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2:28 PM Sat, July 21st

TRICKED: Apparent scam lures family into renting foreclosed home

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<BR>
Nicole Rosello, holding her 10-month-old son Joshua, and her 
family face the prospect of finding a new rental home five months into a two-year lease after learning their landlord had defaulted on mortgage payments long before they moved in. The home is scheduled to be sold at a trustee sale in November, leaving Rosello, her husband and their five children out in the cold.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<BR> Nicole Rosello, holding her 10-month-old son Joshua, and her family face the prospect of finding a new rental home five months into a two-year lease after learning their landlord had defaulted on mortgage payments long before they moved in. The home is scheduled to be sold at a trustee sale in November, leaving Rosello, her husband and their five children out in the cold.

Nicole Rosello is stuck in a bind.

A stay-at-home mother with five children, Rosello's living arrangements are in limbo after getting a notice that the home she's renting is heading to auction in November.

"It's pretty hard just sitting back and not knowing," she said.

Earlier this past spring, Rosello went online to search for a larger place for herself, her husband and their five children to call home.

Rosello was renting a 1,300-square-foot home and found a post from a rental company on Craigslist.

A person from the rental company said it wasn't a foreclosure property and gave Rosello 10 days to move in.

So Rosello and her family left their $695 monthly rent for the bigger home and signed a two-year lease agreement in March for $750 a month.

They also paid $1,150 on the security deposit.

It's a move that Rosello is now second-guessing. "The red flag (was) it was so cheap."

Rosello paid her rent and everything was fine until she got a notice of trustee sale in the mail dated Aug. 17.

Her papers explain that a Phoenix couple defaulted on their $1,419.28 monthly mortgage payments for the home back in November 2010.

Home Advocate Trustees is the company that listed the property online. Its website says it's based in Washington state, with offices in Redmond, Wash., but its mailing address is in San Diego.

The Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington shows that the company is not a member and has had four complaints in the past year.

While Home Advocate Trustees' website says they "love" email, attempts to email the property management division bounced back.

The company did not return a phone message before press time.

Rosello got the notice from the law firm of Tiffany & Bosco in Phoenix and tried to contact Home Advocate Trustees repeatedly.

About a week ago, Rosello said she spoke with someone in the rental company's legal department, who asked her to fax the papers over. She's still waiting for a response.

Ken Volk, who runs Tempe-based Arizona Tenants Advocates & Association, said Rosello has a few options, as some state and federal protection exists for her.

President Barack Obama signed the Helping Families Save their Homes Act of 2009, which includes the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act.

That tenant foreclosure act mandates that all tenants must get a 90-day notice before being evicted as

the result of a foreclosure.

The law requires that, in the event of foreclosure, existing leases for renters be honored to the end of the term of the lease.

The exceptions are for tenants without a lease, those who have a terminable lease at will under state law, or when the owner acquiring the property will make it his main residence.

Volk said he continues to get calls from people with problems similar to Rosello's.

"We get a bunch of calls on those every day," he said.

Volk said Rosello shouldn't expect to see her deposit back.

"Kiss that goodbye," he said.

Rosello and others in the same boat should contact their local Better Business Bureau and the state attorney general's office.

For now, Rosello is waiting to see what happens and pondering her next move - but she's sure of one thing: Next time, she'll use a local rental company.