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I-Team: Dozens of renters of HOA foreclosure properties evicted …

TAMPA – In Florida, homeowners’ associations can foreclose on homes when owners don’t pay their dues…sometimes for as little as a few thousand dollars.

Investors who buy the liens get temporary titles and can rent those houses until banks foreclose.

But as the I-Team discovered, leasing these properties can pose plenty of potential problems for renters.

“It was a little over 1300 square feet. There’s a half bath on the bottom floor and two full baths on the main,” said Chelcie Miller, describing her former Carrollwood Rental townhome.  

“We came over, looked at the house and fell in love with it,” said Jorge Taveras, describing the house he rented in Riverview.

But what started out as dream homes, eventually became nightmares.

“I feel like we’ve been betrayed,” said Taveras.

We met the Taveras family as they packed up to move.

“We were supposedly on the premises illegally,” said Christine Taveras, Jorge’s wife.

In four years, they paid more than $62,000 in rent, never missing a rent payment.

But in March, a new landlord claimed ownership of the property, while the company they signed a lease with continued to expect rent payments.

They were caught in the middle and ended up being evicted.

“They can destroy your life in a matter of seconds,” said Jorge Taveras. “I can’t get a house for my family. I can’t get an apartment.”

“They upped our rent. They said they need all the security deposits back,” said Miller.

Chelcie Miller and her husband were given five days to pay $1,800 or move out of the townhouse they rented.

They had already paid that month’s rent when they got the notice.

“Send us a check to a PO Box. Don’t fill in the name, just put the amount and day and sign it,” Miller said she was instructed.

Their new landlord, convicted felon Barry Haught, has filed eviction cases against more than two dozen tenants since March, even though he doesn’t actually own any of the properties.

Haught and a former partner bought titles to 120 homes for as little as a few thousand dollars each at HOA foreclosure auctions.

After they had a falling out, Haught used quit claim deeds to transfer the titles into new companies, then demanded new leases, new security deposits and rent from tenants.

“There’s a lot of houses. A lot of families are getting kicked out because of this. And a lot of people don’t know about this,” said Jorge Taveras.

Here is a map of the foreclosed homes.

It was not the first time Haught was tough on renters. 

In 2011, he was arrested, convicted and spent time in prison for trashing a renter’s home while he was trying to evict her.

According to a police report, he damaged a television, a DVR and a Sony Play Station.

He told officers “I just wanted my seriousness understood.”

Previously, he served federal time for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

He served 4 ½ years after he was convicted of that crime and was ordered to pay $14 million dollars in restitution to the U.S. Government.

Now Haught’s companies advertise properties for rent on sites like Trulia and Zillow.

Court documents show Haught’s new companies bring in more than $62,000 a month in rent. The majority of the revenue is profit, since investors are not paying for mortgages, insurance or taxes on those properties.

The companies are operated out of a sports marketing office in west Tampa, where we observed a steady stream of investors, employees and attorneys come and go.

We tried to talk to Haught as he was leaving, but he drove away.

We also reached out to his attorneys by phone and email, and visited Haught’s home, but no one responded.

“There is no requirement imposed on these investors to place language in a lease disclosing the fact that these properties are in foreclosure,” said Attorney Ryan Torrens, who has represented multiple parties in HOA litigation.

Torrens says HOA foreclosure renters often don’t know what they’re getting into.

And when banks finally foreclose, they are only required by law to give occupants a 30 day notice to vacate, whether or not they have a lease.

“The tenant should be informed that there’s a possibility that you may have to move because this is still owned by the bank.

Tenants and experts say future renters should protect themselves by asking the right questions before they sign a lease. 

“We should have information about the company, how long they’ve owned the home, if this home has been in foreclosure. We’re supposed to have protection and we don’t,” said Jorge Taveras.

Homeowners should started by looking up addresses on a property appraiser’s website.

 For Hillsborough County:

 http://gis.hcpafl.org/propertysearch/#/nav/Basic%20Search

 For Pinellas County:

 http://www.pcpao.org/searchpage.php

 For Pasco County:

 http://search.pascopa.com/

“Ask for a copy of the latest mortgage statement to show it’s actually current. If the owner tells you it’s been paid in cash, ask for a copy of the purchase contract,” said Torrens.

