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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 15, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Good for the squatters if "adverse possession" is legal then go for it, more power to them.

Banksters ILLEGALLY foreclose on homes everyday in this country thru our Courts system/judges & thats OK?? Payback is sweet don't onto others you don't want done to you banker thiefs.

February 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Sometimes it takes a gun for these ignorant, lazy freeloaders to understand common sense. What decent law abiding citizen would steal from another? We have a right to defend our families and property from these people who feel they are entitled to whatever they can steal, take or ask for.
What happened to the idea of hard work will earn you a home, food, ....
I'm glad that I don't have children since this generation will be living in a state of chaos, corruption, violence, indecency....HELL

Kevin McNamara
February 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I think these sqatters are brilliant!! the banks steal from people every day so why not the people from the banks!! I wish them all the best. I hope more people do it in average size homes as well whatr a great idea to get a home......

Karen Chadwick
February 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Long live the squatters and their horses.

February 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

People like you, DB are sadly ignorant. Guns are a last resort, as is fighting (by anyone with any sense, and anyone who should even be allowed to carry a weapon). I have had street fights, and competed nationally, but I need not get physical unless it is a matter of last resort. You should grow up, you should also think long and hard about if and when you ever pull a weapon (for other reasons as well, but note that they did not stop making guns directly after you obtained yours).

February 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Why is it necessary for us to have to resort to violence all the time? Not to get off subject here, but using a Glock will not solve anything, but create another problem which in turn means that if used, that person's life would ultimately be destroyed by rash choices undermined by uncontrolled emotions. Why don't we try using our intelligence to resolve this issue. Out thinking someone is always a move that often times leads to the best results. Find a way to do it, and it gets them all the time.

February 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Good one DB, I have a Glock that would love to help out.

February 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

Banks and police and real estate agencies can use the phone app to see what is happening on the property, thus catching any theft or damage before it happens, if squatters move it they could put it on you tube so we can all watch.

D.B. Hart
February 15, 2013 at 10:32 am

A very simple solution would be to call on my property eviction team: Smith and Wesson.

February 15, 2013 at 7:57 am

Amen, Daniel! Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's too late for our country...the inmates are now running the asylum!