Florida Homeowners: Be Aware of Quit Claim Deed Fraud

Winter Park Florida attorney Eric Lanigan warns Florida homeowners to be aware of possible fraud involving the transfer of property using a fraudulent quit claim deed.

What is a Quit Claim Deed?

A quit claim deed is a document used to transfer property without the sale of the property. A quit claim deed is often used in divorces when transferring property from one spouse to another, or in cases of someone wishing to transfer ownership of property to another member of the family.

In Florida, a quit claim deed must contain a description of the property, and notarized signatures of the person transferring the property and signatures of two disinterested witnesses. 

Florida statutes are very strict about the type of required identification to prove the identity of the owner’s signature when documents are notarized.

How is Fraud Committed?

A quit claim deed can be executed fraudulently in several ways.

In 2012, the Florida Attorney General’s office filed suit against a group of land trust companies in South Florida. The companies were promising to eliminate underwater mortgages through a very complex scam. The Attorney General’s office ultimately froze all the assets required deeds be signed back over to owners.

The elderly are easy targets, especially if living in nursing homes away from close contact with relatives. Some may experience threats that care will be withheld unless property is transferred to the caretaker.

In other cases, the elderly may fall prey to those who advise them that signing over the deed via quit claim deed is a wise investment or may help their families in the event of their death.

In 2013, a Hillsborough county woman lost her home when a relative fraudulently executed a quit claim deed on her property and immediately sold her home unbeknownst to her.

Two individuals in Las Vegas were recently arrested for forging homeowner’s signatures for quit claim deeds on abandoned homes and collecting rent from the property. They are scheduled for trial in 2015.

Even with strict statutes that define identification requirements for notarizing documents, scammers find a way to get what they seek. Public records are easily available in Florida. Individuals pose or hire others to pose as the sellers, produce forged identification, forge signatures and provide witnesses that will say or do whatever is asked of them.

Protect Yourself from Quit Claim Fraud

It is a good idea for consumers to check their credit reports annually. Watch all legal documents and mailings. Question anyone who asks that you sign over property to them for any reason.

Eric Lanigan of Lanigan and Lanigan, P.L., in Winter Park, Florida suggests that anyone considering any property transfer to schedule a legal consultation with a licensed attorney. It is important to understand the legal ramifications of the property transfer before you sign anything. 

If you suspect you have been a victim of illegal transfer of your property, consult an attorney. Untangling property records can be a complex undertaking, especially if fraud is involved.