Judge Says Bank Of America Can Boot The $16 House Guy From McMansion

UPDATE 4:40 p.m.: Kenneth says he’s going to leave his $16 house without a fight, telling the Dallas Observer’s “Unfair Park” blog: “If they are the true owners, then you’re supposed to give it up anyway.”

Kenneth also told the Dallas Observer today that he remains positive about the whole experience.

“I’m just thankful for Flower Mound and Denton County for following the proper lawful procedures,” he said. “I went in doing this strictly by following a lawful process.” And now that the process has played itself out, he says, “I’m neither happy nor disappointed.”

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Anyone who was rooting for the man who used Texas’ adverse possession law to snag a McMansion for only $16 will be bummed to hear that he’ll be forced to leave the home after Bank of America claimed ownership of it. Drat!

Kenneth made waves in Flower Mound, Texas in July when he claimed the right to take over a $340,000 home in suburban Dallas, after filing a simple document and paying $16 to the city. He cited a law which said he could legally take possession of the house after living there for three years. His neighbors grumbled while he watered the lawn and paid utility bills, and now a judge says he has to move by Valentine’s Day.

The Associated Press says Bank of America can boot Kenneth, as they hold the lien on the house. Foreclosure was completed last month, says BOA, and now it’s time for Kenneth to vacate the premises.

Kenneth told the Dallas Observer last week that he had simply engaged in a transaction, and that “it’s not over till it’s over.” Which, apparently, it now is.

Previously: Neighbors Are Mad At Guy Who Got $300K House For $16
Man who claimed Dallas home for $16 told to leave [Statesman.com]
Man With The $16 House Faces Eviction, But Says, “It’s Not Over Till It’s Over” [Dallas Observer]

Comments

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  1. Cat says:

    A case of “better to remain silent…”

    • DariusC says:

      Except he did and filed his paperwork. I guess the article says BOFA claimed ownership anyways and the judge agreed and kicked him out? Is the law null and void or was there a mistake made? Something is missing from the article. Either BOFA was able to back-date their paperwork or the law isn’t really a law.

      • dolemite says:

        I don’t think just because the city lets you pay $16 for a house means it renders the lien void.

        Perhaps if he had actually lived there 3 years first.

        • DariusC says:

          The story implies that he was there for 3 years because he filed for his 3 year paperwork. If he wasn’t there for 3 years, why would he file the paperwork saying he was? Isn’t that lying on government documents?

          • Cat says:

            I failed to see anywhere where the original paperwork was dated.

            The Dallas Observer’s story is dated Thursday, Sep 1 2011. The story goes on to say that Robinson moved into the house in mid-June.

          • Rebecca K-S says:

            This post isn’t written clearly, but it was clear in either the old post or one of the news articles (I’ve been doing other stuff, I don’t remember which now) that the paperwork comes first, and then you live there for three years.

      • Cat says:

        What I’m saying is, if he filed the paperwork, kept his mouth shut and lived there quietly for the 3 years required, he might have gotten away with it. But once his story spread… well, I’m sure BofA heard about it and fast tracked whatever paperwork they needed to regain possession.

        • NightSteel says:

          Remember, he was in a neighborhood full of hoity-toity types who wouldn’t have cared for some ‘uppity’ guy who doesn’t come from money to move into their neighborhood. All it takes is one of them finding out about it, and then EVERYBODY knows.

          • Cat says:

            If that’s the case, I’m sure the fact that he is a “dark skinned… minister of Christ” did not endear him to the neighbors, either.

            • Dallas_shopper says:

              Now now. In many of Dallas’s northern suburbs it isn’t about what color you are, but how much money you have.

              • longfeltwant says:

                Mmm hmm, in many of them. But in MOST of them, it does matter.

                • Dallas_shopper says:

                  I disagree. It’s 2012 here too and Dallas has always been more about money than anything else. With money you can buy your way into anything and buy your way out of almost anything. I live in an older “inner ring” suburb but I venture regularly into the northern suburbs and those people don’t really give a shit about anything but A.) money and B.) keeping the riff raff out. I don’t think people up there really have issues with black people at all. Now Latinos…yeah…that’d be a problem. There’s a lot of anti-Latino prejudice in north Texas.

        • Tyanna says:

          I’m sure the hoity-toity neighbors will love how the property falls into shambles now that BofA has ownership.

          Be careful what you wish for ppl. :)

      • RedOryx says:

        The paperwork isn’t enough. He had to have lived there for three years as well. As Cat says, if he had filed the paperwork and then just lived there quietly for the required three years, BOA would have had less of a legal standing to take the house back.

  2. axolotl says:

    “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling, foreclosure-happy bank employees!”

  3. Tiercelet says:

    Now let’s see if those hoity-toity neighbor-types will be happy when the bank takes the place, and stops watering the lawn and paying the utility bills. And then it sits around forever, unable to be sold, because the banks’ widespread document forgeries have rendered the title clouded and nobody with a sound mind will buy it at any price.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      If they are lucky, it will have a pool that will go untreated and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes riddled with west Nile virus.

