Scammers can steal your property without you even knowing it, possibly costing you thousands of dollars to get it back.
The Rutherford County Register of Deeds wants to warn homeowners. It can be any house, on any street, at any given time.
“Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people that will try and record documents or do record documents claiming ownership of property that is not theirs,” Rutherford County Register of Deeds Heather Dawbarn said.
Just about anyone can walk into the Register of Deeds office and file a Quit Claim Deed on someone else’s property.
“Property fraud is an invisible and silent crime,” Dawbarn said. “You won’t be aware of it until you try to transfer your property and it won’t have a clear title.”
Last week in Rutherford County, a man filed a Quit Claim Deed on a home in Murfreesboro claiming ownership, saying that he is the heir and it’s his ancestral birthright.
“The Register of Deeds does not have the authority to deny recordation of a document even if we suspect fraud,” Dawbarn said. “We are not allowed to review and refer.”
The house in question is currently for sale, and the property owners found out about what happened and are in the process of contesting the lien.
Dawbarn said some scammers are out to make a quick buck.
“The reason I say time is of the essence is, generally speaking, they’re not so much as for the financial gain from the property,” Dawbarn said. “They’ll run straight to a financial institution and take out a loan on your property, and you wouldn’t know it until you went to sell your property maybe years down the road.”
The rightful owners may have to spend thousands of dollars going to court clearing the title and reestablishing ownership. And it isn’t just an issue here, property fraud is a major problem in Chicago.
The Cook County Illinois Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough released a property fraud alert video showing how people took ownership of other people’s property without their knowledge.
View the entire video here:
Tennessee state law prohibits the Register of Deeds from contacting the homeowner of fraudulent liens.
That’s why newly elected Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron said a new state law may be needed to prevent this from happening.
“Try to make this statewide legislation that says the Register of Deed can go through a judge or a Chancellor of that community and at least notify that person that this person has filed,” Ketron said. “That means this person trying to sell the house is going to have to hire an attorney to try to get that fraudulent lien off their property, which is just wrong. If you’re going to file a lien on somebody’s house they should be able to show to the clerk that they have some interest in that house, monetary interest in that house before they can file a claim.”
The Register of Deeds in Rutherford County wants to get a handle on property fraud before it gets out of hand, that’s why they are offering a free service to homeowners whenever any type of transaction is recorded to their property.
“If it’s something that you are not aware of, you’ll get the earliest warning that something has been created that perhaps you need to check into to prevent fraud,” Dawbarn said.
Dawbarn has contacted the Rutherford County District Attorney’s office to see if possible fraud charges can be filed against the man who got the deed.
If you would like to sign up for the free alert if someone files a Quit Claim or other liens against your property, click here.