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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Key West Horror Story No. 4 - Once Removed

Long before I moved to Key West I did commercial loan workouts in for a bank in Denver. My job was to recover money from borrowers who lost their way in life and who refused to give back the money that they borrowed. This was at a time when character still mattered and failure to repay a debt went down on one's permanent record. My job entailed the management of outside bank litigation, foreclosures, recoveries of all types, and the sale and disposition of real estate acquired through foreclosure. Recovered assets were classified as OREO (other real estate owned) by our bank. Some banks refer to these assets as REO for real estate owned.

Another asset manager in my department had started to foreclose a town home in Aurora located near the Cherry Creek Reservoir. For some reason I never understood, he initiated the legal process to foreclose but them abruptly stopped. After he left the bank, I inherited some of his problem loans including this one.

I reviewed the file and assumed this unit must have been abandoned by the owner after the foreclosure was filed. I drove to the property to verify my suspicions.  I went around back and looked through sliding glass doors and saw the place was fully furnished. I saw dog moving about inside. I went back to my office and verified with the Public Service Company (the electric utility company) that service was terminated a year earlier. I called the condo association and learned that water had been shut off a year earlier for non-payment of association fees. I contacted outside counsel and got myself appointed  a receiver to preserve the property during the foreclosure process.

With court order in hand I went back to the property a few days later and met a locksmith who got me inside. A cat disappeared from view as soon as we entered the house. The dog I saw on my earlier inspection was not to be seen. But evidence of the dog's existence was everywhere as there was dog poop on all three floors of the condo. There was dog poop and urine smell everywhere--even on the walls where the dog did his business. The house reeked! The smell was overwhelming.

But the place did not seem to be totally abandoned. The house was fully furnished.  There was a baby grand piano in the living room. The dining room had a formal dining room table, chairs, and breakfront. There were three fully furnished bedrooms. There were pots and pans in the kitchen and clothes in all of the closets. There were remnants of burnt candles all over the place with candle wax on tabletops. The place had a really creepy feel about it. It was as if the house was the setting for some graphic horror novel.  Empty plastic milk cartons littered the house. I assumed the owner brought water in for the pets. I could not imagine humans living in such filth. And there were family photos of the people who lived in this house. The woman was head of Colorado Right to Life at that time. I will never forget that. Never!

I went upstairs and found what I thought was a pool of dried blood in one of the second floor baths. I left the house and called the police. (This was over thirty years ago - long before we had cell phones.) The police came over right away. They quickly determined what I saw was not blood but rather feces and urine from the commode that leaked out onto the floor.. One of the officers refused to go into the basement. There was so much feces on the floor that it was disgusting beyond your wildest imagination. Stephen King could not have written a more horrific tale of a foreclosure from hell. In fact I named the "asset" Cujo OREO because if reminded me of Stephen King's novel about the dog from hell. Foreclosures are our bank were always named for the owner of the foreclosed property.

I called animal control. They captured the cat and took it away. The dog was never found. 

I hired contractors to take out all of the filth and put the place in saleable condition. They had to haul out all of the personal contents. The Salvation Army refused to take most of the furniture and personal property because of the smell. I guess the contractors took most of the stuff to the dump. I remember them telling me they had to wear masks while removing the personal property and while ripping out the interiors. They had to tear out the bottom four feet of drywall throughout the unit to get rid of the urine. The urine had penetrated the floors so badly that the floors needed to be removed down to the floor joists.

They replaced the floors, drywall, and most if not all of the cabinets, appliances, and plumbing fixtures. The place was painted and put in saleable condition.

This was the very worst foreclosure I ever encountered. But I have seen a lot of them over the years. A lot of people who lose their homes destroy the house as they walk out the door. They blame other people for what happened to them.  I could blame the dog for all of the poop and pee. I could. But I won't.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.