I am continually amazed at the arrogance of some law firms, especially, those representing banks and credit unions. If you don't think that this country is being controlled the banking industry, then just hang around with me and see what kind of malarkey I contend with from banking lawyers.
Two weeks ago, I received a frantic call from a woman, who was illegally being evicted from her home. I took the case on a pro bono basis, which means I represented her for free. I was appalled at the fraud that was being perpetrated by the Credit Union and its lawyers. The client had lost her home in a foreclosure. The Credit Union purchased her home at the Sheriff's Sale. The client, who had been gainfully employed at the same job for 31 years, got in these dire straits by being layed off of her job. Within the past 6 months, her sister died and she stepped to the plate and provided care for her sister's two young children.
In Pennsylvania, when a house is foreclosed upon, the law provides that the purchaser of the property can initiate a procedure in the Court of Common Pleas called Ejectment in order to gain possession of the property. If contested by the occupant of the house, the process of removing the occupants could take from 6 months and more. Whether you agree with this or not, this is the law and the mortgage companies all know this.
In this case, the Credit Union decided to skirt the law and filed an Eviction action in the local Magistrate District Court under the Landlord Tenant Act. Since my client was never a tenant and the Credit Union was never a Landlord, the only way the Credit Union could have filed an acceptable Landlord Tenant complaint with the court is by fraudulently alleging that my client was a tenant and that she owed back rent.
The procedure for eviction is much quicker and the tenant could be removed within thirty days. In order to appeal a Landlord Tenant judgment, the tenant would have to post a bond with the Court of Common Pleas in the lesser of the judgment amount or three month's rent.
My client did not have enough money to post any kind of bond. She went to the hearing without counsel. The Credit Union and their big, corporate law firm presented evidence showing that the Credit Union owned the property but presented no evidence that there was a Landlord Tenant relationship nor presented any evidence that any back rent was due. For some reason, the Credit Union argued that it was entitled to Attorney's fees of $1000. In Pennsylvania, you cannot get attorney's fees without having a contract that allows for such or if there is a law or statutory basis for your entitlement to Attorney's fees. Neither of those conditions existed in this case.
The Judge in this case is someone whom I greatly respect. He has always been fair, understanding and even-tempered. Win or lose, I think very highly of this particular Judge, I am not sure what happened, because I wasn't there but the Judge ruled in favor of the Credit Union and ordered my client to pay $1000 in back rent. This meant that, in order not be kicked out on the street, she had to file an appeal of the Judge's Order within ten days and post a $1000 bond, which she did not have. When I read the Order and reviewed the pertinent documents, I was furious. These credit unions are known for their nasty, unforgiving actions and this one was no exception. I had already encountered some of this law firm's attempts to circumvent the law while assisting another lawyer in a foreclosure action, so I was aware that they don't play by the Rules.
Not being quite sure what to do, due to the bond, I enlisted the advice of both several lawyers who work for various legal aid agencies, in Montgomery County, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. All of them were taken back by the actions of the Credit Union and its lawyers. We tossed around a number of options, all of which helped me formulate an idea. In Common Pleas Court, if you do not like an Order or Judgment, you can ask the Court to reconsider its decision by filing a Petition For Reconsideration.
Although, there is no formal pleading mechanism for this in the Magisterial District Judge Court, I recognized that the MDJ Court only had jurisdiction to hear Landlord Tenant Eviction cases and not Ejectment cases. Being that there was no Landlord Tenant relationship, I realized that the MDJ Court had no jurisdiction to even hear this case. So I sent the Judge a letter Petition For Reconsideration and copies the Credit Union's counsel. I outlined all of the problems with the situation, highlighting the Court's lack of jurisdiction and expressed to the Judge the urgency of the matter due to the appeal deadline.
Much to the Judge's credit, he reconsidered his prior Order and vacated the Judgment and dismissed the Credit Union's phony Landlord Tenant complaint. Now my client has the time needed to organize and find a new place to live so she and her nephew and niece can live under a roof. As far as the Credit Union and law firm, I am preparing a lawsuit against them under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act for their actions.