With a lengthy foreclosure process in Florida — about 619 days — many homes are left empty for over a year.
For years, according to NBC Miami, there have been squatters, those who live in a foreclosed home until they’re forced to move out, but now there’s another scam: real estate agents, who are not actually licensed agents, renting out these foreclosed properties.
“These criminals are finding and scouting these foreclosed properties and then running scams out of the rentals of these properties,” detective Chris Hodges of the Miami-Dade Police said.
These criminals who pose as real estate agents change the locks and keys of the property and learn to walk, talk and act the part in order to find potential renters, who never suspect a thing.
According to NBC Miami, there are more than 9,000 foreclosed properties in South Florida, giving phony realtors quite a selection to scam from.
Tom Seijos, a man who fell victim to this rental scam in Miami-Dade, explains he trusted the man he met, saw his ID, gave him $3,300 to move into the vacant townhouse and moved his family in. The real owners of the foreclosed property only found out because they drove past the property and noticed someone living in their foreclosed home.
The scamming agent, John Ingar, was arrested in April and charged with grand theft and practicing realty without a license.
Other families have been scammed from someone posing as a rent to buy candidate and later refusing to make payments. This occurs because once the renters exercise their right to purchase the home they were considered partial owners of the property, which is foreclosed.
Real estate attorney Ron Kaniuk explains that people know the system and these scams are just a ripple effect of the foreclosure crisis.
“I got four calls from people [last Friday] saying they were scammed in some way. Florida, in a bad economy, is a recipe for disaster,” Kaniuk said.
A new ordinance now requires foreclosed properties to post signs in a window identifying the home is foreclosed and also for each property to be registered and maintained or else fines and citations can be given.
City officials hope that this ordinance will hold owners accountable for their property even if it has been foreclosed so scams such as this will stop.