By Lynn Gordon - email
RIVIERA BEACH, FL (WFLX) - It's a renter's worst nightmare: A West Palm Beach woman is homeless after, she says, she laid out $2,500 in cash to rent a home on Tallahassee Drive in West Palm Beach. She has since found out her supposed landlord doesn't own the home. "We have nothing to do now. He took every dime we had," said Pat Powell.
Since Powell paid in cash; she has no receipt nor a lease. "I'm drained; I'm 60 years old. I don't care about me. I've got a 16-month-old grandchild; they don't deserve this," said Pat Powell.
Powell called the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office to resolve the dispute. They told her there was nothing they could do.
Even more shocking is who she rented the house from. "He [PBSO deputy] said, 'You didn't recognize him? He's been all over TV.' I said, 'No, if I recognized him, I would have ran as far as I could fast.'"
That's because the man she rented the home from is 52-year-old Carl Heflin; he's a former West Palm Beach police officer who just got out of jail two months ago after being accused of similar crimes.
But prosecutors dropped felony charges in return for Heflin pleading guilty to trespassing. Since he'd already spent 13 months in jail, Heflin was released.
We caught up with Heflin who admits to renting the home to Powell. "So you're not denying you tried to rent the house to them." Gordon stated.
"I did rent it to 'em. I wrote up a lease and everything else, and everyone is implying there's something wrong," Heflin defended.
Heflin says he's using something called 'adverse possession' to rent the home. This means if a person moves into possession of a property, improves it and possesses it in a public manner, then, after a certain amount of time, he will acquire title to the property even though it is actually owned by someone else.
This process is legal, but takes years to complete. "So you don't think you're doing anything wrong," said Gordon.
"I know I'm not because I'd be in jail," Heflin responded.
Meantime, Powell, who says she's out $2,500 and a place to live, warns, "Beware of these people. They're scam artists".
Heflin, who just got out of jail on similar charges, was accused of filing fraudulent deed transfers in order to take control of foreclosed homes he didn't own.
To make sure your property is legit, check tax rolls to see if the name of the owner matches the person you're renting from. And, if you're in doubt, go through a licensed realtor.