"Adversely Possessing" Empty Houses: Robin Hood Or Fraudster?

Citing a law from the 1850′s, Mark is going around Florida looking for foreclosed and abandoned houses and filing paperwork to try to claim their deeds. It’s called “adverse possession.”

If he maintains the house and fixes it up and the owner doesn’t respond to his inquiries, Mark says, then the houses will become his after 7 years.

The concept of claiming derelict land is old and well-established. But the question is whether he has the right to, as he has done, find low-income tenants for the properties and rent it out to them, before his claim is established.

His renters see him as Robin Hood. The law sees him as a parasite. Another guy in the area trying to do the same thing spent a year in jail on fraud, trespassing and burglary charges that he ultimately plead out.

“There are over 4,000 homeless in Broward, and the number is growing all the time,” Mark told the New York Times. “I thought I could use these homes and put people into them. It could be a good thing,” adding, “It’s not rocket science.”

At Legal Fringe, Empty Houses Go to the Needy [NYT]

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  1. Zowzers says:

    It would appear that the issue is him renting out the property prior to the 7 years elapsing.

    as in, he’s renting out property he doesn’t own yet.

    • obits3 says:

      This.

      If you don’t own it, but act like you do, it is fraud.

      • Merricat says:

        I don’t support him, but the whole point of adverse possession is that you have to act as if you do own it.

        The original point of the idea was so that someone who has been living on a plot for a while can’t be suddenly evicted when the long lost second cousin of the grandson of the uncle to the family that used to hold deed to the property couldn’t come around and claim legal title after a certain amount of time had passed.

        In order for adverse possession to ‘work’ for someone they have to:

        Actually possess/live on the land in question.
        Do so without permission from the owners (since if you did it with the permission of the owner, you’d just be a guest)
        Do so in a manner that is ‘obvious’, i.e. you can’t hide what you are doing, it has to be something that the owner could have been expected to notice.
        Do the above for the entire period of time.

        Of course, if you do the above and the true owner objects, expect to find yourself in jail. Which is sort of the point. If the owner isn’t protecting their property, then they don’t ‘deserve’ to own it when you come around to claim it. If they are protecting their property, then you are just a criminal attempting to steal from them.

        • mythago says:

          Wrong. The whole point of adverse possession is that you don’t, yet, have title to the property. You have nothing you can rent.

          If he were just living there and saying “In seven years, this house will be mine,” he’d be fine as long as the city didn’t stop him.

          • Merricat says:

            Except that while you ‘don’t own anything’ you are still acting as if you do. Which is exactly what I said.

            If the owner comes along and goes after him, then he’s in trouble. If the owner doesn’t then he’s free to treat it as his property the entire time.

            As I pointed out, the original idea behind adverse possession is was to protect people who were occupying land in good faith, believing that they owned the deed to the land. There is nothing in the law that says he can’t rent the property out, yet.

            The real question, that I can’t answer, is whether the fact that he’s rather blatant about the fact that he KNOWS he doesn’t own the land will cause him issues.

            • mythago says:

              No. He is not “free to treat it as his property the entire time”. There is no law saying that if you yell “Adverse possession!” you get to do whatever you want for seven years. All it means is that if he possesses the property (openly and notoriously, etc.) for that time period, and the property owner doesn’t try to get rid of him, at the end of that time he gets title.

              Do you think that if he decided to burn the house down, that would be totally legal, because he’s just acting as if he owns it?

              • Merricat says:

                I’m not sure where your reading comprehension fails in this conversation, but assuming burning down the house was legal in the first place, then yes he would be free to burn down the house… up to the point where the legal owner comes by and has him arrested for destruction of property and trespassing.

                • Gulliver says:

                  Except this guy is not following anything about this. He can not occupy multiple properties, therefore he can not claim adverse possession. If the owner at any point in that time frame says, get out, the clock starts again. If he started this 5 years ago, he still does not have a legal right to collect rent on it. He could not evict them, since he has no legal standing on the property. The actual tenants can just say, here is what you get in rent ZERO. We own it now.

                  • Merricat says:

                    There is nothing in the law that says you can’t ‘occupy’ more than one property at a time. If you are utilizing it as an actual ‘owner’ world, you are possessing it. The remainder of your argument is correct, but doesn’t impact anything regarding whether what he is doing is ‘legal’ it merely speaks to the risks inherent in what he’s doing.

