Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2008 | Late last summer, Robert Carreon searched online rental notices on craigslist.org to find a house for himself, his wife and their three kids. A description of a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a three-car garage in Oceanside caught his eye. The rent price for the 2,600 square foot house seemed a bargain: $1,900 a month. Comparable houses might rent for up to $1,000 a month more.
“My jaw dropped,” Carreon said. He called the number in the ad, checked out the house on his own and set up a meeting with the property manager, who was from Newport Beach. In late October, Carreon met with the man, whom he remembers as an older gentleman clad in a Tommy Bahama shirt, slacks, nice shoes and a gold necklace and watch. The man drove to their meeting in a Mercedes-Benz.
Carreon and his family moved in soon after that meeting. They’d lived there for just a few months when a detective from the Oceanside Police Department fraud unit knocked on their door. The detective told Carreon there was a search warrant out for the man he’d rented the house from. The man, Bob Decker, was suspected of stealing a college student’s identity and buying the house in the student’s name without his knowledge.
The steal of a deal that had caught Carreon’s eye quickly turned into a big mess.
The district attorney filed a case against Decker. Meanwhile, the mortgage payments lapsed on the house Carreon was renting, and he was served with an eviction notice: He had 30 days.
As a renter sucked into the vortex of the foreclosure mess in San Diego County, Carreon is among a growing number of tenants affected by what is often considered a homeowner issue. As much as one-quarter of the single-family homes in foreclosure in California have renters occupying them, according to an estimate from the California Apartment Association, an organization of rental property owners. That doesn’t account for tenants of foreclosed apartment buildings or duplexes.