A woman went to her closing on a Miami Shores home only to find out that she couldn’t move in because a family was already living there.
And the family – which was just evicted – says it was duped by a man who claimed to be the owner of the property.
It’s the latest example of a problem that can sink the value of a neighborhood’s home: squatting.
“There’s a lot more people that are squatting in houses and using other people’s properties as homes,” Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad told NBC 6.
A moving van was being loaded at 102 NW 100th St. over the last several days, and on Wednesday a cleaning crew was there. Family members that were evicted asked not to be shown on camera, saying they were fearful that the man who posted a sign and rented them the home would retaliate.
“It looked like a realtor. He was well-dressed, fitted – nice car,” said a male renter from the family.
The family said the “owner” even gave them a key. They produced a lease and receipts, claiming that they paid the man $3,800.
“After about two weeks of being here, that’s when we found out that the guy wasn’t the real owner of the house,” the male renter said.
Realtor Shawntrel Knight said the family should not have been in the house. The woman she helped to buy the home could not close on it, ruining her plans to move, she said.
The evicted family lost too.
“They should always verify that the individual that they’re dealing with is a licensed real estate agent,” Knight advised.
Police said they have many questions about the lease. They could never get a valid phone number to try to track down the author of the lease, nor could they find a valid address to locate him.
“And they produced leases which you can print off the Internet with no verification, no backup,” Lystad said.
The police chief said he would like to be able to arrest the squatters for trespassing, but so far he cannot.
“People, they’re consistently doing this. They’re moving house to house. As the civil process kicks them out of one, they move into another,” Lystad said. Scenarios like the one on NW 100th Street are happening at four homes in the same neighborhood, he said.
Legislation is needed to help in such situations, he added. Before there can be a trespassing arrest, a court must determine who is the legal owner of the property, which is a civil legal matter, Lystad said.
The bank, Wells Fargo, had to file legal action to get possession of the property back and encourages buyers to keep a keen eye out for anyone in homes that have been through foreclosure. The bank, just like buyers, is a victim when this kind of alleged fraud takes place.
Neighbor Anette Maragliano said such situations bring down property values.
“They wouldn’t care about the value of the home and keeping up the property,” she said of squatters.