Troubleshooter: Rent to own

November 18, 2009 5:29:18 PM PST
A woman's dream of owning her own home was in danger, so she turned to Diane Wilson for helpSherry Williams thought her home would be home for years to come, but now there's a threat of foreclosure.

"Scared, scared, scared not knowing if we were going to have a place to live, looking at being homeless," she told ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.

Williams moved into the Raleigh home in March. Not only is it her family's home, but it's their livelihood as she runs a licensed daycare out of it. She found the home through a company called Saving Carolina.

"We don't have perfect credit. This was a program that helped people. We thought it was a great opportunity to own a house," said Williams.

Williams says it was rent to own with 100 percent owner financing available. She gave Saving Carolina $3,000 down payment and her monthly payments were $1,650 a month, which each month she says she sent to Saving Carolina.

"They were handling the mortgage for the homeowner and we would send the money to them and they would send it directly where it needed to go," she explained.

Saving Carolina acted as the middle man. They found homeowners who wanted to rent out their home. In turn, Saving Carolina would find renters for those homes, and offer them as rent to own.

Williams thought all was going well until after 6 months of making her monthly payments to Saving Carolina, she got a shocking letter in the mail from the bank.

"The house was in jeopardy of being foreclosed because it was a few months behind and the owner needed to get in touch with the bank," she recalled.

Williams called the owner of the home. She says he told her he doesn't have the payments as Saving Carolina was supposed to be making them. So she called Saving Carolina, "have no idea where they are. The numbers have been disconnected. We're just kind of locked in - just praying the sheriff doesn't come and say you guys need to get out," said Williams.

Williams isn't alone.

"I think it was 282 families that this has affected. I personally have seen 50 families," a former worker at Saving Carolina told ABC11. She asked not to be identified.

The woman alleges the company targeted people with credit problems and promised home ownership. "Saving Carolina was saying they would cut you the deed in 30 years with a fixed rate," she explained.

Flyers from Saving Carolina show their deal: Rent to own, no credit check, no social security number needed, 30 years at only a 6 percent fixed interest rate.

Another man who also worked for Saving Carolina and also didn't want to be identified says Saving Carolina made their money by collecting rent to own payments, but didn't always send them into the mortgage company. The actual owner of the home would have no clue, because the former worker says the owner assumed Saving Carolina made the monthly payments.

"They made a lot a lot of money. They made so much money that's why I think it spun out of control," he said.

The leaders behind Saving Carolina, Scott Allen and Matt Garrett, did not return phone calls. We went to their Raleigh business address off Blue Ridge Road. Saving Carolina was nowhere to be found. So, we went to what we were told was their home. A woman there wouldn't answer questions.

Now, Williams is out all those monthly payments she made.

"If we're out of a home, we're out of a job, we can't provide the necessary things for the children or ourselves," she said.

Besides ABC11 looking into Saving Carolina, two former workers along with Williams say an investigator with the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks has interviewed them. They say the investigator told them all that officials are investigating Saving Carolina.

A representative with the state says they cannot comment on any investigations.

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