and Video Courtesy of Channel 4 News Jax
By Lynnsey Gardner
August 27, 2016
JACKSONVILLE - A disabled military veteran and his
family contacted the I-TEAM for help after learning they are just days
away from being evicted from their Jacksonville home -- even though they
have paid their rent and have a lease.
We've uncovered it is part of a statewide scheme that could impact more
local families, costing them tens of thousands of dollars. We found it
happening right now in Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns Counties. It's
so troubling and pervasive, we alerted Florida Attorney General Pam
Bondi, who is now involved.
Each house that
gets caught up this scheme can have multiple victims --
whether you lose your money, your credit or even your
house practically overnight. That's what happened to
James and Tiffany McCollum's family, who could soon be
"We just want a place to lay our head at night," said
James. "I wonder how many other families are out there
in the same situation, staying up at night, wondering
how they will feed their families, the stress of it, the
It's stress Army Specialist James McCollum doesn't need
after serving two tours in Iraq. He is medically
discharged, suffering from PTSD, shoulder and knee
injuries, asthma, and dry eye syndrome.
The couple and their two young daughters live on a tight fixed income,
renting an Argyle Forest home they found online through Zillow and
After paying $1,100 a month in rent, they could be evicted because the
company renting the house, RHMG Inc. (Residential Home Management Group,
Inc.), never technically owned it but still got their money.
"Do you have anywhere to go?" the I-TEAM asked the couple.
"No," said Tiffany.
"No, not right now. This is our home. This is where we expected to be,"
It turns out the house they have been renting has
been in foreclosure for five years, and now the bank has
come calling for the property, even serving the McCollum
family with a lawsuit.
Wife of Veteran with Lynnsey_1471882413054.jpg
"Really scary. We've never been caught up in a lawsuit,"
"How much money did RHMG get from your family?" the I-TEAM
"Over $15,000," answered James.
A woman, who does not want to be identified in this
story, owns CK Consulting with her husband. They flip houses for a
living. They lost part of their life savings on this exact same house.
"We've already paid close to
$36,000 for a property we don't even own," the owner told the I-TEAM.
Here's the connection: While the McCollum family was renting the home
from RHMG, CK Consulting bought the same house at an auction in May. In
Duval County, auctions are done solely online. The bidding sheet shows
it was a foreclosure sale and CK Consulting had the winning bid. But
what the company didn't know is that the foreclosure had to do with
non-payment of homeowner’s association dues.
"We own the house, the ground it's on, but not the house," the woman
explained to the I-TEAM.
This was puzzling, so the I-TEAM searched property records and court
filings to understand complicated case.
Court documents show the original homeowner stopped paying her mortgage
and her HOA dues back in 2012. In Florida, an HOA can legally foreclose
on your home in the hopes of getting its money before the bank
forecloses on the house.
HOA foreclosures move faster than bank foreclosures. At auction, an
investor pays off that small HOA lien, often just a few thousand
dollars. In this case, the HOA lien was around $9,000. The winning
bidder gets the title to the home making it legal to rent it out. But,
that title is essentially temporary until the bank moves forward with
its mortgage foreclosure which can take months or even years. When this
happens, the unsuspecting renter is forced out.
"And being on a fixed income, it's not like we have funds to just up and
leave. There is security deposits, transfer fees," said James. "Paying
to move because I'm disabled."
While the McCollum family is stranded, CK Consulting is out even more
"We're having to possibly file bankruptcy all because of these two
people down in Tampa," the owner told the I-TEAM.
The two people she is referring to are Jimmy and Michael Chancey, with
the Tampa-based company HOA Problem Solutions. The company’s website
promises to have the answers for homeowner associations following the
housing crisis -- offering to buy HOA liens and place renters in the
The HOA lien is paid off and HOA Problem Solutions collects the rent
money for months or years, while never paying the original mortgage. The
profits continue until the bank moves forward with its foreclosure.
The I-TEAM confirmed Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has launched a
consumer protection investigation against HOA Problem Solutions after
receiving seven complaints from Tampa. Bondi’s office had not heard of
any issues happening in Northeast Florida until they heard from the
I-TEAM in August. They are now urging anyone affected to call their
office at 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at
But there's another twist. At some point, HOA Problem Solutions changed
its business model and started convincing homeowners, not renters, to
transfer their ownership through what's called a quit claim deed.
Why would homeowners do this? That's what the Attorney General's office
is trying to figure out: What promises were made?
The I-TEAM obtained a flyer from Jim Chancey to another underwater
homeowner, calling himself a real estate investor in the Tampa Bay and
Jacksonville areas. The promises on the flyer include:
The I-TEAM also talked with a Clearwater based
attorney, Brandon Mullis, who said the Chanceys admitted during a recent
deposition they are affiliated with RHMG, meaning they pocketed the
money from the McCollums’ rent, plus the extra from the auction,
approximately $27,000 dollars. All the while, the original homeowner is
still being foreclosed on.
We found HOA Problem Solutions currently owns at least 25 properties
across Clay, Duval Nassau and St. Johns Counties. In most of those
cases, homeowners transferred the home to HOA Problem Solutions through
a quit claim deed, some for as little as $10.
"I don't know how someone sleeps at night," the owner of CK Consulting
told the I-TEAM about being out of money and property they can’t get
back. "We have to go out and get jobs."
As for the McCollum family, the couple and their two daughters will soon
be out of a home with no money to go anywhere else.
"Why is this legal to take these properties? Why is this legal? Why is
this happening?" the McCollums asked.
