CLINTON, Md. — Are they scammers or the victims of a scam?
Last week, a couple with a contract to buy a Clinton, Maryland home noticed someone else moving in and called police. The people inside claimed they had a lease and refused to leave. The couple with the contract to buy it said police told them they would have to settle it in court.
And it turns out, they are not alone.
"No, not at all," said attorney Kamal Nawash, who usually represents renters in disputes with landlord.
Nawash said lately scammers are taking advantage of laws designed to protect his clients from evictions by moving into foreclosed homes knowing it will take the buyers months to kick them out because of a backlog in the courts caused by COVID - and demanding money to move out.
"They're holding houses hostage," Nawash said. "What normally use to take one month, now we're talking about several months and $10- to $20,000 in legal fees."
At the same time, Nawash said he is also seeing homeowners who are about to lose their property to foreclosure con others into bogus leases just before the bank takes their home.
"This is the one last thing they can do to kind of stick it to the man, so to speak," he said.
In the case of this Clinton home, the name on the supposed lease matches the name of the last owner, but WUSA9 has found no one at the address listed as the leasing office and the man claiming to have the lease has refused multiple offers for an interview.
Nawash said anyone with an unconventional home purchase - like a foreclosure - needs to take unconventional steps to protect it.
"Hire a security guard to stand outside the place to make sure no one comes in," he said.
As for the home in Clinton, at the Prince George's County state's attorney and the Prince George's County Police say they are investigating and they tell us multiple people could be facing charges.
RELATED: 'You cannot lease property that does not belong to you' | Criminal charges could be coming in Clinton home dispute
RELATED: Maryland couple says strangers have moved into the home they just bought and refuse to leave
WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.