                  • Difdi says:

                    The problem with your legal theory is that if it were true, the instant someone rented their property to another person, the landlord would be considered to have abandoned the property. In which case the tenant would not owe the landlord any rent, and evictions for nonpayment of rent would be illegal.

                    Renting it out is a valid use by the owner, and would therefore count as use for adverse possession purposes.

              • kuhjäger says:

                I DECLARE: ADVERSE POSSESSION!!

              • HillSA23 says:

                Yeah, you’re arguing a point that nobody has made while taking a reasonable example to the extreme (possessing land vs. burning the building down) in an attempt to discredit it.

                My understanding of ‘adverse possession’, which I know nothing about as I am not a lawyer, comes from my pal who is a lawyer whom I called when I read this story. His understanding of the premise matches Merricat’s. Take that as you wish.

    • cyberpenguin says:

      Isn’t this what Bank of America and Wells Fargo tried to do with some of the robosignings???

      • A.Mercer says:

        Are you defeneding the actions of Bank of America and Well Fargo? If you feel that the banks should not be able to get away with it then you should also say that this guy should not get away with it either.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          But the banks *DID* get away with it, so he should *ALSO* be able to get away with it, on precedent.

          As soon as we begin to prosecute the banks, this guy can get in line for his light, gentle rub on the wrist.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    He spent a year in jail on fraud, trespassing and burglary charges that he ultimately plead out.

    Ben, that’s not accurate. It says “In Palm Beach County, Carl Heflin spent a year in jail awaiting trial on fraud, trespassing and burglary charges. But after accepting a plea agreement and the rejection of his adverse possession claims, he was arrested again on charges of trying to collect back rents on houses he had tried to possess.”

    Different guy.

    • hypnotik_jello says:

      Yeah, that’s right, Mark actually went to his tenants and said (and I’m paraphrasing) “you don’t have to pay me while the trial is in progress”

    • Plasmafox says:

      He was kept in jail for A YEAR awaiting trial and then pressured into a plea based on that, and then immediately arrested for something else?

      Am I the only one who sees a major problem here?

  3. nbs2 says:

    I’m fine with what he is doing, but I don’t see how an AP claim is going to stand up when he freely admits to not being the owner of the property for the period of the claimed AP. It’s been a while since Real Property, but I seem to remember a requirement that he hold himself out as the owner of the said property for the AP period. Not only is he tolling the AP claim, but a call by the owners would result in trespassing ejections rather than tenant evictions for the renters. How is that Robin Hood?

    • zifnab0 says:

      I think his position will be that collecting rent is enough to establish himself as the owner of the property in question.

      If the property really is abandoned, and no one cares about him taking it over for 7 years, then I see no problem. Yes, he’s trying to take property that isn’t his, but at least he’s adding value to the property and neighborhoods.

      I do wonder if he’s paying taxes on the land, otherwise it’s just going to get sold at auction when the city or state takes the land.

      • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

        You both sound like lawyers, or people in the know for some reason. If someone tries an adverse possession claim and pays property taxes, but the holder of the deed asserts ownership before the squatter’s clock runs out, does the squatter get any part of those property taxes back?

        • cmp179 says:

          Another lawyer here. I’m not certain, but I would guess probably not. If the adverse possessor pays property taxes, he is doing so knowing the risk that the owner could come back and boot him from the property. If that did happen, I would think the adverse possessor would be out of luck. I don’t practice property law, though, so I’m almost just guessing, but that’s what would make sense to me.

          • mattarse says:

            You are a lawyer – you should know these things won’t ever end up making sense :P

          • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

            Yikes. Sounds like a pretty high-risk investment, then, depending on the tax rate.

        • Billy says:

          This goes state by state, but AFAIK, the squatter buys the right to pay the pay the debt (they buy the lien from the municipality) which puts the owner in debt to the squatter (and not the municipality). The delinquent owner can only satisfy the lien by paying the money back (plus interest) to the squatter. If the owner doesn’t satisfy the lien, the property could revert to the squatter.

          If the squatter doesn’t purchase the lien at auction, though, he might be SOL.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_lien_sale
          http://www.tax-lien-certificates.net/faq.asp

      • mythago says:

        Sorry, you lost me there. How does it ‘brighten up the neighborhood’ to sell something you don’t own, to people who will have few if any rights when you get caught?

