Banks have defended the firms, which the lenders say are carefully monitored, arguing that maintaining properties is an important check on vandalism, crime and plummeting property values.
But complaints from homeowners, as well as information included in the Illinois lawsuit, suggest that Safeguard through its subcontractors ignored clear signs of occupancy like “a barking dog inside the home, a car in the driveway” or “a neighbor’s statement that the property is occupied,” the lawsuit said.
Even before the Illinois action on Monday, homeowners across the nation have lodged complaints with state regulators and filed lawsuits of their own, contending that Safeguard tried to forcibly drive them from their homes in a campaign of fear that involved damaging possessions, changing locks and shutting off electricity.
In North Carolina, homeowners said that they had returned to find their houses padlocked and their personal property, including family photographs, destroyed. In Bedford Corners, N.Y., Susan Salzberg Rubin said Safeguard broke into her property multiple times and tampered with the alarm system. In Bethel Park, Pa., Alexandra Hlista said she was forced from her home after multiple break-ins.