until more than a year later, in December 2010, that Smith's mortgage transfer to Freedom was officially recorded.

By that time, however, BofA -- under the impression that it was the beneficiary of Smith's loan and that it was getting stiffed on her payments -- had foreclosed on her and hired a repossession company to remove her belongings and her family from her house.

"I miss it. I miss it a lot," Smith told the AJC, referring to her now-vacant home.

She said that -- once she started getting late payment notices from BofA -- she had tried to contact both BofA and Freedom to resolve the misunderstanding of who owned her mortgage. But she alleged that both banks gave her the runaround and refused to contact each other to work it out.

An attorney for Freedom told the AJC: "In connection with that refinance transaction, Freedom Mortgage paid off Ms. Smith's prior mortgage loan, which Bank of America thereafter improperly foreclosed."

BofA blamed TB&W for the mixup, the AJC said, and the bank has been trying to rescind its foreclosure on Smith.

But that doesn't change the fact that the lives of Smith and her children have been permanently disrupted. The family now lives in a three-bedroom apartment near Charlotte, N.C.

"We have a roof over our heads. We're grateful," Smith told the AJC. "But it can never replace a dream home you thought you'd have forever."

She's now suing BofA and Freedom over the ordeal. Her attorney, Charles Pekor, said that if BofA had checked property records, they would have seen that Smith had a new loan issued by Freedom. Smith also contends that Freedom botched the cancellation of her TB&W loan.

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34 PHOTOS
Disasters That Ruined Whole Towns
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Banks' Paperwork Foul-Up Cost Atlanta Woman Her Home

As we gear up for the height of the hurricane season (also a time when tornados, wildfires and floods are common), we're taking a look back at some of the worst natural disasters in recent memory and how they reshaped the affected regions. Entire towns have been wiped off the map, and you'll be as shocked as we were to see the before and after shots of areas that have been hardest-hit by storms and other natural phenomena.

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Source: The Weather Channel

Numerous homes were devastated, reduced to rubble. The tornado left a trail of destruction 80.7 miles long. It was the costliest tornado in United States history, until ...

Source: The Weather Channel

When: May 22, 2011
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The quaint town of Joplin was nearly wiped off the map when an EF5 tornado struck. About 2,000 buildings were destroyed in the storm, which reached sustained winds of over 200 mph. It beat the Tuscaloosa tornado to become the costliest twister in U.S. history.

The tornado grew to a width of over 1 mile as it made its way through the southern part of Joplin.

This Joplin neighborhood was rendered unrecognizable after the tornado hit.

But it returned to some semblance of normalcy a year later, after ongoing recovery efforts to rebuild.

When: December 2010-January 2011
Cost of damage: $30+ billion
Casualties: 38

Brisbane, the capitol city of Queensland in Australia, was one of the most affected areas in a massive flood that began in December 2010. Half of Queensland, which is more than 715,000 square miles large, was affected.

Source: NearMap

At least 70 towns and over 200,000 people were affected by the rising waters. In Brisbane, residents of 2,100 streets were ordered to evacuate. The flood waters peaked at 14.6 feet, the 10th highest in the city's history.

Source: NearMap

What Brisbane looked like before the flood.

Source: NearMap

And what the area looked like after the flood.

Source: NearMap

Date: August 23-30, 2005
Cost of damage: $108 billion
Casualties: 1,833

The Superdome arena in New Orleans became one of the most well-known symbols of the storm's devastation when Hurricane Katrina rolled through the area. Katrina was the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history and the deadliest since 1928. The Category 3 hurricane caused New Orleans' levee system to fail, sending floodwater into 80 percent of the city. This is the Superdome before the storm.

After Katrina, the Superdome was used to house 26,000 people who were unable to evacuate the city before the storm. The National Guard delivered truckloads of food and water for the evacuees. After the storm, it took $185 million to repair and refurbish the stadium, which was reopened in 2006 in time for the New Orleans Saints' opening game of the season.

New Orleans was a majestic city before Katrina struck.

But much of the city became submerged after its levees crumbled under Katrina's force.

When: January 12, 2010
Cost of Damage: Estimated $14 billion
Casualties: 316,000 (Haiti government estimate)

The National Palace in Haiti's capitol of Port-au-Prince was a beautiful property where the Haitian president lived. But its beauty crumbled under a devastating magnitude-7.0 earthquake -- one of the deadliest in history. In addition to the horrific number of deaths, the earthquake injured 300,000 people, and 1 million people lost their homes.

Photo: Michelle W. Eriksson via CC 2.0

The National Palace was reduced to rubble after the earthquake. The Haitian government estimated that the quake damaged 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings. Even six months after the earthquake, as much as 98 percent of the rubble remained uncleared. By May 2010, enough money had been raised worldwide to give each displaced family $37,000.

In January 2012, it was reported that 500,000 Haitians still remained homeless.

When: March 11, 2011
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Casualties: 15,861 confirmed by Japan's National Police Agency

The Sendai region of Japan was almost wiped off the map when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the country. A nuclear reactor was crippled by the quake and went into meltdown, causing a radioactive catastrophe.

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The city of Natori before the earthquake ...

... and after, nearly completely destroyed.

When: August 2011
Cost of damage: Estimated $15.6 billion
Casualties: At least 44

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Stinson's home, which he shared with his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Erin, was completely blown away by Irene, leaving nothing behind but the staircase. The home had been in his family since 1963. Sandra had told North Carolina's Our State magazine in 2010: "God has really protected it [the home]. ... We have had so many storms, and really, inside, we've only had damage one time since Billy's family has owned it."

The town of Rodanthe before Irene's wrath ...

... and what remained after the storm.

When: September 2008
Cost of damage: Estimated $29.6 billion
Casualties: At least 195

After slamming into Cuba as a Category 4 hurricane, Ike moved along the Gulf of Mexico, devastating areas from the Louisiana coast all the way to Kenedy County, Texas, near Corpus Christi. Crystal Beach, Texas, was hit particularly hard. This is what the waterfront town looked like before the storm.

The town was devastated, with most coastline properties wiped away.

When: Feb. 22, 2011
Cost of damage: Estimated at around $23 billion
Casualties: 185

The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch was considered the finest renaissance-style building in New Zealand. But all that changed when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the region. Damage to Christchurch was extensive, primarily because another earthquake that had struck six months earlier had already weakened many of the city's structures. This is the cathedral before the earthquake ...

... and following the disaster. The two bell towers collapsed in the quake, and the building's dome was destabilized. The dome was eventually removed. It is yet to be determined whether the cathedral will be restored or demolished.

The historic Christchurch Cathedral was built in the second half of the 19th century, but the earthquake changed it considerably. ...

... as the spire and part of the tower of the church was destroyed in the quake. Work to demolish the building began in March 2012, and a temporary cathedral is being built.

When: June 26, 2012
Homes damaged: 347 houses
Casualties: 1

A fire sparked in the Waldo Canyon in Colorado Springs jumped firefighters' perimeter lines and quickly spread, devouring 347 homes. More than 9,000 residents were forced to evacuate.

The fire left several homes completely burnt to the ground.

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