Channel 4 investigation leads to State Attorney investigation of landlord

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Mandarin family was literally thrown out on the street, at no fault of their own, because the house they were renting no longer belonged to their landlord.  And a lot has happened to Dee and Josh Marling, since Channel 4 first started investigating their situation months ago.

Many in the real estate business did not believe our story when we showed you how the Marling's were actually forced out of their home by police, with less than one day's notice.  The family is now ready to move on and it looks like others are helping them do that and working to make sure something like this does not happen to you.

When the story first aired in July regarding the Marling's surprise eviction, they say people really came through.

"I got names of private investigators," explained Dee.  "I got names of attorneys who did not give me advice but did say 'Have you done this?' 'Have you done that?'  I had lot of people just reach out and say can we help."

That also helped get the attention of a real estate company, which was indirectly involved.  That company made good on some of the family's losses from the eviction, to the tune of $2,000.  That company also fired two agent, who according to the president of the firm, should have known better.

"We talked about what could have been done and they came up with a plan on how to educate the realtor they have in house and they are confident that they are never going to let that happen again as well," explained Dee.

The Marling's rented a house from a a company owned by Roger Bates, who also owned the house. We found records showing the house had been in foreclosure when it was leased to the Marling's, and actually sold at auction the  month before they were kicked out. The family says they never heard anything about it from Bates or his company.

So on numerous occasions, we went to the location where Bates supposedly owns Archives Real Estate, trying to track him down.  We've knocked on the door and left business cards.  At first, it appeared there there were people inside, but now it appears everything is boxed up. 

We've tried several other possible addresses, including two in Fernandina Beach and one in Julington Creek, but have not been able to locate Bates and ask him questions that still have not been answered. 

For instance, why did Bates lease the Marling's a home that was in foreclosure.  And since Bates didn't have a mortgage payment on a foreclosed home, what did he do with the family's rent checks?  And where is the Marling's deposit?

Channel 4's investigation has also caught the attention of the State Attorney's Office.  They began looking into the case when our storied aired. At this point, they can't comment, but say it could end up being a civil matter.  Regardless, the Marling's say they don't want to see this happen to anyone else and hope their story will do that.

The Marling's add that they have learned a lot from their situation and now know to check on backgrounds of people that you rent from, including landlords, real estate agents and brokers.  You can do that yourself by contacting your local Better Business Bureau. 

Also, check and see if a home is in foreclosure.  To do that,  you first need to contact the Property Appraiser's Office to see who actually owns the property.  You can then use that information at your County Clerk's Office to see if there is any court action taken against that owner.

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