      • Marlin says:

        Yea; but at least no “negro” will be living in OUR neighborhood.

        • Dallas_shopper says:

          Please. There are two reasons why the largest ethnic group in Dallas is Hispanics. A.) Hispanics, a very large number of them being illegal, continue to flock to the DFW area due to the decent economy and the state of Texas’s tendency to completely ignore the issue of illegal immigration. B.) Black people in Dallas continue to flee the city for the suburbs.

          Many black families and professionals who leave Dallas proper for the suburbs go to suburbs south of the city, but there are also a lot of them in the northern burbs…a LOT more than there used to be. Richardson, Plano, Allen, Frisco, etc. used to be LILY FREAKING WHITE. Now, the closer-in the suburb, the more diverse they tend to be. Richardson is very diverse ethnically, as is Plano. But you see a lot more black faces out and about in Collin and Denton counties than you used to.

          The complaints from Flower Mound, which is largely populated by out-of-state transplants anyway, seem to center 100% around the fact that the guy didn’t PAY ENOUGH for the house. They’re not pissed off that he’s black. They’re pissed off that they paid $340k for a shitty flimsy McMansion and he was going to get it for only $16.

  4. gman863 says:

    The adverse possession law, as currently written, needs to be changed quickly.

    Dozens of “squatters” in Texas (and possibly other states) are attempting to abuse the law, creating extra expenses and headaches for neighbors, lenders and law enforcement.

    The typical squatting scam involves paying the $16, moving in immediately and stripping the house of fixed valuables including the heat/AC system, appliances, fixtures, cabinets, etc. By the time the lender and/or the homeowners’ association can put up a fight, the foreclosed property ends up with $10,000+ in damages the lender has to eat by either reducing the sale price or fixing before the house goes back on the market. This is a cost all lenders end up passing on to honest customers in the form of higher fees and interest rates.

    At the very least, a filing of adverse possession should include a title search (added to the filing fee) and a minimum 90 day period for the rightful owner(s) to contest the filing prior to allowing squatters to move in. In addition, a clause should be added making any squatter who passes the 90 day title search challenge legally liable for any damages to the property in the event it is reclaimed in the three year period – this includes both theft or damage by the squatter plus a requirement they keep full coverage homeowners insurance beginning on the day they occupy the property.

    • Costner says:

      That is a heck of an idea you gave me.

      1. Pay small fee and move into home.
      2. Carefully and methodically remove cabinets, floor coverings, light fixtures, unessential plumbing fixtures, trim etc, etc.
      3. Store items removed in offsite location.
      4. When Bank shows up to kick me out of house, protest for as long as possible and exhaust all legal options. If this is succesful, proceed to step 7.
      5. When forced from home, wait until home comes on market and bid an insane low amount for the property. Because it is in a state of disrepair and is missing the items removed in step 2, it should go for pennies on the dollar.
      6. After successfully winning the home, reinstall all items removed in step 2 bringing the home back to livable condition.
      7. Profit!

      Well ok technically in order to profit you would need to sell the house, but you get the idea. You could end up with a house for 50% of market value and all it would take is a little labor to remove and reinstall some finishing materials. Good times!

      • rugman11 says:

        That would be theft. Remember, you can’t claim adverse possession until three years in. Until then, you’re just squatting in somebody else’s property. If you take their property without their permission, that’s theft.

        • gman863 says:

          The devil in the details is proving the squatters stripped the home. Unless the lender (owner) has “before” and “after” pictures or there are witnesses to the theft, convicting the squatters of theft could be difficult.

        • Costner says:

          Hi, I’m a sense of humor… have we met?

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Or the bank could have worked harder to keep the original owners in the house. Just sayin’…

      Sorry, no sympathy here for BofA or other lenders that took part in the foreclosure horrorshow.

      • Costner says:

        You have no idea what the situation was here, so that is a silly statement. For all you know the owners walked away when they found out their property values decreased by 30% in under two years.

        Not every foreclosure is due to some “evil” bank taking advantage of people.

        • Kate says:

          You mean like setting up the real estate bubble and the bursting of it afterwards?

          Because the banks had a huge part in that.

          • Costner says:

            You know who else had a huge part in that? Homeowners.

            I know this is shocking… so take a moment to collect yourself.

      • gman863 says:

        This isn’t sympothy for BoA or any other lender. Just the economic reality of scams.

        It’s like shoplifting: You may despise whatever store a criminal is five finger discounting at; however the bottom line is it raises prices for everyone who is honest.

    • Not Given says:

      They can do that without filing paperwork. It’s called stealing.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      The current real estate mess as created a glut of unoccupied properties. Much of this has to do with unrealistic expectations of banks unwilling to sell a property for it’s true market value.

      An abandoned property is a blight in any neighborhood. “Banks” simply have no interest in incurring any costs associated with being in possession of a house. If someone is willing to step up and be a respectable neighbor, then he should be allowed to do so.

      This is a problem of the Banks making and it’s time they were held responsible. If this includes losing ownership of unmaintained property, that is no tragedy.

