A Common Housing Scam Is Plaguing Detroit Residents

Some 10% of people facing eviction there may have fallen victim to it
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2021 11:26 AM CST
She Bought Her Detroit Home. Then, a Trespassing Notice
Homes in Detroit.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The eviction notice made no sense. June Walker flat out owned her Detroit home—or so she thought. As NBC News and Outlier Media report as part of a four-month investigation, the 65-year-old is part of an increasingly common "fake landlord" scam plaguing the city that's thought to impact some 10% of tenants facing eviction there. The scam can take a variety of forms: a person changes the locks on a vacant house and "sells" it, though they have no right to, or someone pretends to be a landlord and collects rent from tenants. As for why Detroit is ripe for the scam, "discriminatory lending practices, crumbling conditions, and limited access to banks have put conventional home loans out of reach for many in Detroit." Rent-to-own arrangements are common, but some of them aren't legit, and that's exactly what Walker fell prey to.

She was shown the bungalow in January 2019, and it was in rough shape—missing some plumbing and without a furnace or water heater. The property manager showed her a copy of the deed, which was in the name of a man named Derrick. A few things seemed off about the document to Walker, but she'd never seen one before. She signed a rent-to-own agreement the next month, tirelessly fixed up the home, and made her last agreed-upon payment in the spring of 2021. But when it came time to put the deed in her name in April, Derrick's phone number no longer worked; the property manager's number was out of service, too. In June she got a trespassing summons in the mail. The house was really owned by a Pennsylvania company that happened to have sold it to a Florida company that same month. She's next in court on Friday, but her chances of retaining ownership are slim. (Read the full story, which explains why the scammers generally go unpunished.)

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