“Now it’s just like let’s just try to step away from the property because now we don’t know how many people are involved, how many untrustworthy people are involved,” said Miller, who moved her family to another rental property 45 minutes away.

The Taveras’ have not had as much luck.

They planned to move to New York, so they could stay with family members until they could rent another home.

Their chances are now limited, because they have a recent eviction on their credit report.

“I’ve been looking on Craigslist, I’ve been looking on Zillow, Trulia… I’ve been looking on all these websites to try to find a place for my family and I can’t,” said Jorge Taveras.  

If you have a story you’d like to share with the I-Team, contact us at adam@abcactionnews.com

Article source: http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/i-team-investigates/i-team-dozens-of-renters-of-hoa-foreclosure-properties-evicted-amid-dispute-over-title-ownership

Woman alleges ex-husband failed to pay or modified loan for Princeton property without permission

PRINCETON – A woman is seeking to stop and stay foreclosure proceedings on her Princeton home.

Patricia Sowards filed a complaint on June 22 in the Mercer Circuit Court against Michael A. Sowards, Byron Nazelrod, Wells Fargo Financial West Virginia Inc. and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc. seeking a motion for preliminary injunction to stay the foreclosure proceedings on her home.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff and her then-husband Michael Sowards obtained a home loan from Wells Fargo in 2004. When the couple divorced in 2013, the suit states the plaintiff received ownership of the home and that Michael Sowards was to pay the monthly mortgage. The plaintiff alleges Wells Fargo has declared that the loan is in default and that either her ex-husband has failed to make payments or caused the payments to increase by modifying the loan without her permission.

The plaintiff seeks granting of a preliminary injunction, stop and stay the foreclosure proceedings and sale of the property, judge in the sum of $40,000 and any other relief as the court deems just. She is represented by Anthony R. Veneri of Anthony R. Veneri, Esq. in Princeton. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Mark Wills.

Mercer Circuit Court case number 17-C-258

Article source: http://wvrecord.com/stories/511143560-woman-alleges-ex-husband-failed-to-pay-or-modified-loan-for-princeton-property-without-permission

‘I’d rather go back to the war’: 84-year-old twins homeless after foreclosure

ORANGEVALE, Ca. — For 84 years, twin brothers Clifford and Gary Koekoek have done everything together.

They survived the Nazi occupation in their native Netherlands together. They moved to the U.S. and briefly worked in Hollywood. They both served in the military. But now, they’ve become homeless, yet again – together.

“Right now, I’m broke,” Clifford told KTXL-TV. “Sometimes we don’t eat.”

In 2007, they wanted to fix the roof on their Orangevale, California home, which they say they bought from their mother. The house has been in their family since 1984.

“We took a loan thinking that we had a conventional loan,” said Gary.

But it wasn’t a conventional loan. It was an adjustable rate loan, meaning their payments got higher and higher over time.  Eventually, they couldn’t afford it, and the bank foreclosed on their house.

In October of last year, the twins were kicked out. The men had nowhere to turn and began sleeping together in a car they share.

When asked if they ever feel overwhelmed, Clifford responded, “I do … all the time,” as he fought back tears.

“I would almost say it’s hell,” said Gary.

The two say they spend most of their time now just walking. Both log plenty of hours at the Sacramento Public Library in Orangevale. Gary mostly pores over deed records, trying to find a way to get their house back.

But the odds aren’t good.

“They were just living in their car in front of Raley’s when I found out,” said Aaron Hoerner, a friend of the family for about ten years. He’s been making a social media push to find them permanent housing. The whole experience, he says, gives him a new perspective on homelessness.

“It’s easy to walk by and not look at their situation but if you stop and talk to somebody, everybody has a story,” said Hoerner.

Their story has certainly had its dramatic ups and downs. And at age 84, they seem to have hit their most difficult chapter.

“It’s a lot of stress. I’d rather go back to the war and get shot at, than this crap,” said Clifford.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the brothers out. You can donate here.

Article source: http://wreg.com/2017/07/20/id-rather-go-back-to-the-war-84-year-old-twins-homeless-after-foreclosure/

Challengers take on Detroit council incumbents

Competitors ranging from leaders of neighborhood groups to former police officers and lawyers are hoping to survive the Aug. 8 primary and get the chance to challenge Detroit City Council incumbent in districts 1-3 in November.

