Grand Rapids mom says she was caught in rental scam

Posted at 8:09 PM, Oct 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-14 20:09:32-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Amelia Pittner says she and her three children thought they had found a home. Instead, she believes the landlord she's renting from is bogus.

The home is on the 1200 block of Broadway Avenue in Grand Rapids.

Pittner says she met a man who introduced himself as Mike VanVender when she spotted him outside the home. She inquired if the property was for rent, and VanVender said he was getting it ready. Less than a week later, she says, he approved her rental application.

Pittner paid $1,800 cash but didn't get a receipt. In return, VanVender gave her a lease and keys.

But things got complicated last Friday.

"I came home to a man standing on my porch asking me why I was in his house," Pittner said. "And I'm like, 'What do you mean, why am I in your house?' I'm like, 'I just moved in on the first. I have a lease.'"

She found the man was the actual owner of the house. Pittner claims she had been scammed by someone posing as the landlord.

Piittner received a court-ordered notice to move out in seven days.

"At this point, I know she would like me to give her longer than seven days," the real owner told FOX 17. "I would like to. I really don't dare, because I'm in a precarious position here. I do not know anything about her. I do not have any background. I don't know if she made up the lease or whether she really did get scammed."

He also said he also filed a police report and that the management company named on Pittner's lease had managed the home in the past. However, the house has been vacant for several months. A further search reveals the address and phone number for the company named on the lease is bogus.

How did the scammer get access to the house? "Whoever broke into the house, there was a lock box on the door that was hanging on the door knob, and of course once you get inside the house, two screws takes the door knob off, and now you've got the lock box off," the owner explained.

Pittner says there was no lock box when she viewed the home and moved in.

She says she is now looking for a place to stay, and any helpful resources for her and her kids.

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