West Palm Beach Woman Rents Out Someone Else’s Foreclosed Home
Last week we spoke about the mansion that was being occupied by a Boca Raton man. Recall that he was claiming rightful ownership of the home through Florida’s adverse possession laws. Last week, there was a report of a woman in Palm Beach County staking her rights under the same adverse possession laws. Here is the kicker, not only did she possess the home, she rented it out to unsuspecting tenants on Craigslist and pocketed more than $13,000 in the process! Unfortunately, for her, just like the man in Boca Raton, her plan was foiled short of the seven (7) year statutory requirement. Read the article below for more information.
By Sonja Isger Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A West Palm Beach woman is accused of commandeering her neighbor’s empty and foreclosed-upon home, renting it through Craigslist and collecting more than $13,000 in rent before the owner discovered the ruse and called the cops.
Nathalie Heil, 30, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on Friday. Facing charges of grand theft and fraud, she was released Saturday after posting $6,000 bond.
But Heil said she believes she has ownership of the house, stating that she filed what’s called “adverse possession” papers. The arcane Florida law, created hundreds of years ago, states that if a person claiming adverse possession stays in a home for seven years, paying taxes and caring for the property, they can take permanent ownership.
Andre De Palma Barbosa, the 23-year-old Brazilian now known as the “Boca Raton squatter,” used adverse possession to move into an empty foreclosed 7,000-square-foot mansion in Boca Raton in December.
As for Heil, she said the owner of the property at 314 Vallette Way abandoned the home more than six years ago.
She assumed that as soon as she filed her papers with the courts, the property was hers.
“Legally, I thought it was right,” she told the Palm Beach Post.
Heil said she’s received death threats since the story first ran on the Post’s website Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m freaking out,” she said. “I have a full-time job and I’m a single mom.”
West Palm Beach police were tipped off to the situation Friday morning, when they got a call from Kelly Keefner, who manages the 314 Vallette Way property for her father-in-law, Juan Cedeno. Keefner told police the home is in foreclosure, and for that reason she had not checked on the property in the last eight months. She said when she stopped by in late January, the place looked lived-in.
Keefner returned to the home with her husband and met April Wehle, 24, and Talia Williams, 25, who said they had been renting the home for $1,500 a month since mid-June. The women said they found the place through a Craigslist ad placed by Heil, who lives next door at 312 Vallette Way.
The women told police they’d paid a total $13,500 in rent by check to Heil and spent another $500 to make various repairs, according to Heil’s arrest report. The home sits south of downtown and just blocks south of the Mango Promenade historic district, tucked between S. Dixie Highway and S. Olive Ave. south of Okeechobee Boulevard.
After confirming Cedeno’s ownership — the county property appraiser lists him as the owner of record since 2007 — police said they confronted Heil when she went to the home to collect rent. Heil told police she had gone to the county courthouse and “completed paperwork giving her possession of the residence.”
Police said they found no such paperwork, and property records name Cedeno as the owner.
After her arrest, Heil said she was told to “show up for court with the paperwork.”
“I legally subletted my house,” she said, noting that Wehle and Williams still live there.
“There’s three sides to every story,” she said.
People who rent property from Craigslist should be cautious, said West Palm Beach-based Realtor Laura Pearlman, who did not speak specifically about the Heil case.
“Craigslist, that’s like a haven for scam artists,” Pearlman said.
Pearlman said she had to file a report with police last year after someone used Craigslist to list without permission a five-bedroom property that was being advertised by her company. She urged prospective tenants to research a property before renting.
“Don’t give money to anyone unless you know it’s going to the owner or the property management company or a realtor,” she said.
Staff Writer Julius Whigham II contributed to this report.
Posted on February 20, 2013, in Legal and tagged Adverse Possession, Attorney, Boca Raton, Craigslist, Florida Law, Foreclosure, http://www.kristenpell.com/, Landlord, Lawyer, Legal Schmegal, Nathalie Heil, Palm Beach County Jail, Palm Beach Post, Property Guiding, Rent, Sonja Isger, Statutory Requirement, SWFL Real Estate, West Palm. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.