The top two voter-getters in each district advance to face off in the November general election

In District 1, Councilman James Tate faces two challengers — De’Andre Nelson and Tamara Smith.

He touts his biggest accomplishments as the launch of Di$cover D1— an initiative meant to fuel small business growth in his district — and the start of monthly community meetings with residents.

“Downtown has amenities that we can’t compete with,” said Tate, 42. “We have issues that we have overcome in the neighborhood that are detracting businesses from coming into our neighborhood.”

Tate said Di$cover D1 has boosted revenue for businesses in his district and connected residents with businesses in their neighborhood they otherwise didn’t know existed.

He said he prides himself on being “accessible to the community” and if re-elected he wants to focus on initiatives that empower young people.

Political newcomer De’Andre Nelson, 24, said he wants to focus on reducing crime by partnering with neighborhood groups and recruiting more police officers; investing in young people; and cleaning up and beautifying Detroit neighborhoods.

Nelson, who works in the finance industry, also wants to stir economic development by providing incentives for small businesses. Detroit’s image as a “comeback city” does not reflect all parts of town, he said.

“We still are seeing a great level of demise in our neighborhood,” Nelson said.

Tamara Smith, 43, said she wants to bring companies with “livable wage” jobs to Detroit. She also wants to curb sex trafficking.

Smith said she owns an independent transportation company and residents regularly seek her help in solving crimes such as car theft. “People are dying daily, crime is being committed daily,” she said.

District 2

City Council President Pro-Tem George Cushingberry faces five challengers: Linda D. Bernard, Tyra Dear-Williams, Roy McCalister Jr., Helena Scott and former state Sen. Virgil Smith.

Cushingberry, a former state representative and Wayne County commissioner, said he wants to focus on helping the city emerge from state oversight, continuing clean city initiatives, expanding public-private initiatives to create jobs for residents and improving council oversight of the city’s housing programs.

Since joining council Cushingberry’s law license has been suspended twice. He first lost it for 45 days for taking a client’s money and providing no services. Cushingberry, 64, received another one-year suspension for failing to appear at a public hearing over professional misconduct claims.

In 2014, during a stop outside of a bar, police allegedly found a cup of liquor and a half-smoked marijuana cigarette in his car. Cushingberry was issued a ticket for failure to signal, but not given a field sobriety test. An investigation concluded there was not enough evidence to suggest the councilman sought preferential treatment from police.

Cushingberry chairs the council’s budget, finance and audit committee, and has been vocal about getting Wayne County Parks millage funding for improvements on Belle Isle.

Smith, who said he is self-employed, resigned from the state Senate last year and spent 10 months in jail after firing an assault rifle at his ex-wife’s car.

“I don’t run from it, but it’s not an issue for me,” Smith said of his legal problems. “I’ve learned from the situation.”

Smith, 37, said he is an advocate for getting mixed-use development on the state fairgrounds in his district.

Smith said he also will lobby for lower auto and homeowner insurance for Detroiters.

“I have a good track record of delivering and I know how government operates,” he said. “No matter what the issue is, if someone comes to me and asks for help, I am going to help them.”

McCalister, a retired Detroit police officer and an investigator with the Eastern District of Michigan Federal Defenders Office, said he wants to revitalize northwest Detroit neighborhoods and bring in grocery stores and resources to improve quality of life for senior citizens.

“We have areas that are really destitute,” said McCalister, 63. “All those folks need support.”

McCalister said if elected he will encourage more community policing. He also plans to create career opportunities for residents through apprenticeship schools and training programs.

Helena Scott said in an email that she is an organizer with Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice. Scott, 56, said she would focus on community development, economic growth and public safety.

“I hope to accomplish more economic growth in the 6 Mile 7 Mile/Wyoming areas while hoping to decrease the blight in District 2 and increase community development and have safer neighborhoods,” Scott said in an email.

Attempts to reach candidates Linda D. Bernard and Tyra Dear-Williams were unsuccessful. According to a Facebook fan page, Bernard is an attorney .

A campaign flier for Dear-Williams says she is advocating for small business growth, community action programs, blight elimination and neighborhood safety action networks.

District 3

City Councilman Scott Benson faces four challengers: Russ Bellant, Cedric Banks, Dennis Green and Adam R. Mundy.

