19 Investigates helps Lorain County woman who says her mortgage company used her money to pay neighbors’ taxes

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 7:19 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 Investigates is trying to get help for a woman who reached out about a problem she couldn’t get fixed herself.

Michele Burns says her mortgage company mistakenly used her money to pay thousands of dollars in taxes on a neighboring property.

A white house sits off a country road in Grafton, in Lorain County.

It has a barn in the back.

“This was the farmer’s house,” Burns said. “

Burns purchased the home in January of 2021.

“I just kinda connected with this house,” she said.

She says she’s financing it through Freedom Mortgage.

Last June, she says the company mistakenly sent $2,216 of her money to Lorain County for property taxes--but not her property taxes.

“[The mortgage company] said doesn’t your parcel end with 22? They even had photos. I was like ‘oh no, bless your heart, wrong house,” Burns said.

PART ONE: After months of fighting and no resolution, 19 Investigates stepped in to help this woman. She says her mortgage company mistakenly used her money to pay thousands of dollars in taxes on a neighboring property. In PART TWO coming up at 6PM, find out what important lesson she wants everyone to learn from her situation.

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Tuesday, March 15, 2022

She walked her street and discovered the home behind hers is where her money went.

Burns says the mistake caused her mortgage payment to go up $300 a month to recoup what was in her escrow.

So—at this point, she’s not only more than $2,200 in taxes but also $2,100 overpayments. That’s more than $4,300 in total.

“My family had COVID back in October to November. It was like five weeks of COVID, so everybody was out of work for five weeks. So, it was like ‘ok how are we going to pay these bills?’” Burns said.

She says she went to the County about the issue.

“They said, ‘can’t you just go knock on your neighbor’s door and ask for the money?’ And I said, ‘uh no. I don’t know those people at all,” Burns recounted.

Since then, she’s spent countless hours on the phone.

“I have like a list of names of people I have talked to in the tax escalation department,” she said.

That list of people was unable to help her-- at least until 19 Investigates got involved.

“I watch you guys every day. I watch you at 6 and I watch you at 11. I’ve seen that you guys have helped other people with things,” she said.

When we contacted Freedom Mortgage, a spokesperson told us, “Some matters do take a little more time to get processed; however, our mission is always to foster homeownership.”

Within a few days of reaching out to Freedom Mortgage, the spokesperson followed up and told us “... the issue has been resolved and her account has been made whole.”

While Burns says she feels things are moving in the right direction now, she says she’s not been made entirely whole yet.

She’s waiting on the property tax amount to go back into her escrow account.

And, for some reason, she says the mortgage company is fighting her on giving back the entire amount she overpaid over the last seven months.

“If I don’t pay it? They would foreclose on the house,” she said.

Burns says this whole experience has taught her an important lesson that others need to hear about paying bills.

“In this day and age we are just so used to not having papers come to our house,” she said.

Burns says if she hadn’t been making it a point to check her statements online, she would have likely let this issue go on longer, potentially making it even harder to fix.

“You need to really be careful that they are not taking extra from you that they should not be taking,” she said.

And if something looks off, she says it’s probably best to find out why right away.

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