At LifeEdited, we don’t think people should have to spend all of their money paying for their homes. We believe there’s a freedom in living light, both materially and financially. We typically suggest renting or buying a small home to create a lighter, edited life. But there are other options. One such option is a law called “adverse possession” (note: this post is not an official endorsement of the practice).
Adverse possession is a law upheld in all 50 states that allows a prospective owner (“buyer” is not the right word) to move into an unoccupied property, apply for ownership under the law, and eventually have legal ownership of the property. The resident must occupy the home for several years (duration varies from state-to-state), pay property taxes and not have the actual owner press charges and kick him or her out. Easy breezy.
With a generous supply of unoccupied, foreclosed homes, the past few years have seen a spate of adverse possessions cases in the news. One such case was Kenneth Robinson (video above), who moved into a large Texas house, filed the appropriate paperwork, put up a “no trespassing” sign and called it home.
Neighbors were none too pleased. ABC news explains that because evictions are civil matters, not criminal ones, neither neighbors nor the bank who owned the property could call the police and kick Robinson out. In the interview, Robinson stated his plan to live in the property for three years (sans running water and electricity, mind you) before he became the rightful owner under Texas law.
Another notable case was Andre “Loki” Barbosa who took up residence in a foreclosed, 7500 sq ft, $2.5M Boca Raton home last July. In Florida, in order to take possession, Barbosa (who takes his nickname from the Norse god of mischief) had to stay there an epic seven years and pay $39K/year in taxes–probably not an easy task for Barbosa, a Brazilian national whose career is described as “aspiring rapper.”
Apparently, there are major legal hoops to jump through for a property holder (in both of these cases, the bank) to evict an adverse possessor. That is why it took about eight months for Robinson and Barbosa to get booted from their respective homes.
Adverse possession does promote doing more with less. It frees up finances. It transforms unused spaces into functioning homes. It promotes energy efficiency as it seems like setting up utilities in a squatted home is tricky. And because residency is so tenuous, we imagine the adverse possessor has few actual possessions to weigh him or her down in the event of an unexpected move.
As attractive as adverse possession might be, many might find more traditional forms of home possession more appealing. People who like knowing that they can occupy their home one day to the next, who don’t like seriously pissing off their neighbors and who like running water and electricity might find adverse possession inconvenient.