by: Scott Wickersham Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Police in Charlotte are seeing a spike in cases where people break into homes that have been foreclosed on and then rent them out to unsuspecting victims.
“Criminals are looking for loopholes and an easy ride,” said Officer Chris Kopp.
He’s working five cases in the University area, but often police can’t do anything because people about to lose their home to the bank don’t care.
“When we contact the owners, they typically have been away for months and they’ve wiped their hands clean of it,” Kopp said. “They have accepted the bank is going to take over this home so no longer want to get involved.”
The people behind the scheme go to great lengths by drumming up realistic lease agreements. Some go even a step further, trying to file paperwork with the Register of Deeds office to take possession of empty homes.
The loopholes are one reason Sen. Jeff Tarte wants to change the law.
“I think it’s just giving some strength to local police, to ntercede in that interim period,” Tarte said.
Another reason is that it happened in his neighborhood.
“It happened across the street from my house,” Tarte said. “They even rented it as a vacation rental house.”
Until laws change, Kopp said, homeowners can post no-trespassing signs and neighbors should call police if people suddenly appear in a vacant home.
Police say people who unwittingly rent these homes have not committed a crime, so they can’t be kicked out of the house immediately. They will eventually be evicted, though.