Foreclosures Lead To Increase In 'Secondary' Victims

Rent Paying Tenants Finding Themselves Without Roof Over Their Heads

When Jan Harvey and her husband signed a lease with an option to buy on a house in Westminster, in May 2007, they thought they'd never have to move again.

"This was going to be our retirement home," Harvey told 7NEWS.

But a surprise letter from the Jefferson County Public Trustee has thrown those plans into turmoil.

The letter, addressed to "occupant," states that the home, on the 7200 block of Otis Court, will be sold at public auction because the owner was failing to make loan payments.

"I felt like I was going to lose it mentally," Harvey said. "We've been paying $1,600 a month for close to two years."

But the Harvey's landlord wasn't using her rent money to pay the mortgage.

When contacted in Oshkosh, Neb., Ted Newman told 7NEWS, "I don't care if she pays the rent or not, there's no law that says I have to use it to make a (mortgage) payment."

"That's just devastating to me," Harvey said. "How could you be OK with doing something like that to somebody?"

The tenant said she and her husband, who operate a construction business out of their "rent to own" home, have made $30,000 to $40,000 worth of improvements to the property.

Now they've got to come up with enough money for a damage deposit and first and last month's rent for a new home.

"I just lost my mom in October," Harvey said. "And I'm trying to pay off her burial."

Harvey said she is a more than a little upset that she may never see the portion of their rent payments that was put into escrow.

"The real estate agent gave it to the owner," she said.

Marcia Waters, director of the Colorado Real Estate Commission, said the agency has limited jurisdiction over issues like this.

"If the escrow was given to a licensed real estate agent there are regulations that cover that," Waters said. "If the money was given to the homeowner as part of the rent payment, there may not be much that can be done."

When asked how often foreclosure auction notices or eviction notices go out to tenants who have actually been paying their rent, Jefferson County Public Trustee Margaret Chapman said, "There's no way of knowing."

Chapman said by law, when a notice is sent out, copies have to be mailed to her own office, the attorney, the occupant and all the known addresses of the grantors or owners.

Harvey said if the property owners had been upfront about their situation, she might have been in a position to assume a loan or work out some kind of agreement with the bank.

But without access to her money in escrow, Harvey said she can't even afford to attend the foreclosure auction, where the minimum bid on the home she thought would be hers is $197,000.

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