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Mansion squatters living large

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

A law known as adverse possession, along with a rise in foreclosed mansions left over from the housing crash, have paved the way for squatters to boldly claim, live in and loot homes worth millions of dollars.

Only the best addresses will do for mansion squatters.

The rise in mansion-squatting took root when more of the wealthy found themselves overextended on a mortgage and were forced to turn their homes over to the bank. As vacancies cropped up in wealthy enclaves, squatters seized the opportunity, even occupying vacant homes that weren't in foreclosure. The problem has continued to vex neighbors, banks and court officials.

States set the terms for adverse possession. In Texas, for example, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that squatters can pay a $16 filing fee with the county clerk, pledge to live in a home for at least three years and keep current with property taxes in order to claim a home. In 2011, the paper reported that squatters claimed homes in the Fort Worth area worth a total of approximately $8 million.

Horses enjoy the good life, too

Florida, a state hard-hit by the housing crash, has also battled with mansion squatters. The Palm Beach Post recently reported that a woman moved into a 6,800-square-foot vacation home near Boca Raton, in the neighborhood where tennis star Chris Evert lives. The owner was in foreclosure and the woman helped herself to the house and brought her horses to live there as well. Although she didn't try to claim adverse possession, she lied and said she had a lease.

While the foreclosure process dragged on, the woman's horses destroyed thousands of dollars' worth of landscaping, according to the attorney for the former owner. Eventually, even though the woman didn't have a lease, the attorney filed an eviction notice. Although that proved a quicker solution, it still took two months and in the meantime, the woman removed and stole the home's copper wiring, appliances and other items, according to the attorney.

Los Angeles, which has seen its share of lost dreams, saw a rise in mansion squatters since the housing crash, some of them well-known names. In 2010, actor Randy Quaid and his wife got the wrong type of Hollywood publicity when they were evicted from a mansion's guest house in Montecito, Calif. He claimed he formerly owned the mansion and his name was on the deed, but he was jailed nonetheless.

Technically, squatters can claim adverse possession if no owner comes forward, they live in the house for the term determined by the state and they keep current on taxes. When homes are vacant due to foreclosure, homeownership is harder to discern so while the process drags on through overloaded courts, squatters choose counties or neighborhoods where the vacancy rate is high and move into the lap of luxury.

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February 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

Nanci my dear, who is infringing on your right to "bare" arms?

February 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

Oh look, Nanci the Moron is up early and typing away.

February 19, 2013 at 8:43 am

Did 'it' (adverse president!)not say get the rich? Pick on them?Or anyone 'right' Lets squat our selves over at the rap singers, ball players etc..yes? Hell the white house, it's ours and look at the squatters living large there! lol for real! ENOUGH! ihad2sayit...

February 19, 2013 at 8:03 am

Talk about there goes the neighborhood! Thanks for the info Frank/devin/tmont/Limlam I agree! I have said he is turning this Country into a 3rd world one! Allow low life’s to take over as he is trying to! Anything illegal, lets care and protect! He is even trying to lessen our law officer’s powers (police) from doing their jobs witch is to serve and protect. See now?

Our rights to bare arms are more prominent now then ever before! Perhaps us law abiding citizens should become more aggressive & hook up w/all US co. and entity’s, banks as well. I feel we live in a hostile environment when we haven’t a trusted leader to guide us into nothing but hell., that monster protects the immoral people and four more years of this won’t cut it! All of us or none of us!

February 19, 2013 at 7:47 am

Adverse Possession process is obviously being abused. State legislatures need to revise their laws.

Mortgagee Banks need to negotiate fairly with owners in default -allowing continued possession on a rental basis, and providing mortgagor a share of any profit on future sale, would help eliminate vacancies and destruction to the property; avoiding a foreclosure proceeding would help stablize real estate prices.

February 19, 2013 at 7:18 am

Beware of tenants attempting to rent homes that are: in the business of foreclosure remodeling or knows a home is in foreclosure and has "friends" in the foreclosure remodeling business. Beware of realtor- investors who require the home owner to sign a Power of Attorney to deed the home to them for the short sale. These types of people steal, substitute fixtures, destroy property and use these materials in foreclosed homes they are fixing up. Example: hot water heaters, washing machines, etc.

Lim lam
February 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Just more of Obama's robinhoodism.

February 17, 2013 at 11:54 am

To anyone who loses a home to forclosure in a state that has adverse possesion laws you deserve the loss.(unless you are wanting to rid yourself of the property anyway). States with these laws allow anyone(except owner being forclosed on) to file and take possession of said property by paying back taxes and keeping taxes paid current(occupancy requirement is normally limited to keeping utilities on-in name of new occupant). The best part is that the "squatter-new occupant" can be the original owners son,daughter,spouse etc. if their name is not on the original contract or forclosure filing.
The state you live in may have a variation of above guideline- Please consult with a real estate attorney BEFORE you lose your home-no matter what state you live in(even in states without A.P. laws) there are ways to keep your home even with forclosure pending IF you consult a QUALIFIED REAL ESTATE attorney.

February 17, 2013 at 9:36 am

To all of you whom are applauding the morally bankrupt leeches that take advantage of unfortunate situations I say you should be jailed ( or shot) with them. Do Mom's no longer preach that "two wrongs don't make a right"? Ok, so bankers are scumbags, politicians are inept, money grubbing and self serving. There is a lot wrong in our society these days. So the answer is to jump on THEIR bandwagon? Where do we draw the line? If you don't earn it, it's not yours. Stupid laws or no, no one has an ethically sound path to the bedroom of a home they did not buy.
And to the poster (KM) that says he hopes that it happens in average sized homes, and that it's a brilliant way to get a home, you are a total moron. You should have your fingers fed into a meat grinder so that you can never type anything that stupid ever again.