CORAL SPRINGS, Florida — Gary M. Landau, a South Florida probate and real estate attorney who has represented clients for over 25 years, applauds the recent continuing actions taken by the Broward County Property Appraisers’ Office (BCPA) to further protect property owners in Broward County against home title theft. New steps include the implementation of new software and investigative processes designed to stop the growing instances of property fraud in South Florida.
The BCPA’s recent actions include improved communications with the county’s Office of Medical Examiner and Trauma Services so they can share information about deceased property owners, a category thieves frequently target. Newly implemented computer software allows the two agencies to share their data. PBPA has also installed a team of detectives dedicated to this problem, where thieves fraudulently take over the title to a person’s home.
“All crime is terrible, but stealing the home out from the heirs of deceased individuals is especially unconscionable,” Landau says. “It’s good that the Property Appraiser is staying on top of this growing threat with numerous tools.” Involving the Medical Examiner is a smart move, Landau says, since estates of a deceased person that are not yet in the process of probate are especially ripe for this fraud.
As regional news media organizations including the South Florida Sun Sentinel have reported in recent months, this title theft has been increasing in Broward County and other parts of South Florida at an alarming rate. Brazen scammers use fraudulent quit-claim deeds, falsified liens, or fake wills to misrepresent themselves as the rightful owners and fraudulently take control of properties through the courts.
Often the criminals then sell, rent out, or mortgage the stolen property, gaining thousands or millions of dollars for themselves in place of the rightful owners, who may find out well after the fact that someone else has stolen their home, even while they’re still living there.
The BCPA’s recent efforts add to their prior actions to curb this problem. Previously the office introduced an Owner Alert notification system for Broward County property owners. The Alert system sends email or text notifications flagging potential issues to individuals in Broward County who have opted-in to the free program through the BCPA website. Legal cases involving property fraud are now also expedited in the legal system to reduce the time rightful owners must spend seeking to regain their rightful properties.
Landau strongly encourages all Broward County property owners to sign up for the Owner Alert email and text notification services through the BCPA so they can learn about any fraudulent transactions on their property as soon as it happens.
“This free service is something everyone who owns property in the county should take advantage of,” he says. “While these alerts don’t stop the fraud, they provide South Florida property owners with early notification that something untoward is happening. It’s much easier for police to find criminals and stop their actions at that time than it is if the fraud isn’t discovered until months or years later.”
While all homeowners and heirs of property in South Florida may become victims of these criminals, deceased people whose remains have not been claimed are a fast-growing target. Thieves have used public records to identify these people.
The new communication software with the Medical Examiner along with the dedicated detective team and Owner Alert system all help find circumstances when suspicious activity appears in home title records, especially when there is a related change in property ownership.
Landau recommends that property owners and their relatives and heirs take every step possible to protect their properties from home title fraud. Ensuring that the homeowner has a valid will identifying heirs to the property is one helpful step. And even after a probate has begun, it’s good to keep an eye on the public records to ensure no one is illegally transferring the property.
For more information, visit https://www.garylandau.com/.
About the LAW OFFICE of GARY M. LANDAU, P.A.
With more than 25 years of experience and countless satisfied clients, Gary M. Landau and his team are uniquely positioned to help you with your probate and real estate needs in South Florida. Whether you’re ready to probate a loved one’s estate or to write your own will, or if you are purchasing a home, have inherited a home, or want a closing agent to handle title insurance and all documents for your closing or refinancing, the Law Office of Gary M. Landau is ready to work with you.