A woman in Florida has been arrested after renting out her neighbor’s foreclosed home without his knowledge for more than half a year, raking in more than $13,500 from two clueless tenants who’d found the property via a Craigslist ad.
Nathalie Heil, 30, told police she was the rightful owner of the house before they booked her in Palm Beach County Jail and charged her with grand theft and fraud.
“Legally, I thought it was right,” she told the Palm Beach Post. “I’m freaking out. I have a full-time job and I’m a single mom.”
To back up her ownership claim, Heil cited “adverse possession,” an obscure Florida law that grants ownership of a home if a person can claim they’ve lived their for seven years and paid taxes on the property. Just last December a 23-year-old Brazilian man cited adverse possession to take over a 7,000 square foot mansion in Boca Raton.
Though Heil claimed she filed all the right papers well before her arrest, police said she never provided them with copies. The rightful owner of the house is Juan Cedeno. His daughter-in-law, who manages the property, discovered the scam after visiting the home in January and finding the the formerly abandoned property appeared very much inhabited.
The two women she met there, April Wehle, 24, and Talia Williams, 25, said they’d been renting the place at 314 Vallette Way for $1,500 a month and had spent about $500 on repairs. No one had checked up on the property over the past eight months because it had been foreclosed.
Some of Heil’s Florida neighbors are taking her side. Florida boasts one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. In the comments section of the Post’s story, readers planted blame squarely on the bank and the property owner.
One commenter wrote:
The real crook here is the owner and the bank. She might have not had the right to rent the property but by doing so she saved the neighborhood from a blighted rundown property. Unlike the deadbeat Cedeno and the uncaring bank.
Heil told the Palm Beach Post she’s received death threats since the paper first began reporting on her arrest.
Photo via Google Maps