Imagine putting a property up for sale and going to check up on it only to find out that someone has moved in. Furniture and all. It might seem far fetched, but it can happen. So much so that even the clerks of court in the St. Petersburg, FL area have taken notice. For a few years now, they have been offering a free service (while limited) to alert homeowners of possible fraudulent activity related to their home.
Although the authorities actively collaborate to remedy the situation, it’s a complicated scenario involving identity theft and notary publics that may or may not be aware of the fraud that’s being commited, it’s more complicated that it may seem.
The consequences of real estate fraud can be detrimental to a property. As this article published in the Tampa Bay Times states, “detecting fraud is often just a first step. Then it can take months to straighten out title issues so the property can legally be sold. In the meantime, the house might sit vacant and fall into disrepair, hurting property values of neighboring homes.”
Deed fraud is most common with houses that are unoccupied, typically because they are in foreclosure or the owner has died. Some fraudsters even go as far as remodeling the homes. Others choose to occupy the home themselves, moving in as if they just purchased the home. Most rent them out and collect a hefty sum each month.
This has been going on in the Tampa Bay area (and the rest of the country!) for years now. You can read more on a few local cases here.