JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Josh and Dee Marling found a home in Mandarin to rent.
"We were looking for something nice and affordable and we thought we found the perfect house," said Josh.
The family ended up renting last year for $1,150 a month. But after living there for seven months, some strange things started to happen.
"I see some people looking through the windows walking around in the backyard," said Josh. "I went out and asked them what they were doing. The guy told me he was the owner of the house. I said I know you are not the owner of the house and you need to leave the property before I call the police."
Josh did call the police but ended up with an eviction notice slapped on the door. The Marling family was being evicted from the house, even though they were current on their rent.
"Telling us we had 24 hours to leave the premises. We were never given any kind of notice before that," said Josh.
Josh's wife, Dee, couldn't believe it.
"Oh my gosh! What are we going to do? We had nowhere to go. We had no savings," said Dee.
Josh says little did he know, the house was in foreclosure. In fact, it had been for three years. The homeowner was the one who rented it to the Marling family, and despite their signed lease, the foreclosed home was sold to a new owner, with the original homeowner nowhere to be found.
"At the time the officer was arguing with me so much I could not talk on the phone saying, ‘I don't care what this piece of paper says. I don't care that your name is not on it. You need to leave right now,'" explained Josh. "They started throwing our stuff outside. I begged the new owner to let us get a U-Haul so we could throw the stuff in a U-Haul."
The Marling family was forced out of their Mandarin rental home and had no other choice but to move in with their parents. They were out of rent, deposit and moving expenses. And even though they did everything legally, no one would help them.
"We were violated and everything, to have people in our home, we were not prepared for them," said Dee.
At the time, Josh says he tried everything he could, he even went to Legal Aid to get help. But Josh was told it was too late.
"In this case, when the folks sought services from Legal Aid, the sheriff had already served them an eviction notice and they were forcibly removed out of the property," explained Jim Kowalski, the director of Legal Aid. "You are really going uphill at that point to give the person back what they lost."
"We would like for them to be exposed," said Josh. "We felt so violated that all our rights as tenants were violated."
Channel 4 did some checking, trying to track down the original homeowner and management company that rented the house to the Marling family. The house has sold twice since then and the current owner was not involved in the eviction.
The Marling's lease was with the company, Achilles Real Estate. The owner of the company is Rodger Todd Bates, who was also the owner of the house being foreclosed on.
The address for Achilles Real Estate is located off Philips Highway. Channel 4 went to the office complex looking for Bates, but was told no one had seen him.
The former property manager for the company did tell us by phone that he is aware of the case involving the Marling family, but says he has not seen Bates in over a year. There are numerous addresses for Bates, but so far, Channel 4 hasn't been able to find him either.
Josh and Dee Marling may have a remedy in civil court. If they sue, they may be able to get some of their money back. In the meantime, they hope their story helps you.
"We want this kind of stuff to stop. This is just a horrible thing," said Josh." We experienced it and know what it's exactly like to go through. We would hate for anyone else to go thought it. And we are hearing its happening a lot."
If you rent and have concerns, you can check the house history o line with the Clerk's Office to see if foreclosure proceeding are underway.
For the Marling family, all of this happened years before they even signed a lease. Because of that, they say they never got notifications in the mail. Legal aid told Channel 4, those notices are key and that's when they can help.
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