In Jacksonville, Florida, WTLV-TV Channel 12 reports:
- Pamela Lewis has few words to describe what happened. "These last few days (have been) hell, excuse my language, because I am scared to leave," she said. Her nightmare began in August when she rented a house - which was not actually authorized by the owner to be rented. Now she is afraid to leave her home because she doesn't know what she'd return to find.
- After searching Craigslist, she found a two-story house near Morse Avenue on Jacksonville's Westside. "They were here on the property working," said Lewis. After making contact with the person she thought was the property owner, Lewis said a week later she signed a lease with James Loen to rent the property for $950 a month. She said that Loen told her he was the landlord. September 2010, Lewis moved in.
- But in May, eight months later, a man showed up at her front door, and told her he was the owner, he didn't know who she was and that she needed to move out. "He gave me a 24-hour notice, stuck it on my door. The cops seen it and said this is illegal he can't do this, he typed it up and signed it," said Lewis.
- On Your Side put her in contact with Erica Shaffor, an attorney with Three Rivers Legal Services.(1) Shaffor said even if a tenant signs a fake lease with a phony landlord, the tenant has rights. "The tenant cannot just be thrown out by the alleged owner," said Shaffor. Shaffor said the property owner has to file for an 'ejectment.' She said Lewis had every reason to believe her lease was legal.
- Lewis said now that she knows she was scammed, she's in the process of finding a new home, but said she can't move as quickly as the property owner wants her to move.
For the story, see Beware of Rental Scam Using Foreclosures.
(1) Three Rivers Legal Services is a local, non-profit law firm which provides free civil legal services to low-income, eligible clients in seventeen counties throughout North Florida.