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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 14, 2013 at 9:52 am

Well what have we got here? We can only blame ourselves for self indulgence. I walked away from a six figure income job. How is that? It just meant I made adjustments to my spending also and didn't over extend myself. Being real careful and getting quality for what I spent and always have a reserve. A contingency plan also helps out. Mmmmmm, maybe someone there on Pennsylvania Avenue can have a lesson or 2 in budgeting money. We'll see. Time will tell, instead of my children paying me back after I am gone they can just pay back Uncle Sam and his deficit. Ye tho I walk through the shadow of the Valley of Death I shall fear no evil. Because I am the....stop blaming everyone.

February 14, 2013 at 8:38 am

I love seeing the poor getting a nice place , just pisss off the snobs...

February 14, 2013 at 4:35 am

Take a lesson in Economics. We do not see the result of a Presidents term financially until the 4 year term following the Presidential term. So those who are blaming Obama for the last 4 years should really be blaming Bush. That is why you saw the decline in Bush's second term. What he did his first 4 years was starting to show. If you review America's recession it started during Bush's Presidency. Obama inherited the declining economy. Bush caused the problems that led to the bail outs in the first place.

February 14, 2013 at 12:54 am

Karen not alone,lots of people bitter and rightfully,but CAT you are so miss informed,the downhill started in 2000 and went downhill further in 2003,Iam sure you know why.So don't blame the democrats or president Obama.Go back to search history and educate yourself

February 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Way to go Karen. You’re mad as should every hard working person who through no fault of their own ended up losing their jobs, home, savings because of what those greedy Wall Street bankers did. Only problem is your anger is venting at the wrong people. Those greedy Wall Street bankers didn’t lose their jobs, homes or savings. They were rewarded and allowed to keep their jobs plus they even got bonuses after us tax payers bailed them out. Not one of them has gone to jail or even been charged with a crime. Why? Because of the double standard. You see if you or I robbed a bank we go to jail but since they’re rich they get to bring down a whole country and then get off scot free plus get to keep the millions they made doing it. Only in America.

February 13, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Karen .. so bitter ... did you vote for Obama? .. don't you have Obamacare now??? Do you not see that going in and squatting in something that you do NOT own is STEALING. The Dems took over the Congress in 2007 and that is when all started going downhill .. Obama and his regime are making it worse and worse .. and your bitterness is what they want .. they feed off of it.

Pete Carlson
February 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Wow...so bitter Karen! I have just been laid off...for the 1st time in 37 years, and it sure hurts. However, I would not even dream of taking that which does not belong to me, and I will never condone such behavior - period.

These well-menaing but misguided laws need to be amended to protect rightful property owner rights. At the very least, there needs to be a mechanism to promptly settle these cases where the "squatter" clearly is in the wrong. I understand that in some limited cases, there is a valid reason for these provisions, but they should not be so easy to take unfair advantage of.

February 13, 2013 at 9:25 pm

the banks should hire house sitters to protect there newly deposit of mega money houses thatthey been given back.

seems to me that the banks or mortgage companies need to act on this asap.

February 13, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Well Said!

Karen Chadwick
February 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I don't feel too sorry for these wealthy people who are in forclosure and now have squatters in their once beautiful homes. It was their kind that caused this hardship on the rest of us. Their extravant ways lost our jobs, our homes, our kids college educations, our retirments and we are still paying the price for their greed and indulgance. Suffer with the rest of us, how does it feel? Not so good to eat hotdogs and Hamburger Helper- awh I'm so sorry. My daughter lost her
Dean's Merit scholarship to a leading university because I couldn't come up with the $9,000 difference to keep her in school- I lost my job because of you greedy people and have been living one temp position to the next, paycheck to paycheck ver since 2008 and had to file bankruptcy to keep my home- no mansion
So no sympathy here. Go talk to your buddies on Wall Street. At least you have health insurance- I dont and haven had that since 2008 either. I home your wives are havig to wash dishes with those nice mancured nails also. Stolen appliances- go to the Habitat for humanity store in your neighborhood- I shop there also. Not your taste, too bad, your like the rest of us now- earn to do with out. It's good for your greedy souls.