Benson, 47, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Benson spent seven days in jail in 2015 for a drunken driving conviction. He was found slumped behind the wheel of his city-issued 2008 Ford Crown Victoria at a traffic signal on the southbound Southfield service drive near Eight Mile. He told The Detroit News at the time: “I’m hoping others can take a lesson from this.”

Benson introduced a controversial community benefits ordinance that voters approved in November. It requires developers of major projects to engage residents to negotiate jobs, affordable housing or other benefits.

Russ Bellant, 68, is heavily involved in community groups including the HelCo Block Club and the We Care About Van Dyke-Seven Mile Inc. neighborhood association. He is a city water department retiree.

Bellant said he wants to lobby to revert federal demolition funds back to assisting low-income families to avoid foreclosure. He also wants to see the water rates reduced so residents don’t abandon homes and leave the city.

“We should be focusing on public health aspects and making water affordable again before we start talking about shutoffs,” Bellant said.

Cedric Banks, 53, is a local pastor who has hosted job fairs, landlord fairs and candidate forums for elections.

Banks said his goal is “to help rebuild the people” in District 3, which is one of the city’s poorest enclaves.

“I’ve got the resources,” he said. “I have the connections, I have the relationships.”

Adam R. Mundy, 43, said he has served as senior policy analyst for both Benson and Councilwoman Janee Ayers, a community liaison for former council member Kenneth Cockrel Jr. and understands council policy and procedures.

Mundy said the residents in his district feel they have been left out of the plans to move Detroit forward.

“Blight, crime and abandonment plague our neighborhoods,” he said in an email. “I want to be the leader to help bring District 3 back to being a safe, clean, and thriving neighborhood that it once was years ago.”

Attempts to reach Dennis Green were unsuccessful. Campaign literature says Green is a civil engineer who “understands how to take and rebuild our neighborhoods in a better direction.”

nterry@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-6793

Twitter: @NicquelTerry

Article source: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2017/07/27/detroit-council-incumbents-challengers/104063828/

Foreclosure executed by Elias – The Auburn Villager : Legals

FORECLOSURE NOTICE

 

Default having been made in the payment of the indebtedness described in and secured by that certain mortgage executed by JOHNNIE B. ELIAS, JR. and CASSANDRA L. ELIAS, husband and wife, as Mortgagor(s) to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., acting solely as nominee for Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., as Mortgagee, dated the 23rd day of February, 2007, and recorded in Mortgages Book 3426, Page 930, et seq. of the records in the Office of the Judge of Probate Court of Lee County, Alabama; said mortgage being lastly assigned to NEW PENN FINANCIAL, LLC D/B/A SHELLPOINT MORTGAGE SERVICES by instrument recorded in said Probate Court records; said default continuing, notice is hereby given that the undersigned will, under and by virtue of the power of sale contained in said mortgage sell at public outcry for cash to the highest bidder during legal hours of sale, on the 31st day of August, 2017, in the city of Opelika, at the front Door of the Court House of Lee County, Alabama, the following described real property situated in the County of Lee, State of Alabama, to-wit:

All that certain parcel of land situated in the County of Lee, State of Alabama, being known as Lot 1, Oliver Point Subdivision, according to a map and plat of said subdivision being of record in the Office of the Judge of Probate of Lee County, Alabama, in Plat Book 14 at pages 1 and 2.  Situate, lying and being in Section 21, Township 18 North, Range 30 East, Lee County, Alabama.

 

This property will be sold on an “as is, where is” basis, subject to any easements, encumbrances, reservations and exceptions reflected in the mortgage and/or those contained in the records of the office of the Judge of Probate of the county where the above-described property is situated.  This property will be sold without warranty or recourse, expressed or implied as to title, use and/or enjoyment and will be sold subject to the right of redemption of all parties entitled thereto.  Alabama law gives some persons who have an interest in property the right to redeem the property under certain circumstances. Programs may also exist that help persons avoid or delay the foreclosure process. An attorney should be consulted to help you understand these rights and programs as a part of the foreclosure process.

 

Said sale will be made for the purpose of paying said indebtedness and the expenses incident to this sale, including a reasonable attorney’s fee, and the other purposes set out in said mortgage. The sale will be conducted subject to confirmation that the sale is not prohibited under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and also to final confirmation and audit of the status of the loan with the Mortgagee.

 

NEW PENN FINANCIAL, LLC

D/B/A

SHELLPOINT

MORTGAGE

SERVICES

 

Holder of said Mortgage

Goodman G. Ledyard

PIERCE LEDYARD, P.C.