  4. FatLynn says:

    Well, if he doesn’t own the property, he can’t have an enforceable contract with his tenants, right? So, the tenants could move it and not pay rent, and then he’d have no way to evict them. Are the tenants just not savvy enough to realize that?

  5. _UsUrPeR_ says:

    If this guy were to just move in to a home, instead of renting them out, I would say he had a better change of not being picked up by Johnny Law.

    • spamtasticus says:

      That happened in a brand new duplex down the street from my house. The homeless guy moved in with his elderly mother. They lived there for 2 years before the owner finally sold the house and they had to live. The only problem is that since they could not afford electricity they kept the windows open 24/7. There has been an inviropro truck there cleaning dangerous mold and god knows what else from that house and from the adjacent home as well. The awful part is that the adjacent house was owned and occupied by someone who now can’t live in his house until the poisonous mold is expensively removed.

  6. Ophelia says:

    I know foreclosures are backed up and all… but how often does it happen that he maintains and lives in (or arranges for someone to live in) the house for 7 years without someone (the bank who owns it?) saying something about it? (Forget the shaky legality of the fact that he isn’t the one ‘posessing’ the house)

    • DanRydell says:

      I doubt he expects to keep possession of the houses for 7 years, he’s probably just trying to cash in by collecting the rent.

    • StoicLion says:

      @Ophelia – for the most part, banks aren’t real estate professionals. That’s why we often see REOs (bank-owned foreclosed properties) looking so haggard and shabby. As for the 7-years, I’m sure that has something to do with squatters’ rights. I should know that because of my profession (real estate) but I don’t work in Florida and I’m too lazy to Google right now.

      • Firethorn says:

        Gah, yes. Though the worst in our area is HUD repos.

        I JUST bought a house; do to being a cheap-ass, not to mention single guy and willing to live in housing that is substandard in some ways, I looked at a number of properties.

        Now, I live fairly far north – The banks will winterize the place, shut the heat off, and call it a day. It’s normally a ‘fixer-upper’ property because, well, tenants who are being forclosed on generally don’t keep it up. I ALMOST bought a couple of them, but they weren’t willing to offer a deal I’d take to justify the expense of fixing it up plus a bit of discount for the additional risk(finding more damage).

        HUD – they don’t even bother to winterize or shut the heat off. The tank runs out of oil, the furnace shuts off, the pipes freeze. Their reaction is to drop the price of the home 20-30%. Not spend the 1% or so to winterize properly, or even TRACK them right.

        I’m willing to bet that I might be able to pull an adverse possession off a HUD home, but I can’t be sure.

        • Skipjim says:

          I doubt you’d pull it off with a bank owned home. They’ve got people who look in on them every thirty days, they’re going to notice if someone is living there (trust me)

  7. Kate says:

    Didn’t the Consumerist have a post not too long ago about someone who had bought a foreclosed house and had such a person move in that cost them time and money to remove?

    So just whose side are we on?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      If you’re talking about the post from a few days ago, it was a couple who, 10 days from signing the paperwork and closing on home, found squatters inside who claimed to own the property. They had drafted a deed and slapped it on the window. Now it’s up to the court to figure out who actually owns the property, when it’s evident to everyone except the squatters that the couple who bought the home are supposed to own it.

      That’s different from what this guy is doing.

      • Starrion says:

        Is it?

        The only difference is that no one has bought these foreclosed properties yet.

        • coren says:

          That, and no one seems to care about these properties either. Both he and the state/county have tried to contact the owners with no response (hence the orange stickers and non-answer 19/20 times he tried to contact the owners). A little different.

      • JayPhat says:

        Do we have an update to that story yet?

  8. ARP says:

    If I remember my property classes, usually its more than just fixing up houses and claiming the deed. You have to actually occupy them for that period and your occupation must be “open and notorious.” Perhaps FL is more lax.

    • PencilSharp says:

      Thou hast a point, ARP.

