This year, there have been several high profile incidents of home theft in the local media. Home theft is perpetrated primarily through forging deed transfers, thereby creating fraudulent records of home sales. Home theft is hard to investigate and even harder to correct: restoring properties to their rightful owners can take about a year even in the best of circumstances.
Various factors, including an overtaxed department of records, a glut of abandoned and vacant properties, and the fact that many property transactions in Philly go forward without title insurance contribute to the problem. A Daily News article that came out today makes the case that the city is unwilling to prosecute these cases unless there's a pattern of home fraud.
Though the FBI does have a page about how to protect yourself from home theft, a quick news search reveals that the majority of home theft stories are coming out of Philly. The City Council passed a law in response to a City Paper article in 2010 that sends a letter to the address of any property that has had a deed transfer recorded in order to alert potential victims of home theft, but it appears that the home lifting business is alive and well in Philly. Check out the links to get a full picture of the situation:
· Steal a house? No big deal unless it's a serial deed thief [Daily News]
· Former Philly Top Cop's Son Accused of House Theft [ABC Philly]
· HOMEWRECKERS: Stealing houses is still far too easy in Philadelphia [Philly.com]
· Dirty deeds: House-stealing scam common in Philly [NewsWorks]
· A Crime Unique to Philadelphia – Stealing a House [Philadelinquency]
· West Philly man charged with housing scam [Philly.com]
· Grand Theft Rowhome [City Paper]