Housing: Awareness is Key to Preventing Deed Fraud

By Liam Millerick, Coordinator of BAPA Housing Services

A few short years ago Beverly/Morgan Park was the location of a housing scam. Criminals who falsely identified themselves as owners illegally rented properties to victims or laid claim to vacant properties under the auspice of adverse possession, what most people know as “squatting.”

Through the efforts of the 19th Ward office, 22nd District Police, BAPA and others, the people responsible for the deed fraud are now serving time in prison.

BAPA continues to work with community partners to ensure deed fraud does not occur again. Local homeowners, however, should be aware that empty homes can be targets of this crime.

Homeowners going on an extended vacation, selling your home that won’t immediately be occupied by the new owner, or otherwise leaving your property vacant for a period of time can help reduce the risk of having a home illegally taken over.  Alert your neighbors if your property will be vacant, maintain a “lived-in” look about your house: cancel newspaper delivering, arrange to have your mail picked up and for snow to be shoveled or grass to be mowed, and put lights on timers so it looks like people are home in the evening.

All neighbors should keep an eye on properties that they know are empty for any signs of intruders. If you observe an unauthorized person entering a property, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Homeowners who are worried about others making false title claims on their property should contact the Cook County Recorder of Deeds to create a Property Fraud Alert. This free service will alert you if any documents that effect your property are filed. Learn more and sign up at Cook County Recorder of Deeds website, cookrecorder.com.