      According to this document (Warning: Google Docs PDF), from the University of Florida, a squatter must:

      1. Occupy the land for at least 7 years, resulting in overlapping legal descriptions.
      This means that there must be question of ownership by two people with competing claims…
      2. Must possess the land in an open, notorious and visible manner.
      He has to do it without hiding it. I think the NYT article takes care of that…
      3. Must possess the land for at least 7 years,
      exclusive to the use of others and the owner.
      Uh oh. Now he’s in trouble. By renting out the land to which he has no title, he is not only perpetrating fraud, he’s actually got an inferior claim to these properties, compared to his renters! After all, they are actually living on the property!
      4. Must prove adverse possession under color of title or without color of title.
      Oh, ick. RTFL.

      Oh, and here’s a further discussion of the laws from 2006…

  9. Tim says:

    Adverse possession itself makes sense. If no one has a problem with you saying you own it, at some point, it’s probably fair that you own it.

    But the problem here is about making money off of it when you don’t yet own it. That’s a bit of an issue, I’d say.

  10. Bob Lu says:

    Depends on what he does with the rent?

    I’d say if it was a NPO doing this, it may be a good thing. But since it is just a guy, a little skeptic sounds healthy.

  11. Macgyver says:

    He doesn’t own the houses. He never paid for them. So it’s not his.
    Plus he’s walking onto houses that isn’t his, that’s b&e and trespassing. That’s also trespassing for the tenants, they are knowingly signing a lease from someone who doesn’t own the property.

    • cmp179 says:

      That’s how adverse possession works, though. You take possession of property that is not yours, and after a certain period of time lapses (varies by state), you actually become owner by operation of law.

      • Azagthoth says:

        Adverse possession usually needs to have the squatting party paying taxes on the land though, this is key. I’m guessing that foreclosed homes, while not kept up, are still getting their taxes paid by the bank.

        This is all going to create a big problem a few years down the line when this douchebag tries to sell the property that he was “helping the needy” with. Call me a cynic, but he is looking to make money, period.

    • Merricat says:

      The whole idea is if the possession isn’t ‘abandoned’ then the true owner will come along and get you put in the pokey. If they don’t, after a while, then they truly abandoned the property and you should be able to claim it as yours if you’ve been treating it as yours since the ‘start’.

  12. Martyfrom Seattle says:

    Hey!

    That’s a picture from my old house in Seattle.

    No kidding!

    I fixed it up and sold it (over 10 years ago) and then the neighborhood went south. I checked it on Google Maps a year ago and saw this image and it nearly broke my heart.

    I built that fence! C’mon Central District – get your act together!

    Interesting story though…..

  13. captadam says:

    The larger principle of reusing abandoned, foreclosed, and derelict properties for those who need low-cost housing is a good one. I would rather see an official policy and procedure for doing this, however. Come on, policymakers, let’s get creative. Let’s figure out a way to move some of these products out of legal limbo and into agencies that will rehab them with donations and volunteer labor. Or let’s set up some sort of system using public money to relieve owners of these properties when they don’t want them, rehab then, and put them to good use. There’s a market out there that is being stymied by legal hurdles. Fix that.

    • Sol Collins says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing as I was reading this.
      This is what the new era of public housing should look like.
      If the houses in question have been deemed public nuisance by the local government, and all efforts to contact the land/house owner have been exhausted, this should happen.
      It would serve to occupy the houses, stop the houses from becoming dilapidated, and increase or at least maintain the neighborhood & the neighborhood property value.

      And everyone does things to make money. Everyone. You. Me. That guy over there and the girl across the way. As long as Save Florida Houses is not doing it as a way to swindle, con, or screw people, who really minds if he makes a living doing this?

      Guv’ment needs to look at this idea, research it, and find ways to implement it’s core ideology. It would solve a huge housing need, house the homeless, and even get more people paying property taxes.

    • onlyme says:

      If I remember correctly, Washington D.C. did something like this in the 80′s. They had so many abandoned houses and so many Section 8 families, that they went around and emminately domained property if they could not find the owner. Had a group rehab them and used them for section 8.

  14. cmp179 says:

    For some reason, adverse possession came up in my torts class in law school, and the professor told us that in some cases, the person who is adversely possessing the property can file an eviction action against someone else who is trespassing, even though the adverse possessor doesn’t yet own the property. That was very interesting to me at the time. Assuming it is true, I don’t see why an adverse possessor shouldn’t be able to rent out the property even though he doesn’t own it yet.

