Fall Out from the Foreclosure Chaos – Squatters and an Increase in Adverse Possession Claims

squaTTERS.jpgJust think, you come back to your condo or home to find a stranger inside, a stranger who claims that you no longer own your property. The headlines have been bombarded with news of “Loki Boy” and his attempt to adversely possess a $2.5 Million home in Boca Raton, and copycats in Broward and Miami-Dade County. In Broward, the county appraiser’s office has received several adverse possession filings over the past few months since Loki Boy’s story broke. Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish has had enough of it. She’s begging the state legislators to strike the law from the books once and for all.

The adverse possession law allows someone to take ownership of a property they have openly, and exclusively possessed for at least seven years. In addition the “squatters” are required to pay the taxes and liens on the property for those years.

Parrish is outraged that someone would have the audacity to file an adverse possession claim with her office, particularly when the home is not in foreclosure. She calls the centuries old rule a way to “legitimize breaking and entering” when used today. The rule came about when Florida was majorly agricultural land that sometimes fell into disuse. In a time like today, squatters are taking advantage of the floundering foreclosure process.

In Miami-Dade County, a recent news story ran about all the confusion surrounding who actually has the legitimate right to reside in multi-million dollar mansion in Coral Gables. Indeed, our firm has been involved in several “trespassing” episodes and worked with the authorities to ensure proper ownership.

Senator Maria Sachs agrees that something needs to be done; the increase in these types of filings indicates that something must change with the system. In Florida, one of the states hit hardest by the housing crisis, foreclosed property is often left empty while lenders proceed through the agonizingly slow foreclosure process, perfect prey for adverse possessors.

But foreclosure property isn’t the only target of these copycats. An adverse possession filing was recently submitted for oceanfront property in Broward. The property is not in foreclosure, in fact it’s simply for sale and empty. Luckily for the sellers, police apprehended the individual just days after he filed for adverse possession. Had he not been apprehended the property owners would have had to file a civil suit to eject the squatter.

Today’s property owners need to ensure that their property is safe, secure and free of all trespassers. Feel free to contact our office if you are experiencing an issue with squatters.