Better Call Behnken: Couple confused if they still own lot after auction company quickly shuts its doors

(WFLA) – Jeff and Jenny Clendenen turned to Better Call Behnken to answer one question: do they still own the vacant lot they thought they sold?

“I don’t want to pay the taxes on it if it’s not my property,” he said.

The Clendenens were told TV auction company America’s Auction Network, in Clearwater, sold the lot, but the company shut its doors before paying them.

The Clendenens were left unsure if they really sold the property. They didn’t receive money for the sale, but they have a copy of a deed they signed, selling the lot to a man in Ohio.

According to the contract the couple signed with the auction company, they expected payment within 10 days of the sale, but that didn’t happen. Then, they got a call from the buyer in Ohio.

That man, Dell Joseph Lepelley, says he didn’t receive the deed after buying the property for $4,500.

He has since received his money back, after tracking down the owner of the company himself.

As for the Clendenens, they called Better Call Behnken for help getting answers because every number they have for the company is a dead end.

We started at the former TV studio in Clearwater. There, we found Steve Allen.

He owns the building and was the landlord for the auction company. He claims the company shut down quickly, with little warning, and that they still owe him hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent.

“Once I heard a few rumors about people not getting paid, within 45 days it was all shut down,” Allen said. “They had a multi-year lease, so they broke that lease. I have to undo all the changes they made to the property to lease it out again.”

We tracked down Elena Lesnevsky, one of the company owners. She told us by phone that she is working to make sure all customers are taken care of.

“Everything closed extremely unpredictably,” she said, blaming the closing on internal issues and the impacts of Hurricane Irma. “I am the person who is personally responsible for customers and we are still fixing things.”

Lesnevsky says the Clendenens don’t need to worry. She says the deal was not finalized because the buyer didn’t receive the deed and received a refund.

Real estate attorney Will Shepherd said that is likely the case, however, he said the deed does not need to be filed in order to be valid. The deed becomes valid, he said, when the buyer receives it.

“I think they should be reasonably comfortable because the buyer got their money back,” Shepherd said. “They could go to court to get a quiet title and a judge would clear this up so it’s not a problem in the future, but in this case, they likely don’t need to do that.”

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