    • mythago says:

      If you went to law school, you should know the difference between tort law and property law. Whether somebody physically present on a property can sue a trespasser under a tort law theory has NOTHING to do with whether they have rightful title to the property.

      • cmp179 says:

        Well, I’m not sure why you have to imply that you’re not sure I went to law school. I can assure you that I am a licensed Pennsylvania attorney. I do not practice property law, though, so I’m making an inference based on what I remember from law school. My point was simply this: If a person who does not have title to the property yet can have someone evicted from the property, why can’t that person also charge the other person to allow him access to it?

        • mythago says:

          Then as a licensed attorney who graduated from an accredited law school, you’re surely aware that there is a difference between tort law and property law. And you might also consider that ‘my torts professor told me this weird thing can happen in some adverse possession cases’ does not lead to the conclusion that ‘an adverse possessor who does not have title can legitimately transfer property rights to a tenant’.

          • cmp179 says:

            Honestly, I don’t understand why you are so hostile about this. I’m not really saying that I firmly believe that he would win based on what I’m saying. I just think it is one interesting legal theory on which he could proceed.

          • Bladerunner says:

            Dude, chill out. He’s not saying it DOES lead to the conclusion, only that hey, maybe you could use one argument to make the other. Insulting him for mentioning it is just unnecessary. I’m sure he’s aware of the differences between the laws, as he says, he doesn’t DO that law regularly.

            As a NON lawyer, though, I do know there are MANY circumstances in which tort law slops over into property law…heck, a lot of the law talks about damages in terms of renter/tenant, and also about jail time. So though you’re right, they don’t have right of title, I wager the argument could easily be made that he’s working on the assumption he does (the premise of adverse possession)
            unless the real owner kicks him out. Doesn’t mean he’d WIN the argument, just that he could MAKE it.

            Now, if the real owner does kick him out, and the tenants, then the tenants would have a breach of contract tort, as well as likely fraud charges, they could file against their “landlord”.

            I think, and again, I’m likely wrong, that the real issue here is that there’s not a lot of precedent for this law, as its old and rarely used, and that therefore there’s wiggle room for this guy, until the courts clarify things.

            • mythago says:

              If you think I insulted him, you too need to meditate on the difference between ‘imply’ and ‘infer’.

              And “the argument could be made” is a complete non-starter. You can make any argument you want. That doesn’t mean there’s a shred of legal value to it.

  15. dolemite says:

    IMO…unless you can produce a deed, you don’t own the house…meaning…this guy doesn’t own the house either, and can’t rent out the property.

    • Powerlurker says:

      If he lives there openly for seven years or so without being kicked out by the current owner, then he DOES own the house, that’s the entire point of adverse possession, a legal concept older than this nation.

  16. mythago says:

    Yeah, no. It’s called, a scammer found something called ‘adverse possession’ and thought it sounded good enough to run a scam collecting rent on properties he doesn’t own.

    If he follows the state’s adverse possession requirements, he might EVENTUALLY come to own one of these properties. He doesn’t, and therefore has no right to rent them. You can’t sell what you don’t own.

    • evnmorlo says:

      He’s basically subletting, paying no rent himself because the owner doesn’t care/doesn’t exist.

      • mythago says:

        You can’t sell what you don’t own.

        If you have no rights to a property, you cannot give the right to tenancy to somebody else.

        This is not complicated.

        • Merricat says:

          It isn’t complicated, it’s also not at all the way you apparently think it works. So settle down and stop stomping all over peoples comments as if you knew.

          • CaptainSemantics says:

            IANALY (The extra Y is for “yet.” I’m currently in Property as a 1L so don’t trust any of what I say.) I think mythago’s argument (which is credible, I just wouldn’t argue it like a d-bag) hinges on the actual-ness (yes, I just made up a word) of the “possession.”

            Actual requirement requires the person to use the property as an owner would. Are there a lot of rentals around? There’s an argument, depending on the fact pattern.
            Continuous, so long as it’s 7 years. (7 years for color of title in FL, I presume?) [My question: What happens if they're not renting for a month? Does the clock reset? My guess is no.]
            Exclusive use is easy because the true owner is nowhere to be found.
            Open & Notorious. Yep, pretty darn open and notorious if you ask me.
            Hostile. Yep, definitely hostile.

