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Ear to the Ground

Burning Down the House

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Posted on Apr 21, 2008
Eburning house
Flickr / Kiwi NZ

Los Angeles Times:

In what appears to be the latest symptom of the nation’s mortgage meltdown and credit crisis, insurers, law enforcement officials and state agencies nationwide report a jump in home and automobile fires in the last year believed to have been set by owners unable to pay their debts. The numbers are small, but they’re leading the insurance industry to scrutinize more closely what seem to be accidental blazes.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in this kind of fraud,” said Dan Bales, director of fraud investigations at Mercury Insurance. “People upside-down on their house with variable-interest-rate loans, or upside-down on their cars, are pretty quick to burn their property right now.”

Last week, a Sacramento-area couple were arrested on allegations that they burned their Jeep and drove their Nissan pickup into a river, then filed fraudulent insurance claims. According to investigators, the wife admitted she was trying to escape her $600 monthly car payment.

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By lenny, April 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Is it only O.K. when Larry Silverstein does it?

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By cyrena, April 21, 2008 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment

This says it all, and we’ve always known it…

Desperate people do desperate things.

It’s a fact of human nature.

What does that say about the people that allowed for the conditions that would lead to this very inevitability…that desperate people do desperate things?

It says that they’re as criminal as we’ve always known them to be.

But, there is another option that basically amounts to the same thing..and that is to just walk away. ..from the house, the car, or whatever it is. The burning of the thing for fraudulent claims speaks more to a left over amount of greed than pure desperation.

On the other hand, I can see where some might burn the house just out of pure frustration and revenge, (minus any claims to fraud), and that’s understandable too. Not all of these foreclosures are legitimate. I’ve come across many that are outright thefts by those who make a living stealing property from the less fortunate, when alternative arrangements could easily enough be set to satisfy the bank as well as the homeowner.

In those cases, I could see how the homeowner might decide to burn the thing. I don’t recommend that, but I see how it could happen, because I understand the rage that motivates it.

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By Conservative yankee, April 21, 2008 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I remember back in the Seventies when the economy went belly up after the oil embargo. Long Island New York had a fire a night, and they were the rich folks… In Lawrence Massachusetts where I lived the landlords were smarter. they actively encouraged employees to piss people off, then those people would burn the houses in spite.. result?

Landlord collected insurance ALWAYS, and tenant went to jail if caught.

....and it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to prosecute an arsonist UNLESS you catch him/her in the act…

I always loved the ingenious tactics some folks used back then… For an instance, one friend blew out the pilot light on his hot water heater, left a trickle of hot water running in his bathtub, and took a two week vacation… when he returned he was shocked to find a hole where his house had been…

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By foreclosurefish, April 21, 2008 at 7:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stripping homes for the copper pipes, burning them down to collect on insurance money, leaving animals inside abandoned homes to cause even more damage… all of these destructive acts will only become more common as the level of desperation keeps increasing.

Many of these homes shouldn’t have been built in the first place, though, and are the result of capital being artificially pumped into the housing market. Maybe having some of them burned down will restore vital nitrogen and nutrients to the soil, and allow communities to establish gardens or parks where there were once McMansions?

But that might display more foresight and planning than many local governments are able to engage in. So we’re more likely to see abandoned lots and scorched pavement ripe with the smell of human desperation and animal waste.

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By G.Anderson, April 21, 2008 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

This country is unraveling economically.

Thank you congress for Bankrupcy reform, and credit card reform.

You protected the profits of all those rich corporate crooks and look at the result. Economic meldown..

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By TDoff, April 21, 2008 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

Wow! If this catches on, how long will it be before the Department of the Treasury sets fire to Washington D.C.?

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