Thursday, May 23, 2013

In the beginning...

Our story began over a year ago when we signed a two year lease to rent a home in Oceanside, CA. Winchester Property Management a.k.a Oceanside Sales and Rentals (a reputable local business of 15 years that manages over 800 properties) verified verbally on four different occasions that the home was "owned outright" and "in no risk of foreclosure." We explained that we had rented directly from a homeowner in the past, who collected our rent and neglected to pay her mortgage resulting in foreclosure.  Feeling assured we had done our own due diligence, we signed a lease on the home rented to us at a discount in AS-IS condition. We cleaned, patched holes, painted, did yard work (including installing fake grass) and other repairs totaling over $8000. We were fine with that, since we planned to enjoy the home for two years with low rent.

Five months later, on September 11, 2012: a notice of foreclosure was posted to our front door! Hearts sank. Then instant anxiety, when we saw that the legal notice referenced the previous home-owners: George and Sharion Hreha NOT Home Advocate Trustees (the group of investors that Winchester had said they verified owned the home).

We jumped quickly into over-drive, on a mission to stay in our home:
My husband Billy and I spent countless hours on the internet researching Home Advocates Trustees (HAT) and Walkawaytoday.org (WAT). We researched renters rights, laws, and spoke to several lawyers and tenants advocates groups. Contacted the FBI, DA, DRE, CFPB, congressman Issa, and Attorney General, by phone, wrote letters and filed complaints. We also were able to contact the Hreha family to try to short-sale the home from Chase bank. The Hreha's said they no longer had rights to the home since they signed a quit-claim deed and power of attorney to HAT.

Next Billy and I decided to do some "super-sleuthing" on HAT and WAT. We put together some connections that the FBI needed to move forward with a current case that had been open in DC for almost a year. We found out that HAT was a nation-wide fraud scheme that had swindled homeowners and renters for millions of dollars! We gave this information to Liz Mitchel, Carlsbad Chase bank branch manager, in an effort to allow us an avenue to short-sale the home without the Hreha's, who refused to work with her and us.

We reported our insane situation to the local news. Michael Turko of KUSI listened to our tangled tale and aired our story:
September 26, 2012 http://www.kusi.com/story/19651207/in-the-crossfire
September 27, 2012 http://www.kusi.com/story/19667430/in-limbo

We went to the foreclosure auction on November 1, 2012.  NDEx West auctioneer announced that our home went "back to the bank." Since it was not sold to a buyer that intended to live here, we thought we were safe to stay through our lease, so we celebrated!