        • yacobson says:

          Tapscott v. Lessee of Cobbs. Look it up. Besides actual titleholder, title is granted to the previous peaceable possessor.

  17. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Sadly, if you dust off the actual law, it says you must pay for the homes/processing of the documents with either Confederate dollars and/or Ivory Bill woodpecker egg.

  18. LadyTL says:

    My non-legal though on this, is why is the city fighting him? He is specifically targeting houses that will probably end up condemned since they are already a public nuisance. He is maintaining them. He is providing a solution for those who need places to live and addresses to get a job or help. The banks/owners didn’t even respond to what he was doing and he sent them a letter about it. This particular guy is helping the city and instead they want to throw him in jail.

    • evnmorlo says:

      When the city takes the houses they give the demolition contract to the politically connected local firm for 10x what it should cost, then they sell the land to a politically connected developer for 1/10 what it should cost. Alternatively, the politically connected developer receives state grants to rehabilitate the houses for 10x what it should cost, and pays 1/10 the property tax that s/he should.

    • mythago says:

      Helping the city? He’s helping himself. What happens when one of the tenants gets hurt because the property isn’t maintained? Who pays the taxes? What if somebody wants to buy one of these abandoned houses? You think Scammer O’Scammnessy will step up?

      • RvLeshrac says:

        What happens when one of them lives in the abandoned property anyway and is injured?

        You missed the part where he’s performing maintenance. Broken-window effect – if these properties remain disused and neglected, the entire city will turn into a festering cesspool.

        • Firethorn says:

          Bingo. Homes degrade scarily fast if not maintained right. Unmaintained homes plumment in usability and safety, dropping their value like a rock, dragging their neighbors with them.

          If you’ve already put $100k worth of materials and labor into what will be a $150k home, I’d rather see it finished. I was really sad when I saw homes that had been abused when I was househunting, because I saw them quickly heading for an early grave due to neglect. Many were homes that it was obvious that their first owners loved them.

  19. ZIMMER! says:

    At least he is using the property. These banks could care the less what happens to the houses. But lord help it if they do not make money *the banks. It is all about who has whom bent over after all.

  20. bruce9432 says:

    The elements to
    establish a claim for adverse possession are HOAC. (H)ostile, (O)pen,
    (A)ctual, and (C)ontinuous.

    Hostile: The land use must be without permission of the owner; i.e.,
    hostile to the owner’s interest.

    Open: The use must be out in the open, so that the true owner is put on
    notice that some freeloaders are squatting on his land.

    Actual: The land must be used in the same way that an actual owner
    would. For example, if it’s a farm, you can’t hide, and only come out
    at night.

    Continuous: The squatter must continuously be on the land for the
    statutory period (5-20 years, depending on jurisdiction). The squatter
    can have a friend take turns, and “tack” onto each other to keep the
    clock running.

  21. bruce9432 says:
  22. bsh0544 says:

    I like the idea of renting out houses that the owners can’t be bothered to maintain. However, it doesn’t seem all that large a jump from taking an ignored house that the owner doesn’t care to maintain or protect, to taking a house just because the owner hasn’t been around in a little while, such as a vacation house or even a primary residence while away on a longish trip.

    • HeroOfHyla says:

      I read a story (can’t remember the source), about some guy in England who left for a week while his house was being remodeled, and came back to find squatters living in it who claimed it had been abandoned for years. Due to the nature of the law, it was only a civil offense for them to be there, and he had to go to court to file an eviction notice to have them removed.

  23. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    “It’s not stealing if nobody wants it…”

    “If nobody wants it, why are we stealing it!?”

  24. Kate says:

    Why would you pay rent to adverse possessor- just move and adverse possess yourself.?

    So what does the law do when a whole bunch of ‘possessors’ start fighting over an abandoned property?

    • The Wyrm says:

      That is a great point. If he doesn’t yet legally own the land, the people who actually move in have more of a claim to it than he does.

