With the number of vacant homes dwindling, house squatters are getting bolder. They’re moving into homes and staying for free, citing adverse possession law in some states, which allows a person to claim title to an abandoned property after occupying it for a certain amount of time.
The law has become “an excuse for squatting in foreclosed homes,” AOL Real Estate reports. And squatters are moving into homes and citing the law more frequently. For example, in Miami-Dade County in Florida, adverse possession claims are on the rise, increasing from 30 in 2011 to 70 in 2012. In the first three months of 2013, squatters had already filed 52 applications.
But not all squatters are winning rights to these homes.
For example, Cherie Fields, 25, and her husband Owen Fields, 27, moved into a foreclosed home worth $160,000 in Florida, expecting to stay for free. They even changed the home’s locks, turned on the home’s utilities, and moved in their belongings, AOL Real Estate reports.
The couple filed for “adverse possession,” but they weren’t so lucky: A judge ordered them out and charged them with burglary of a residence, grand theft, and scheming to defraud. The couple’s attempt at citing adverse possession failed because they hadn’t occupied the home for the required seven years.
“Entire communities have been taken over by squatters who claim they’re acting under rights of adverse possession,” AOL Real Estate reports. “In Tarrant County, Texas, squatters have been claiming and looting vacant homes in Fort Worth and nearby suburbs—properties with a total value exceeding $8 million. The properties that have been left by owners who recently died, or by owners absent because of job duties or illness, appear to be most at risk of squatters, and some property owners have returned home to find their houses trashed or looted.”
Source: “Squatting in Foreclosed Homes on the Rise?” AOL Real Estate (May 3, 2013)