Attorneys for Mortgagee

Post Office Box 161389

Mobile, Alabama 36616

(251) 338-1300

 

The Villager

July 27, August 3, August 10, 2017

Article source: http://www.auburnvillager.com/legals/foreclosure-executed-by-elias/article_386220fa-72df-11e7-9659-8bcc7a2cd399.html

Lawyer convicted in mortgage scheme now accused of hiding …

Steven Barry Ruza 

MASON, MI — An attorney convicted of conducting a mortgage scheme was charged Friday with four additional felonies for trying to avoid paying restitution to the victims of his scam. 

Steven Barry Ruza, 54, of Shelby Township was charged in Ingham County’s 55th District Court with several crimes related to the alleged scam, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, which filed the charges.

Ruza is accused of using someone else’s identity to hide assets that could be used to pay the $348,025.50 in restitution he still owes to the Department of Attorney General’s Foreclosure Rescue Scam Victim Restitution Fund.

“This individual shows a clear disregard for the law. Less than one year after admitting guilt in a scheme that scammed many, out of not only their money but their homes, he is allegedly breaking the law once again in order to avoid his legal obligations,” said Attorney General Bill Schuette in a statement.

Ruza was ordered to pay $610,000 in restitution following a 2015 conviction for conducting a criminal enterprise.

He and his business stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients who were facing mortgage foreclosures and seeking assistance, investigators found.

Ruza, of Orchard Lake, and his company, Home Legal Group, promised upwards of 114 victims they could obtain mortgage modifications and save their homes from foreclosure, but then did nothing, or very little, to obtain mortgage modifications for the victims, prosecutors alleged. They did, however, collect hundreds of thousands in fees. 

He eventually pleaded guilty to one count conducting a criminal enterprise and was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation. He was released from jail in September 2016, according to the Attorney General’s office.

The attorney general’s office got a tip earlier this year that Ruza had hidden a large sum of money. An investigation revealed Ruza allegedly got a driver’s license in December 2016 with his photo, but someone else’s name, using the birth certificate of the person whose identity he stole, according to the Attorney General’s office. 

Ruza is also accused of falsifying information on a car title application, saying he bought a used vehicle for $500, but really paying thousands of dollars in cash for the car, prosecutors allege.

The new charges against Ruza include one count of perjury, one count of false statement in application for certificate title, one count of false certification – driver’s license and one count of identity theft.

Magistrate Mark Blumer set a $150,000 cash or surety bond. Ruza was also ordered to turn over all driver’s licenses and passports in his name or any other name.

Article source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2017/07/woman_recounts_youth_pastor_se.html

Steinway Tower lender attempted foreclosure, lawsuit alleges


An owner in a high-rise condo tower being built on Billionaires’ Row won a temporary restraining order to delay a foreclosure it alleges was set to take place on Thursday.

AmBase, an investment firm that has poured $66 million into the 1,400 foot tall super-luxury development under construction at 111 West 57th St., has been suing its partners over $50 million in cost overruns it alleges they allowed. The new suit seeks to block a foreclosure by a mezzanine lender until those claims are sorted out or a solution is reached to reimburse AmBase.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, the project’s sponsors, real estate investors Michael Stern and Kevin Maloney, had arranged to hand the Steinway Tower over to Spruce Capital, a lender that holds a $25 million mezzanine loan that is in default, according to the suit. The foreclosure would have wiped out AmBase’s ownership stake and its investment in the tower.

The lawsuit and potential foreclosure were first reported by The New York Post.

Stephen Meister, the attorney representing AmBase who filed the suit seeking the restraining order, suggested he believes Spruce, Stern and Maloney may be colluding to allow Spruce to seize the project and remove AmBase. He accused the group of then planning to reform a partnership amongst themselves after the foreclosure, although he conceded he had no evidence of such an arrangement.

“Why else would Stern and Maloney agree to a voluntary foreclosure, unless they stood to gain something from it?” Meister said.

Stern’s attorney, Paul O’Connor disputed those claims.

“This is a baseless lawsuit which we will fully defend in court,” O’Connor said in a statement.

Maloney nor Spruce immediately responded to a request for comment.

