Nydia Han tracks down man behind alleged real estate scheme

October 31, 2012 7:57:39 AM PDT
In a special consumer report, Action News helps some families who have fallen victim to a sour real estate deal and are now on the verge of losing their homes.

Action News Consumer Reporter Nydia Han has been investigating the man they say is responsible for their troubles.

It is a heartbreaking situation. They say they invested almost all of their money to own what they thought would be their dream home, but after putting in tens of thousands of dollars, they say they are at risk of losing everything.

"We like it here," said one homeowner. "It's a nice little neighborhood. There are children around they can play with."

The father of three, who has asked us to be identified as James, tells Action News he spent $30,000 making his house in Montgomery County a home.

Deneane Grigger says she did the same thing on her home in Delaware County.

"Fixing the light fixtures and all kinds of stuff with my money, my hard-earned money that I saved up," she said.

Both say they responded to ads targeting people with Bad Credit, No Credit, or Ugly Credit, and then entered into Rent-to-Own agreements for their homes with Jimmy Zaspel of JimmyZHomes.

"We buy and sell houses and we specialize in selling houses on rent-to-own programs and help people with less than stellar credit realize the dream of home ownership," said Jimmy Zaspel.

James says he gave Jimmy Z a total of more than $50,000, first for rent and then to pay his mortgage.

Deneane says she paid out $13,000. Both say their money was wasted.

"I am a single mother with three kids, and I don't have money like that to be wasting," said Deneane. "I am out of everything that I had been saving, thinking that I was finally getting a house that I can fix up and call my own. I've been flim-flammed."

The home Deneane lives in was foreclosed on this week.

James is petrified he could lose his home, too, because he says Jimmy Z failed to pay the underlying mortgage.

"We just sunk down roots and there's the very real possibility that they could move to foreclose on this property, and I don't have a say in it," said James.

Deneane has filed a lawsuit accusing Jimmy Zaspel and his company, Tulip Enterprises, of negligent misrepresentation, fraud, breach of contract, and violation of the unfair trade practices and consumer protection law.

"I'm just looking for my money back so I can just move on and find another house for me and my family and just be done with it," said Deneane.

Deneane says her house was already in foreclosure when she entered into the Rent-to-own deal with JimmyZ. When asked about it, Zaspel said, "That's what she says. She's mistaken."

Action News asked Zaspel how the home could be in foreclosure when he put it under a rent-to-own agreement?

His response, "Well, that's because you're not a real estate investor, are you?"

But consumer advocates say it doesn't take a real estate investor to spot this kind of trouble.

Ed Magedson of RipOff Report warns that all renters and home buyers must beware.

"This is a tremendous problem around the country," said Magedson. "This is going on everywhere."

"If somebody says, 'We finance homes; ugly credit, no credit,' don't buy it. Do your research. I didn't, and I got stung," said James.

Zaspel says he stopped paying the underlying mortgage on the home James lives in only after James stopped paying him.

Both Zaspel and James tell me they plan on filing lawsuits against each other.

There are some easy ways to avoid this kind of situation altogether.

Tips for Renters/Home Buyers:
-Make sure the real estate agent you are dealing with is licensed. You can check for a PA license here: http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us/Search.aspx
-Ask for a copy of the agent's driver's license
-Ask for the latest utility bills ? water, electricity, etc., and make sure they've been paid in full
-Go to the county office to check to see if the taxes have been paid
-Ask who the mortgage company is and actually call the mortgage company to see if payments have been made on the mortgage
-Call your county sheriff's department to see if the house is in foreclosure
-Do an internet search and call your county consumer affairs office about the person selling or renting the property
-Get title insurance

Links:
http://www.zillow.com/blog/2010-12-15/5-tips-to-help-you-avoid-becoming-a-rental-scam-victim/
http://www.flippingfrenzy.com/tips_avoid_fraud/about_fraud.html

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