Squatter’s Scam: Rental Fraud in Miami

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile the home market in Miami has always been expensive but fair in the eyes of its clientele, there have been a large number of illegal incidents. Scammers have been attempting to scrounge off owned properties by “renting” out vacant residences around South Florida, feeding off of the seven year old mortgage collapse.

Renters in Miami outnumber homeowners, making them prime targets for fake leases and down payment scams.  This month has been rife with at least five cases of occupied properties, where tenants have been falsely rented bank owned homes by squatter brokers, making them residents of illegally leased property.

All five cases have been settled peacefully, with squatters complying with the order to vacate the premises. However, the authorities are on the lookout for any cases of fraudulent rentals, cautioning that homeowners must be vigilant if their property is empty between leases.

Squatters who enter homes illegally to claim on vacancies are considered trespassing on private property. Signs that a squatter has moved in include forced entry, changed locks, and broken windows. This process usually occurs after a neighbor has reported someone living in the property while the actual homeowner is away.

Anyone who undergoes these scams can either be a perpetrator be a victim, ranging from those who claimed on fake lease forms or those who claim that their real estate agent was a fraud. Otherwise, these victims are encouraged to cooperate with police by providing information leading to whereabouts of their “leaseholder”.

Renters are cautioned to check the credibility of their landlord/realtor, making sure that they have clear knowledge of the homeowner, and can provide any identification material if asked. Payments must always be made by verified check, not cash, alongside the available legal documents, and must be knowledgeable to the homeowner.

Otherwise, this current series of scams is being investigating by Miami Dade Police, who are looking for any tips on fake realtors/landlords, who often turn out to be repeat offenders. Squatters without legal rights to the property they are staying in will be arrested for fraudulent occupancy, while any defrauded renters will be included in any subsequent investigations.

Homeowners and renters beware any “quick and cheap” realtor who offers to sell out your property to the unsuspecting buyer without proper documentation. Signs of a fraudulent renter are: Cheap, below market value prices, requiring a down payment before meeting in person, and stating that they live out of the country.

South Floridians are cautioned to keep their property safe and watched to avoid becoming a victim of this ring of crimes.

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