As we come limping into the closing gates on our renovation loan, we have had what I hope is our last surprise. The lady I’ve been working with at the lender bank called me today. “There are three liens on your property. Do you know about them?”
This came as a surprise. A really big surprise. No no. A REALLY BIG-ASS SURPRISE. The only debt Anthony and I have is our mortgage. We pay our bills. We check our mail. We answer our phones. We even check our credit reports sometimes. In fact, we’re going through a mortgage loan process, so our credit reports have been picked clean by underwriters. There should be no surprises.
Yet there they were, three clouds on clear title to our home. So let me tell you a tale of three liens.
1. Child Support.
In February 2013, Milwaukee County child support filed a lien on our house. Totally makes sense. Because Anthony and I have children we don’t know about! Maybe it happened during the missing years in our 20’s. The title company provided us with a docket number, and It was remarkably easy to find Wisconsin’s child support “lien docket” on line. The website makes it really easy to search for a docket number, so I did that and I learned something. Some guy named Anthony Cross owes $24,861 in child support, at least as of two years ago. He was born on January 4, 1974. If I had a photo of him, I would post it here for you and the world to see. Different name and different birthday from my Anthony. This didn’t stop child support services from filing the lien against our home.
I called child support services and explained the problem. The nice lady who answered the phone told me I had to give her my social security number. Why? I replied. “Because that’s the only way we can find you in our system.”
“But I’m not in your system. That’s the whole point.”
“I cannot help you, ma’am, unless you give me your social security number.”
So I did. Because what else could I do?
“Oh. You’re right, ma’am, you’re not in my system.”
“Thank you for that excellent news. Who do I need to talk with about having the lien removed from my property?”
“You need to go down to the courthouse to room 101–”
Whoa whoa whoa whoa. I interrupted. “I don’t need to do anything. You guys need to remove the lien from my property, because it is wrong and a bad mistake.”
“I can’t do that, ma’am.”
“I KNOW. So who do I need to talk with??”
“The lawyer, who is in room 101.”
“Can I have a name and number?”
I’m at an impasse with myself, because I don’t feel like going down to the courthouse and I’m not sure what to do next.
2. Power Company.
WE Energies, our local gas and electric monopoly, filed a judgment lien on our property in March 2011 for $1,700 and some change. The judgment is against — wait for it — Anthony Cross. I’m guessing this deadbeat was probably born some time in, say… January 1974.
I called WE Energies. I was transferred to some legal-ish department, where a nice lady named Ann took my call. I explained the situation and ended with, “What do I need to do, to make sure WE removes the lien from my property?”
“Ma’am, you can fix this problem yourself easily, by contacting your credit bureaus and informing them of the error.”
My jaw went slack as I took deep breaths and tried not to scream. “This isn’t ON our credit reports. Otherwise we would have known about it before. The judgment isn’t against us, we don’t owe you any money, so you haven’t reported us to any credit bureau.”
“Ooh. I’m not sure how to handle this.”
I got huffy. “It’s easy. WE Energies corrects its mistake and removes the lien from my property!”
After some aimless back and forth about the title company, there was a long pause, into which silence my imagination inserted a vivid image of a young woman staring blankly into space making a silent “duuuuh?” shape with her mouth. “I will need to look into this and determine who you should be talking to. Can you hold for a moment?”
Five minutes later, she took my name and number and promised to call back.
Two hours later, I got a voicemail from a gravelly-voiced man.
“Yes this is attorney Terry S—, from WE Energies, Wisconsin Electric, [telephone number], I’m calling for Carla Pennington-Cross, the call is regarding a judgment that was taken against a Anthony Cross, and I know there was some questions that was posed to one of WE Energies employees, and I think I can explain the situation better than she, and that’s why I’m calling. So if you want to get better clarification, give me a call at [telephone number]. Thanks, bye.” [sic, minus the “uh”s.]
I called him back and was rolled over to his voicemail. The message was recorded by a woman, suggesting Terry is a lawyer who’s too uppity to record his own message. Lame. I left him a message.
“This is Carla P—-, returning a call from someone named Terry regarding a lien that WE Energies filed against my home for a judgment against someone else. Please call me back as soon as possible. I look forward to receiving “clarification on the situation.” In particular I look forward to hearing how and when WE Energies will remove the lien from my home, since it was filed in error.”
No telling how this one is going down.
3. The Bank
Associated Bank filed a lien against our house in August 2013, for a judgment in the amount of $18,151.73 against someone named Carla Cross. This one should be easy, because I’ve never been named Carla Cross and I’ve never had an account with Associated Bank. But I know it won’t be. After I spent a good hour trying to find phone numbers and information about the first two liens, I was used up. I guess I’ll call Associated tomorrow and see what the fuck they’ll actually do for me. Nothing, probably.
How could someone file a lien against my home without even sending notice of some kind to the address? Why are there deadbeats running around town bearing half my name and Anthony’s name? Am I really going to have to go down to the courthouse and file motions and do shit to get these liens, which are essentially false strangleholds on my title to my house, removed? Why? Why? I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore. This is the world I left behind me.
Our legal system may be amazing, but it also sucks.