AmBase launched a lawsuit last year against Stern and Maloney alleging they had allowed construction costs to swell more than 10% over budget, which it claimed triggered a buyout clause that forced Stern and Maloney to repay AmBase its $66 million investment plus 20% interest.

According to the new lawsuit, AmBase holds the largest ownership stake in the project, controlling 43.5% of equity. Stern and Maloney own 37.84% and another partner owns 18.65%, the suit claims. AmBase stated that Stern and Maloney have poured $35 million of their own funds into the development, but have collected $14 million in management fees and more than $9 million for affiliates performing the construction work and other reimbursements.

The temporary restraining order on the foreclosure stretches until August 14 when the case is next set to be heard in State Supreme Court. Meister said he is seeking to uphold the restraining order in that session in order to continue to prevent a foreclosure.

AmBase claims that Maloney and Stern had agreed to what it calls a “strict foreclosure” without its knowledge—a process in which the borrowers would willingly hand the property back to their lender. Meister stated that if a standard mezzanine foreclosure was to take place—which he said AmBase would prefer—outside bidders could make offers for the project, potentially creating proceeds that would reimburse AmBase and the other equity holders.

Article source: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20170727/REAL_ESTATE/170729896/steinway-tower-lender-attempted-foreclosure

Fair Housing Orgs. Expand Foreclosure Complaint In Indy, Gary

Photos from the complaint show trash and overgrown grass around Deutsche Bank-owned properties in majority-black neighborhoods of Indianapolis.

Courtesy NFHA

 

A national fair housing group says Deutsche Bank and two other businesses are less likely to maintain foreclosed, bank-owned homes in majority-black areas of 30 cities, including Indianapolis and Gary.

A new version of a federal complaint, out this week, expands the investigation.

The National Fair Housing Alliance and 19 local organizations first filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development against Deutsche Bank in 2014.

Now, they’re also naming the bank’s property maintenance companies, Ocwen Financial and Altisource.

The complaint says these companies are more likely to let empty, bank-owned homes become blighted or derelict in mostly-black neighborhoods than in mostly-white ones. And it says they aren’t trying as hard to sell those homes.

The complaint includes analysis of 22 properties in Gary, and 18 in Indianapolis, where Amy Nelson is executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

She says once the bank takes back a house, it’s required to keep it up to code.

“To the homeowner who lives nearby or next door to a vacant home that’s not being properly maintained, it can be extremely significant,” Nelson says. “Their property values have been shown to be impacted, and that is by that homeowner doing nothing wrong.”

She hopes the allegations will prompt Deutsche Bank to change its practices.

South Suburban Housing Center in Homewood, Illinois, was the group investigating the Gary properties. The complaint is similar to ones filed against Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others in the wake of the housing crisis.

Article source: http://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/fair-housing-orgs-expand-foreclosure-complaint-in-indy-gary

I-Team: Dozens of renters of HOA foreclosure properties evicted amid dispute over title ownership

TAMPA – In Florida, homeowners’ associations can foreclose on homes when owners don’t pay their dues…sometimes for as little as a few thousand dollars.

Investors who buy the liens get temporary titles and can rent those houses until banks foreclose.

But as the I-Team discovered, leasing these properties can pose plenty of potential problems for renters.

“It was a little over 1300 square feet. There’s a half bath on the bottom floor and two full baths on the main,” said Chelcie Miller, describing her former Carrollwood Rental townhome.  

“We came over, looked at the house and fell in love with it,” said Jorge Taveras, describing the house he rented in Riverview.

But what started out as dream homes, eventually became nightmares.

“I feel like we’ve been betrayed,” said Taveras.

We met the Taveras family as they packed up to move.

“We were supposedly on the premises illegally,” said Christine Taveras, Jorge’s wife.

In four years, they paid more than $62,000 in rent, never missing a rent payment.

But in March, a new landlord claimed ownership of the property, while the company they signed a lease with continued to expect rent payments.

They were caught in the middle and ended up being evicted.

“They can destroy your life in a matter of seconds,” said Jorge Taveras. “I can’t get a house for my family. I can’t get an apartment.”

“They upped our rent. They said they need all the security deposits back,” said Miller.

Chelcie Miller and her husband were given five days to pay $1,800 or move out of the townhouse they rented.

They had already paid that month’s rent when they got the notice.

“Send us a check to a PO Box. Don’t fill in the name, just put the amount and day and sign it,” Miller said she was instructed.

