Desperate Tenants Busted in Scam to Sell House They Are Squatting in!
Unfortunately, when the economy soured for many during the pandemic, many new scams began trending. One of the most popular scams you have surely heard of by now is when a person pretends to be a landlord and collects rental deposits from unsuspecting tenants looking for a place to rent out.
Now there is an even more disturbing scam where the tenants pretend to be the owners of a property and collect cash payments from unsuspecting buyers. The news story below is just such an example and cautionary tale for all other landlords reading this.
GREECE, NY (WROC) — Matt Drouin is a landlord and housing owner with 117 properties in the region. He says the COVID-19 pandemic has hit both tenants and land owners hard.
He says unfortunately, there are still occupants who cannot pay their rent, which he understands. There are some though, he says who are taking it to a new level.
“There’s tenants who didn’t pay before COVID, and then when COVID came down, they sort of took advantage of the situation,” says Drouin.
One of Drouin’s homes on Stonewood Avenue he rents out. He says the tenant has not paid in months, and to Drouin’s surprise, came across an ad on Craigslist listing the property for $45,000.
“I came to find out it was a tenant that was posing as me, the property owner, looking to ‘sell’ the property and collect cash,” he says.
Drouin says while this scam is something he’s heard of, this is a first for him. “And now they’re using this situation to prey on other people which I think is just absolutely disgusting,” he says.
One man says he was shown the property by the renter posing as the owner. Right away, suspicion set in. “When I dove deeper into it, I knew something shady as going on, he was trying to collect cash up front. And I was like ‘that’s not how this stuff works,’” says the man who wished to remain anonymous.
Lawyer Michael Leess says if the renter did post this ad posing as the owner, that is a fraud charge right off the bat.
“If you’re on Craigslist and you see a that’s too good to be true, it probably is,” says Leess.
The easy question here is, ‘why not just evict the guy trying to sell the place?’ Leess says due to COVID, some laws can appear a bit unclear and legal teams are keeping their distance. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced a moratorium on evictions until January 1, 2021.
“Nobody’s even dipping their toe into the water because they don’t expect to really go anywhere with these evictions,” says Leess.
Drouin says until he can catch the renter in the act, or a party actually gets ripped off, there’s not much police can do. But he still tells his fellow housing providers, “If you have become victim, or believe you’ve become victim of one of these, to alert the authorities to file a police report.”
News 8 did try to reach out to the person who posted the ad, and received no response.