Stolen deed victims go to court

May 21, 2008 3:55:04 PM PDT
It's an act of deception that is ending with Philadelphia homeowners' deeds swiped right out of their names, but with a hearing today, city council members hoped to begin a crackdown on fraudulent real estate transfers. The people most at risk are the very sick, the very elderly, and the very poor; they are folks who can least afford this kind of devastating scam.

Wilbur Dupont says his home was stolen right out from under him.

Dupont says he bought a house in South Philadelphia as an investment property and agreed to rent it out to a stranger.

According to Dupont, the tenant then fraudulently transferred the deed to the home to herself claiming the previous owner of the house had died and she was the sole heir.

Wilbur and a friend who's helping with his case testified at City Council today, as did the former housing director of Philadelphia who says he, too, was a victim of a fraudulent deed transfer.

Also during the hearing, City Records Commissioner Joan Decker confirmed what some consider a serious problem, that, right now, there is no check to see the name of the seller matches the name of the owner on record.

A bill that's now up for a full City Council vote could change that.

It would require the Department of Records to conduct a records check before recording a deed.

"What this does is takes continual steps for continual improvement and makes sure when people file a deed - they have the paperwork that proves what they say is true," Lance Haver of the Philadelphia Consumer Affairs said.

Consumer advocates say people need to look for title insurance to avoid getting into a predicament like this.

Action News was able to talk to the person whom Wilbur says fraudulently transferred the deed.

She insists she owns the house legally.

This case will now be decided in a courtroom.