In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, WPLG-TV Channel 10
- "I'm angry... I'm really angry. I'm so frustrated and so exhausted," Jeff Sandler said while packing.
On his moving day, while surrounded by movers, Sandler still had baggage that wouldn't fit into any box and anger that he couldn't keep a lid on. "It's a huge financial and emotional drain," he told Local 10's Ross Palombo. The drain, though, began as a dream.
It started when he found a half-million dollar, four-bedroom, three-bath, 3,000-square-foot home to rent in Fort Lauderdale. Owner and realtor Sheri Edewaard leased it to him for $2,700 a month. "And, I rented the home from her. I did everything I was supposed to do legally," Sandler said.
He thought the deal was signed, sealed, and delivered until something else arrived: an eviction notice.
"I had a very abrupt knock at my front door... They demanded I leave the premises in 24-hours," Sandler said. The demand came from a "Writ of Possession." He was being evicted because the house was foreclosed upon. "She didn't tell me that her house was in foreclosure and I had been evicted," he added.
Court records show that the bank began foreclosure in February 2012. By October, a judge finalized the foreclosure. According to the lease obtained by Local 10, Edewaard then signed an agreement in November to rent that house to Sandler. "I just feel ridiculously violated and I don't understand how people can get away with that," Sandler said.
State record show that Edewaard has been a licensed real estate agent for 13 years and has no formal history of complaints. Local 10 tried several times to locate her at her home and office without success and left several messages asking for her side of the story. Edewaard never agreed to an interview to tell her side of the story.
The one person who did call to comment was the man who she works with: successful realtor John Castelli. "You don't believe your agent did anything wrong?" Palombo asked. "I don't believe she knowingly did anything wrong," Castelli said.
"You don't think a licensed realtor should have know that her home was, one, in foreclosure and, two, foreclosed upon? You don't think she should have known that as a realtor before she signed a lease with someone?" "I don't believe she knew it was in foreclosure," Castelli said several times.
Edewaard, he said, still works with him.
Assistant State Attorney Al Guttmann can't speak directly about that case, but said Broward County has seen plenty of foreclosure cases. "Broward has had more than its share of foreclosure and fraud," Guttmann said.
Foreclosures are on the rise in Broward, according to the County Clerk's office. There were 19,651 in 2011 and 24,076 in 2012, an increase of 18 percent.
"You're entitled to rent in foreclosure," Guttmann said. "But, here's the catch... you've got to tell your renter." If you don't, he said, it could be fraud or felony fraud. "It's unfortunate. It's a shame, and it could be a crime," Guttmann said.
"Is that something your office would prosecute?" Palombo asked. "We'd certainly take a look at it," Guttmann replied.
Edewaad herself hasn't formally been accused of any crime. But S andler is speaking with prosecutors and the state agency that granted Edewaard her license. "Something should be done about it," Sandler said.
For him, though, nothing could be done in time. After spending thousands of dollars on moving and attorneys, there is now nothing left for him to do but move on. "Unbelievable that we have no rights," Sandler said. "I absolutely feel helpless. I just don't get how we're not protected."