Their new landlord, convicted felon Barry Haught, has filed eviction cases against more than two dozen tenants since March, even though he doesn’t actually own any of the properties.

Haught and a former partner bought titles to 120 homes for as little as a few thousand dollars each at HOA foreclosure auctions.

After they had a falling out, Haught used quit claim deeds to transfer the titles into new companies, then demanded new leases, new security deposits and rent from tenants.

“There’s a lot of houses. A lot of families are getting kicked out because of this. And a lot of people don’t know about this,” said Jorge Taveras.

Here is a map of the foreclosed homes.

It was not the first time Haught was tough on renters. 

In 2011, he was arrested, convicted and spent time in prison for trashing a renter’s home while he was trying to evict her.

According to a police report, he damaged a television, a DVR and a Sony Play Station.

He told officers “I just wanted my seriousness understood.”

Previously, he served federal time for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

He served 4 ½ years after he was convicted of that crime and was ordered to pay $14 million dollars in restitution to the U.S. Government.

Now Haught’s companies advertise properties for rent on sites like Trulia and Zillow.

Court documents show Haught’s new companies bring in more than $62,000 a month in rent. The majority of the revenue is profit, since investors are not paying for mortgages, insurance or taxes on those properties.

The companies are operated out of a sports marketing office in west Tampa, where we observed a steady stream of investors, employees and attorneys come and go.

We tried to talk to Haught as he was leaving, but he drove away.

We also reached out to his attorneys by phone and email, and visited Haught’s home, but no one responded.

“There is no requirement imposed on these investors to place language in a lease disclosing the fact that these properties are in foreclosure,” said Attorney Ryan Torrens, who has represented multiple parties in HOA litigation.

Torrens says HOA foreclosure renters often don’t know what they’re getting into.

And when banks finally foreclose, they are only required by law to give occupants a 30 day notice to vacate, whether or not they have a lease.

“The tenant should be informed that there’s a possibility that you may have to move because this is still owned by the bank.

Tenants and experts say future renters should protect themselves by asking the right questions before they sign a lease. 

“We should have information about the company, how long they’ve owned the home, if this home has been in foreclosure. We’re supposed to have protection and we don’t,” said Jorge Taveras.

Homeowners should started by looking up addresses on a property appraiser’s website.

 For Hillsborough County:

 http://gis.hcpafl.org/propertysearch/#/nav/Basic%20Search

 For Pinellas County:

 http://www.pcpao.org/searchpage.php

 For Pasco County:

 http://search.pascopa.com/

“Ask for a copy of the latest mortgage statement to show it’s actually current. If the owner tells you it’s been paid in cash, ask for a copy of the purchase contract,” said Torrens.

“Now it’s just like let’s just try to step away from the property because now we don’t know how many people are involved, how many untrustworthy people are involved,” said Miller, who moved her family to another rental property 45 minutes away.

The Taveras’ have not had as much luck.

They planned to move to New York, so they could stay with family members until they could rent another home.

Their chances are now limited, because they have a recent eviction on their credit report.

“I’ve been looking on Craigslist, I’ve been looking on Zillow, Trulia… I’ve been looking on all these websites to try to find a place for my family and I can’t,” said Jorge Taveras.  

If you have a story you’d like to share with the I-Team, contact us at adam@abcactionnews.com

Article source: http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/i-team-investigates/i-team-dozens-of-renters-of-hoa-foreclosure-properties-evicted-amid-dispute-over-title-ownership

Democrats criticize financial industry backgrounds of two Trump bank regulator nominees

Senate Democrats on Thursday criticized the financial industry backgrounds of President Trump’s nominees for two key banking regulatory positions, arguing they would not protect the interests of average Americans.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others sharply questioned Joseph Otting, the former chief executive of Pasadena’s OneWest Bank, and investment fund manager Randal Quarles during a confirmation hearing by the Senate Banking Committee.

Trump nominated Otting to be the comptroller of the currency, a powerful regulator of national banks. Quarles has been tapped to be the Federal Reserve’s vice chairman for supervision, who is in charge of the Fed’s oversight of the nation’s largest bank holding companies and other regulatory efforts.

The two are expected to be friendlier to the banking industry than recent Democratic appointees.

Steven T. Mnuchin was the bank’s chairman from 2009-15.