WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)---A local woman says she'll soon be out on the street after being taken for a ride. She claims she rented a house, but it turns out the landlord didn't own the home to begin with.
Renter Pat Powell says, "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."
She says it's a renters worst nightmare. She claims she laid out $2500 in cash to rent a home on Tallahassee Drive in West Palm Beach only to find out her supposed landlord doesn't own the home.
Powell has no receipt and no lease, so when she 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 when deputies told her who she rented the house from.
She says if she had recognized him, she would have ran as far as she could.
That's because the man she rented the home from is 52-year old Carl Heflin, a former West Palm Beach police officer who just got out of jail two months ago after being accused of similar crimes.
Prosecutors, however, dropped felony charges in return for Heflin to plead 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.
Heflin says he's using something called Adverse Possession to rent the home which means if a person moves into possession of 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. A process that is legal, but takes years to complete.
When asked if he thought he was doing something wrong? He says, "I know I'm not because I'd be in jail."
Meantime Powell who says she's out $2500 and a place to live, has this advice: "beware of these people they're scam artists gonna get the next one."
We spoke to the homeowner of record on the phone and she tells me no one has lived in the home for more than a year because of a fire.
She can't understand why Heflin hasn't been arrested. Police tell us it's a civil matter.