SOUTH SHORE: Renters beware!

Published on: June 13, 2018

Protect yourself against renting a home in foreclosure

By YVETTE C. HAMMETT

Prospective renters should always make sure a home is not under foreclosure before signing a lease; otherwise, they might have to vacate quickly, which has been the case for some families in the area.

Renters beware. Do your due diligence to make sure you’re not renting a foreclosed property that could require you to get out in short order.

Such has been the case for families from Hillsborough to Duval Counties dealing with a company called HOA Problem Solutions.

Michael Chancey and Jimmy Dean Chancey of Valrico and Brandon, respectively, operate HOA Problem Solutions and participated in “unfair and deceptive trade practices,” according to a complaint filed by State Attorney General Pam Bondi, in an ongoing attempt to shut down the business and bring charges against the two and others whose real names have not yet been determined.

Bondi’s press secretary, Kylie Mason, said she did not have figures on how many people were allegedly scammed by the company but that many families across the state have been affected.

Here’s how it worked, according to the complaint Bondi filed in District Court: 

The HOA Problem Solutions (HOAPS) would contact vulnerable consumers whose homeowners’ associations had placed liens on their property, then filed to have the homes foreclosed upon.

Using “unfair and deceptive acts and practices,” HOAPS would attempt to get the consumer to sell them their house at a fraction of market value with a promise of taking care of all legal issues, when in fact, the consumer would still owe the mortgage on the house.

“In some instances, HOAPS has had the consumer enter into a loan agreement disguised as a purchase and sale agreement for the property,” according to the complaint.

State Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed charges against two local men operating as HOA Problem Solutions for “unfair and deceptive acts and practices.”

When properties did go to auction, agents for HOAPS would bid the price up, but fail to follow up by paying, which would delay or derail the sale time and again, according to the complaint.

“Our office opened this investigation in January 2016 and served investigative subpoenas on HOA Problem Solutions in March 2016. We are actively litigating this case and are currently in the discovery phase, which is proceeding,” Mason said.

“The defendants conducted their business primarily from Hillsborough to Duval counties,” she said.

One Riverview woman posted on Facebook that her family had endured a similar situation, though not with HOAPS. While she could not be reached for comment, the woman said in her social media post that her family rented a house for two years at $1,200 a month until the bank showed up and gave them an eviction notice because the landlord had not been paying the mortgage.

Here are a few tips for renters: 

Know that if a lender forecloses on a leased property, they are only required to provide occupants 30 days’ notice to vacate, despite any notice language present in the lease;

Prior to signing a lease, ask the owner or property manager how long they have owned the property, if it has been in foreclosure, whether it is owned outright, or whether it is still under a mortgage; 

Know that many county property appraiser websites allow you to search for information on a particular address to determine who the owner is, when it was last sold and more.

If anyone is suspicious of a scam, they should report it to the state attorney general’s office by calling 1-866-9NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226), or file a complaint online at www.MyFloridaLegal.com.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from scams, visit the Florida attorney general’s office website at http://myfloridalegal.com and search for “mortgage fraud.”

The above case against Michael Chancey and Jimmy Chancey is very active and ongoing. More details will be released as the investigation continues.

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