  5. Black Knight Rebel says:

    He should have kept his mouth shut, or at least come up with a great lie about how he was a renter or some kind of eccentric slumming millionaire or something.

    If I just got a pass to a potential McMansion for $16, that would be my greatest, and deepest secret until the ink had dried on that deal.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Adverse possession laws forbid you from lying about who you are and why you’re there. This is not to say that you have to announce you’re a squatter, but if asked you must admit to being the owner and resident.

      • chargernj says:

        Does it matter who is doing the asking? Just wondering if it would be legal to lie to your neighbors as long as you are doing everything else by the books.

        • tsukiotoshi says:

          The rule is usually “open and notorious” use of the property, so if you were going around telling everyone you weren’t living there and didn’t own it, that is probably going to be a contentious point for you if someone brings you to court over it.

          • chargernj says:

            ok, what if you just openly lived there and just avoided questions about the ownership. After all, it’s not really my neighbors business if I own or rent.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So if the judge actually dismissing the argument, or simply letting BoA “take posession” of their property.

    It doesn’t sound like anyone has legally stated his argument is false.

    • sirwired says:

      In this case, his argument was bogus. Just because you take title on a house from somebody else (i.e. the previous owner), it does not magically erase liens on the property. The bank simply used the lien to take ownership from this guy; up until this point the bank didn’t own the house, the previous (long-gone) owner did. The title transfer (through foreclosure) “resets” the adverse-possession clock.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        If it resets the poession clock, then how it is bogus?

        If BoA had not claimed the property for 3 years, then it seems he’d have a valid claim.

        • Cosmo_Kramer says:

          I think that was clear from the start. The main facepalm with this story is that people thought the guy was actually going to be able to keep the house. The lender is not going to ignore it for 3 years.

  7. Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

    He should finda 1200 sq/ft ranch style somehwere to squat in. McMansions are so nouveau riche.

  8. AmPriS says:

    Adverse Possession – doctrine which allows an occupier of land to gain title to land without the true owner’s permission.

    There are four elements of adverse possession.
    [actual] [open and notorious] [continuous] [hostile] possession.

    The property rule that he failed to consider was, “You adversely possess against the person and the estate in existence at the date of original entry.” (this is why he lost his case)

  9. Kuri says:

    That neighborhood is likely controlled by an HOA, so I’d say the saved him years of headaches.

  10. jp7570-1 says:

    The adverse possession law is an antiquated law that people are expoliting to essentially steal houses from owners, both property owners and banks. This was happening all over Tarrant County (Fort Worth, TX), so much so that the County had to put a stop on the filling of these so-called claims. Many “claims” were through a con man in Tarrant County who figured out how to game the system and got his friends and family to get homes in this manner.

    The adverse possession law was never intended to be used in this manner. Then again, we used to trust banks and mortgage companies to do the right thing most of the time (that was a long time ago too). All of the news reports regarding adverse possession cases in Tarrant County have exposed them to be con artists trying to steal homes.

    • longfeltwant says:

      Damn, I love it when the guy who “games the system” (which means the same as “knowing the law”) isn’t a rich dude. I would hardly shed a tear for Bank of Assholes.

  11. caradrake says:

    Even if he is getting sent packing, he probably still profited from the deal by not having to pay rent or mortgage elsewhere. Six-ish months rent for $16 and whatever money he paid to improve/maintain the property. Not a bad deal.

    • ZachPA says:

      I seriously doubt he spent any money improving the home at all. If he were a smart man–and it seems that he is by virtue of his discovery and use of the Adverse Possession law–he would not have dumped one dollar into improving that house or maintaining it beyond his immediate needs. There is also the likelihood that he did not pay any property taxes in the meantime.

  12. Big Dave says:

    I’m sorry, but even near Dallas, a $300K house isn’t a mansion. It’s an average house. I live in a $350K house in a small suburb in the Mid-Atlantic states, and this is a very working class neighborhood. No hoity-toity allowed, thank you. Something’s missing from this stories valuation of the property.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      Housing values vary hugely throughout the nation. ‘Mansion’ is no doubt inaccurate, but $330k is well above Flower Mound’s median home value of $245k, and for the record, is nearly $200k higher than Dallas’ MHV. These are very nice, large homes. Far from ‘average.’

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Nowhere does it say the house was a mansion. It’s a MCMANSION. Google “McMansion.”

  13. arcticJKL says:
  14. Caffinehog says:

    This guy followed the law as it was written, and vacated when those with a rightful interest in the property challenged him.

    Actually, this is EXACTLY what this type of law is for.

    Imagine if a bank took a property, and they found that selling it would cost more than it was worth. Or what if they lost paperwork and forgot they owned a property. What if a bunch of banks went under and the creditors couldn’t sell the properties and did not want to pay to maintain them. Should the properties sit in limbo forever?

  15. olderbudwizer says:

    Something tells me that guy never got invited to any of the neighbor’s backyard cookouts!

  16. ducktownhusker says:

    Consumerist is party to blame, considering that all the media exposure is probably what attracted Bank of America’s interest in the first place.