Foreclosure Trash-Outs: How to Make Sure Your House Isn't on the List

Imagine coming home one day and finding your home emptied and the locks changed. That's exactly what's been happening across the country. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent it.

So-called trash-outs are supposed to be done by contractors who are hired by loan servicers or banks to clean out a home after it has been abandoned, just before or after a foreclosure. It's a booming business in which, promoters claim, contractors can make as much as $500,000 a year. There's even a book about how to set up a trash-out business on eBay.

These days, however, many homeowners are becoming victims of rogue trash-out crews that have targeted the wrong house.

These trash-outs have happened to cash buyers who bought foreclosed homes from the banks, but the homes stayed on the trash-out list in error. It's happened to those who have bought a home with cash, have no mortgage and the trash-out company went to the wrong address. It's happened most frequently to people who've had trouble paying the mortgage, got their home on the foreclosure train, but acted in time to save it -- yet the bank or servicer neglected to take the house off the trash-out list.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say it's like the Wild West out there.