by: Scott Wickersham Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A local attorney said a landlord is buying homes at auction and collecting rent from families while knowing the homes will soon be foreclosed on and those renters will be kicked out.
Days after signing a long-term lease, Tonya Smith was told she had to leave her Steele Creek home because it was being foreclosed on.
She said Tina Nguyen rented her the home.
When Channel 9 started looking, it found three complaints about Nguyen's real estate dealings with the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.
In one, a woman in northeast Charlotte complained Nguyen rented her a home “knowing that the mortgage loan held by a third party is in serious default.”
Attorney Brett Dressler represents Smith.
He said any investor can buy a home at an HOA foreclosure auction.
However, it's "subject to the mortgage,” meaning the bank that's owed money can still foreclose.
“She takes advantage of the delay between when the HOA can foreclose, and when the bank can foreclose,” Dressler said. “She will get somebody and rent that house for as long as she can until the bank comes in and forecloses it out from underneath her.”
Dressler said it's legal, but the renters can be left scrambling for a home.
Nguyen agreed to meet Channel 9 outside the Mecklenburg County courthouse and Eyewitness News asked if she's misleading people.
“No one is paying on the mortgage. You know that eventually these people are going to get kicked out. Do you make that clear to them,” Channel 9 asked.
“Yes. I just told you, clearly in my lease I told them they would be protected,” she said.
However, the lease she showed me only explains that, by law, renters have 90 days to move if the home is foreclosed.
There's no indication the home they're about to rent may already be in the foreclosure process.
“Do you think it’s unfair and deceptive? Do you think you are breaking certain laws?” Channel 9 asked.
“I disclose information to them when I rent it out to them,” Nguyen said.
“Can you tell people verbally as opposed to just putting it in the print?” Channel 9 asked.
“I will tell them verbally,” she said.
“From now on you will say hey this is the situation?” Channel 9 asked.
“Yes, right,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said she'll change how she does business. If not, Dressler said one the courts could step in.
“That may be up to a jury one day to tell her what she is doing is not fair to consumers and put a stop to it,” Dressler said.
He advises anyone considering renting a home to do their homework first.
In Mecklenburg County, renters can use a home address to look up the owner's name.
Dressler said his client saw red flags, like foreclosure notices in the mail, but Nguyen told her everything was fine.
Nguyen said she said that because the law gives renters 90 days to move if there is a foreclosure.
Channel 9 discovered that law expires at the end of this year.
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