      A good analogy for the situation: A towing company tows a car because it is illegally parked. By law, the owners have… let’s say 6 months to claim it. If the owner doesn’t claim it by then, it belongs to the towing company. A month goes by, and the owner shows up to claim his car, only to find out that the towing company has been renting out his car to someone else claiming that they own it already. The police won’t interfere because it’s a ‘civil’ matter, so you have to wait for the court to decide… the whole time someone else is driving around your car.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Apocolypse, war lords, gangs, rebels ie anarchy, What rule of law

  25. GearheadGeek says:

    What fun this is… there’s a good chance we’ll be renting for a year or more next year. We may have to move for my partner’s residency, and a) I don’t want to risk having 2 mortgages and b) I don’t want to buy until we find out if we like the area, we might stay just long enough for him to complete residency. We need some yard for the dogs, so we’ll probably rent a house.

    I think I’ll ask for some concrete proof that whoever is renting the house out actually owns it or has a mortgage and is CURRENT on that mortgage. Then I think I’ll research that proof with the county to make sure it seems legit. Sheesh, I hope we get to stay here in our nice little house!

  26. scoosdad says:

    Thirteen years ago I encroached a bit on the land behind my house (undeveloped woodland) by squaring off my chain link fence around my yard to avoid having to follow the property line, which actually cuts diagonally across the back corner of my lawn. That part of the lawn was already well established, extending into the property behind me when I bought the house, and until I dug up the plot plan from the courthouse showing the property lines when I went to put up the fence, I actually thought I owned that corner when I bought the house, and so did my realtor.

    In my state the adverse posession law allows me to assert rights to this property after twenty years, so in about seven more years I guess I’ll need to look into what’s needed to officially take posession (helps that my brother is a real estate attorney!). It’s not much more than about 200 square feet, but it sure makes my yard more attractive when it’s included. The land behind me has been surveyed several times since I’ve lived here for a potential housing development, but to date nobody has ever questioned the presence of that section of chain link fence on their property, so that actually bolsters my claim after the twenty years is up. One of the factors in determining if a claim of adverse posession is valid is if the squatter has been open about it, and the presence of my fence on their site plan (I’ve seen it, and have a copy of it) sure makes that easy to prove.

    • bhr says:

      thats how this law is supposed to work. For example: I had a seller explain to me that they had gone to court over about an 1/8 acre piece. They had fenced and landscaped what they thought was their property (weird lines) something like 10 years before. When they attempted to sell the house they discovered the issue, and tried to put in an AP claim. The neighbor claimed the property was used with permission, and lawsuits resulted. Long story short the judge decided that no one who was “borrowing” property would make such significant improvements to the property.

  27. packy says:

    I’d say the tenants who are living in the houses have a stronger case for Adverse Possession than Mark does. They’re the ones actually maintaining the properties.

  28. menty666 says:

    I wonder if you can apply that to sections of the roadway. “What, I fixed the potholes, it’s mine now!”

  29. The Wyrm says:

    At least it’s not as disturbing as the cases where loonies take over a property and refuse to leave even when the rightful owner shows up, claiming that they now own the property. The police refuse to kick them out or arrest them because it is a “civil” matter.

    Of course, the best way to evict people like that is to go find a termite removal company and have them tent the house, start filling it up with gas. “Gee, I dunno why they suffocated officer, the house should have been empty. They were trespassing in a dangerous area.”

  30. Wolfie XIII says:

    I find it funny.. most of the detractors seem jealous they didn’t think of this them selves. This guy may be out to make a buck, if he is smart the tenants know the exact state of affairs of the property and are taking the windfall of having any place to live at all as a huge boon.

    I’d think the worst case scenario for this guy is an owner decides to say something, the people living on the property get kicked out and mr smarty pants has to pay the owner whatever rent he collected for the property. Generally as long as you haven’t damaged something and you leave a property when asked by the owner thats where trespassing complaints end. Just my experience tho, don’t expect it to be yours.

  31. Caffinehog says:

    Assuming he has a clause where the renter gets out of the contract and must leave if the bank claims the home, and assuming he maintains the home, then I don’t see a problem. If the bank DOES claim the home, then he has maintained it for them and kept it occupied, which INCREASES the value of the home when it sells!

    Actually, in this economy, I wonder why banks don’t HIRE people to do this! (Or to provide free accommodations for those who will maintain a property and agree to leave upon sale.)

    • LadyTL says:

      Because banks don’t seem to understand long-term profit anymore. All they focus on is short term and there is no short term benefit to having an exchange of services for rent.

  32. wildgift says:

    The house should go to the occupant, not this guy who is playing landlord.

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