HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - A mother of three is furious after she paid more than $1,200 to move into a home that may have never belonged to the person claiming it was available for rent.
The three bedroom home in Hopewell seemed too good to be true - only $750 a month - but after paying the deposit and a portion of the first month’s rent, the would-be renter says she never got the keys.
Tonya James is staying in a hotel after she says she has no choice. James and her family moved in after leaving the last home they rented because they say the owner was a slumlord. Now it appears the person she paid her hard earned money to in order to get into a new home isn’t the real owner.
"I don't know what else to do at this point,” she said.
James believes she’s been taken advantage of. She went online to find a new home available to rent and found one in Hopewell.
"A better neighborhood, a nicer house, someone who would take care of it,” she said.
She communicated with someone online who told her she could make it hers.
"She sent me an application, stuff for a background check and she asked for last year’s tax returns and a month’s worth of paystubs,” James said.
Then came time to view the home. When they set up a day and time, James says the woman on the other end said there was a family emergency and she had to go out of town so she couldn’t do a walk-through. But James says the woman told her, if she paid $1,250 - the deposit and a portion of the first month’s rent - she could send her the keys in the mail. Excited about the option, James did it.
"We rode by the house the first week everyday so excited about it. This was going to be our home, our new fresh start,” she said.
But the keys never came. When she questioned the woman, James says she told her she received her money but she needed more of it to finalize the deal.
"I told her I was not sending her any more money because if I sent her that money then I couldn’t pay for my hotel,” James said.
That’s when she realized something wasn’t right.
Monday, NBC12′s Brent Solomon stopped by the home. The woman who answered the door said she just moved in this month and since that time, multiple people have been stopping by with questions.
"‘Is this house available for rent?’ I’m like ‘no, we’ve already rented this place’…They’ll come knocking on the door saying ‘I’m here for the viewing,’” Shiquita Jackson said.
It turns out the home is managed by a professional company in Hopewell, a company that is not associated with the advertisement James saw online.
NBC12 called the Google Voice number of the person James had been communicating with and no one answered.
"For someone to take (my money) like that without a second thought. They didn’t just take for me, they took from my children…It’s hard to watch your kids get hurt. It’s hard to watch them go through disappointment. They shouldn’t have to understand that people are that cruel at that young age,” James added.
Her family used their tax refund to pay that up front deposit.
Hopewell Police is now launching an investigation.
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