Families Evicted After Paying Landlord Who Never Owned Property

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two families are now homeless after they paid rent to a landlord who never actually owned the family. But the landlord says he's not a crook and that the entire ordeal was caused by a misunderstanding with the Philadelphia Housing Authority. NBC10's George Spencer has the story. (Published Monday, Jul 15, 2013)

    It was moving day for Gwendolyn Preston and her family. But the North Philadelphia woman says it was neither expected nor desired.

    “I told them if they gave me 30 days I’d get my stuff out,” she said. “But for them to give me 24 hours notice? I can’t do it.”

    The Prestons along with another family say they signed leases and paid $700 cash rent to Michael Davis, who was renting out their apartment units on the 2400 block of N. Bouvier Street. There was just one problem however. Davis doesn’t actually own the properties, the Philadelphia Housing Authority does. That’s why the PHA forced both families out of the property and boarded up their units. Davis says he’s not a crook however and that the entire ordeal was a huge misunderstanding.

    “I’m not in the scamming business,” he said. “I don’t scam people.”

    Davis says he bought 21 properties during a PHA auction on November 16, 2011, including the ones on N. Bouvier Street. Davis claims he used three cashier checks to purchase them but that one of the checks, worth $100,000, bounced. After it bounced however, Davis claims a PHA official told him not to worry and that it would be taken care of. He says he was in the process of buying the units and thought the purchase was almost final. He also says he has the checks and auction letters to prove it.

    “That was the word they gave me at PHA,” he said. “They told me it was a done deal.”

    But there was no deal or sale, according to the Housing Authority, who said they couldn’t give the families more time to stay because they are selling the units very soon. While Davis says he wasn’t trying to scam the families, he also says he made a mistake moving the tenants in before the sale was final.

    Lance Haver of the Office of Consumer Affairs says that a property records search is a critical first step for renters, although lag time in the records makes it nearly impossible to know the real owner on a recently purchased unit.

    “The people who are swindlers, who are con artists, they know how to do this,” Haver said. “As a rule, if you don’t know much about real estate, you should work through a realtor.”

    Officials are investigating the incident, according to a source.