ATLANTA — Instagram tells Channel 2 Action News that it has deactivated an account that allowed people to squat in metro Atlanta homes for a one-time fee.
Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray first reported on the account on Monday on Channel 2 Action News at 5 p.m.
At first glance, it looked just like another real estate pro hustling to rent homes on social media.
But at 1TimePaymentHomes, the site made it clear they were renting out squatter homes and spelled out just what that means in a pinned Insta story.
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“The company’s owners will come out, so will the police. The police will tell you there’s nothing they can do about it -- squatters rights,” the story said.
“This is a criminal act. This is stealing and needs to be looked at that way,” said a property owner who asked only to be identified as David.
Property owners and managers say the squatting problem has exploded over the past year in metro Atlanta.
“It’s like I gave away $200,000, I feel,” homeowner Michael Holmes said.
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Holmes told Gray that he used his life savings to buy a DeKalb County home out of foreclosure eight months ago as a rental property.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Holmes said.
The alleged squatter living inside has filed more than 30 motions in court to tie up Holmes’ efforts to get him out.
“If I can’t bring this to some type of resolution, I’ll be in jeopardy of filing bankruptcy,” Holmes said.
1timePaymentHomes was running a New Year’s special: $1,400 for keys and a lease so as a squatter you can “stack money and turn ya life around.”
“It makes you feel like, ‘Why do you play by the rules if everyone doesn’t have to?’” Holmes said.
Channel 2 Action News went undercover to confront the people behind the account. After messaging with someone running the account through direct messages we eventually settled on a time and place to meet in Union County.
As soon as they saw our Channel 2 Action News camera coming, the 1TimePaymentHomes representative took off running.
“Hey sir, it’s Justin Gray with Channel 2. Are you selling a squatter home right here? You got the keys?” Gray asked the representative as they took off in a car.
After Gray’s investigation aired, he sent a link to Instagram. The app said they ended up taking the account down for violating their terms of service.
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