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Home buyers and tenants need to be on guard against housing scams that could inadvertently turn them into trespassers, a handyman-turned-squatter hunter warned.

“Just because you were scammed doesn’t mean that this homeowner should suffer,” Flash Shelton, founder of the United Handyman Association and SquatterHunters.com, said. “Just like if you received a stolen car, that car is gonna be taken away from you.”

HANDYMAN-TURNED-SQUATTER HUNTER OUTLINES ‘NIGHTMARE SCENARIO’ WHEN MIGRANTS CATCH ON TO HOUSING LAWS

Shelton rose to international prominence last year after posting a video about how he turned the tables on squatters who had moved into his mother’s house in California while it was up for sale. People from all around the world now seek his advice or even hire him to get rid of squatters.

While some squatters appear to be gaming the system, claiming to have signed a lease on properties they broke into — like in the case of a Pennsylvania man who ultimately paid squatters $1,200 to leave his house — others start out as well-meaning individuals ensnared by rental scams online, Shelton said.

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The owner of a Philadelphia property management company told Fox News last spring that scammers would copy listings from their website or Zillow, post it somewhere like Craigslist at a lower price and request a deposit through a cash app.

When the prospective tenant shows up at the property, the scammer tells them they lost the key and to “just go ahead and get a locksmith,” Anchor Realty NE owner Walter Lapidus told Fox News. “Either that or they actually go and replace the locks when the house is for rent and hope to get it rented before we have our next showing.”

‘SORRY YOU GOT SCAMMED’: HANDYMAN’S WARNING FOR ACCIDENTAL SQUATTERS:

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“Those are very common in Philadelphia and probably some of the other locations where I guess these people know that the city is valuing their rights above those of a homeowner or a tenant,” Lapidus added.

Squatting laws — and the procedures for removing illegal occupants — vary across the country. In states where laws prevent police from intervening, homeowners and landlords are at the mercy of civil processes to reclaim their property, which can take months, even years. 

“I wouldn’t sign anything until I’ve met with a leasing agent, somebody physically, and get their information, get their card,” Shelton cautioned. “I would absolutely just check all my boxes and make sure that everything seems right.”

But Shelton’s sympathy for accidental squatters is limited.

Flash Shelton interview

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“I wouldn’t lease a property without knowing who owns the property,” he said. “If you happen to be scammed, I’m sorry you got scammed, but that house still should be taken from you.”

Click here to hear more from Shelton.

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