Peter Reynolds got up early on a Saturday, drove to New Haven’s Edgewood Avenue from his home in Stamford, and watched a muted bidding war that lasted less than five minutes.
Reynolds (at right in photo), a personal injury attorney based in Bridgeport, was on a training mission to enter a lucrative business: conducting foreclosure auctions. He had to observe at least one foreclosure auction before he could begin conducting them himself in August. Six years after the onset of a mortgage crisis, New Haven still provides plenty of auctions to observe.
So Benoit stood in the drizzle outside boarded-up 201 Edgewood Ave. on Feb. 23 as it went up for auctioned. Reynolds described the process “as a way to find business.” In this case, the attorney fees totaled $1,750.
The empty Edgewood house (pictured) was owned until 2010 by Janet Dawson, one half of a notorious slumlord team that left a trail of rundown homes and questionable transactions in struggling neighborhoods across New Haven. A limited-liability corporation called EJT Holdings bought the Edgewood Avenue in 2010; state records list the firm’s principal as Eric Tibere of Guilford. EJT got a mortgage from Bank of Southern Connecticut—and ran up unpaid debts of $9,487.48. It also stopped paying its taxes. So the city filed a foreclosure action.
While the courts set the billable hours, the attorney’s work is minimal in a foreclosure, mostly involving some paperwork and putting up signs as well as conducting the auction. For this house, Rolnick put up a sign on the front steps in January, then placed two legal notices in the New Haven Register in February.
Looking over at the auctioneer, Attorney Steven Rolnick, Reynolds noted with a laugh, “he sat in his car the whole time.”
Although seven people showed up at noon, when the auction began, only two people bid on the house, raising their hands to signify each new offer. “There aren’t enough bidders to give everyone numbers,” noted Rolnick.
The city made the first bid: $17,700.
Robert Benoit (at left in photo), a Bank of Southern Connecticut senior vice-president, was on hand and nearly tripled the city’s bid, offering $45,000, around half of the house’s $84,000 city assessment.
Assuming a judge approves the sale, the bank plans eventually to sell the property, according to Benoit. It hasn’t yet decided when the sale will take place or if renovation work will take place first.
Either the bank or an eventual buyer will then pay off the other creditors—besides the city, EJT had stiffed the Water Pollution Control Authority and the Regional Water Authority.