The I-TEAM found the McCollums were facing eviction because they were
unsure who to pay their rent to after receiving the lawsuit from Wells
Fargo bank. Were they to pay the rent to RHMG, to CK Consulting, or to
Wells Fargo? After making calls to local officials, the I-TEAM was able
to discern CK Consulting is the temporary owner until Wells Fargo
continues with its foreclosure.
The McCollums are now paying rent to CK Consulting until the bank makes
its next move. There is a court hearing on the foreclosure scheduled for
Wednesday, August 31st and the I-TEAM will be there.
The I-TEAM also reached Jim Chancey by phone. So far, he’s declined to
interview with us to share his side of the story. Our offer still
stands. On the phone, Jim Chancey told us that HOA Problem Solutions is
a “rental property business” operating in Jacksonville and Tampa. When
we asked about the 25 properties the I-TEAM found in HOA Problem
Solutions possession in Northeast Florida, Chancey said, “that’s an
underestimate.” We asked if he knew the accurate number, Chancey laughed
and said “yes” but declined to give it to the I-TEAM saying, “I’m not
the investigative reporter, you are.”
The I-TEAM has found roughly 60 corporations between Jim Chancey and
Michael Chancey registered with the state. There could be other
corporations in a third party’s name they are working with.
The I-TEAM also asked Jim Chancey if HOA Problem Solutions would
consider returning the $27,000 profit check to CK Consulting, who bought
the property under the impression it was a mortgage foreclosure. Chancey
responded “Why would we? I’m not responsible for the buyer. We don’t
know what they know.” He further stated online auctions are “blind
auctions” and it’s “buyer beware.”
The I-TEAM also reached out to the Duval County Clerk of Courts about
the online bidding issues. The public information officer told us “The
Duval Clerk’s Office is aware of this issue, and has provided
information to the Attorney General’s Office relative to their
Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida: Top real estate schemes and
scams in our area
As indicated by the National Association of Realtor Estimates, 90% of
consumers turn to the web first to search for a rental. Con artists
exploit the posting’s date to target their victims by posting them as
their own. These phony listings will require you to provide money
forthright, asking you to wire it. In addition, they may also ask to run
a credit check on you and provide you with a phony application that asks
for personal and financial information. Scammers will even go to the
extent of strategically listing the rental price at an extremely low
rate to garner interest, enticing more people to attend an open house,
in which they can pass out more fake applications.
Being proactive is your defense. Do your homework before sending any
money to anyone you don’t know.
First, check with the local tax assessor’s office to determine who owns
Second, Google the address and see if the property shows up on any real
estate website for rent or for sale. If the property that was advertised
for rent on craigslist shows up for sale on a real estate website, there
is a serious problem. Contact the real estate company and apprise them
of the situation.
Third, if possible, contact the neighbors of the property you are
planning on renting. Ask them about the owner and status of the
property. Is it for sale? Or rent? Or in foreclosure?
Losing your home is scary and you wouldn’t want scammers to aggravate
the situation. Con artists will often pose as foreclosure experts
offering to help negotiate and reduce your mortgage payments. At times,
they will request to collect the fees upfront and then vanish. In times
like this, these false ads may sound appealing, but BBB urges you to do
your research before allowing anyone to assist. It is vital to know your
rights. Thus, recognize that it is illegal for a company to charge for
mortgage relief services until you actually receive and accept a written
offer from your lender.
Here are some red flags:
Asks for money up-front
Requests wire transfers
Asks to make mortgage payments directly to them
Suggests you transfer your deed
Though rare, one of the most devastating scams is title fraud. This
typically starts with identity theft. The scammer will use illegitimate
documents, acting as the property owner, forge documents, and transfer
the property in his or her name. In the wake of securing a home loan,
the trickster will take the money and vanish. In these cases, homeowners
that rent out their homes or do not have a mortgage are in fact more
vulnerable to falling victim to title fraud. The best way to ensure you
are not scammed is to get title insurance.
If you own a vacation timeshare - the use of a vacation home for a
limited, pre-planned time - be cautious of bogus resale companies who
take advantage of anxious sellers in an overcrowded market. Unscrupulous
companies typically contact you by phone, mail or the Internet asking
you to call a phone number about your timeshare. The salesperson may
claim that the market is "hot" for resales, when in fact the market
varies considerably depending on location and the prime season for that
If you are considering reselling your timeshare and are approached by a
company offering to help, the BBB recommends the following:
Do not agree to anything over the telephone until you have had a chance
to check out the company.
Ask the person to send you written materials.
Ask for references, including address and phone number and contact them.
Ask where the company is located and in what states it does business.
Ask if the company's salespeople are licensed to sell real estate where
your timeshare is located. If so, verify this with the state licensing
Find out if the company charges a commission. Do they handle the entire
closing and provide escrow services? Do they charge an up-front listing
or advertising fee? What does it cover and is it refundable?
Be wary of companies charging an advance "appraisal" fee for services.
Consider opting for a company that offers to sell for a fee only after
the timeshare is sold.
Contact the BBB, state Attorney General's office, and local Consumer
Protection agencies in the state where the company is located to find
out if complaints have been lodged against the company.
Keep in mind that there are other resale options. You may try selling
your timeshare yourself, by placing an ad in a newspaper or magazine, or
contacting a real estate agent familiar with the area. If all the
timeshares have been sold in your development, consider asking the
seller to establish an on-site resale office. As an alternative, you may
consider an exchange program. For a fee, these programs allow you to
arrange trades with other resort units in different locations.