The robosigning/fraudclosure fiasco came, saw, and eventually left following a comprehensive slap-on-the-wrist settlement with all mortgage originating banks. In the process, it gave an inadvertent hint to the banks how they can boost house property values: by keeping homes from exiting the foreclosure pipeline, and off the market due to a legal mandate forcing them to do just that, it created a shortage of homes available for sale and thus provided an explicit subsidy funded by the banks themselves. The resulting “foreclosure stuffing” remains with us to this day.
Yet while it did manage to artificially boost prices, the process succeeded in one thing: making a mockery out of property rights, as it became quite clear that nobody knows who owns what, hence demanding a global settlement release from the very top. But not even the 10th incarnation of Linda Green could possibly conceive of the following episode showing just how surreal U.S. housing reality can be, when one mixes combustible and outright idiotic property laws, with a real estate market that, when one pulls away the facade of “made for TV pundtiry”, is in absolute shambles.
From the Orlando Sentinel:
Squatting in style: 23-year-old occupies empty $2.5 million Boca home
The 23-year-old has moved into an empty $2.5 million mansion in a posh Boca Raton neighborhood, using an obscure Florida real estate law to stake his claim on the foreclosed waterside property.
The police can’t move him. No one saw him breaking into the 5-bedroom house, so it’s a civil matter. And representatives for the real owner, Bank of America, said they are aware of the situation and are following a legal process.
But the situation is driving his wealthy neighbors crazy.
“This is a very upsetting thing,” said next door neighbor Lyn Houston. “Last week, I went to the Bank of America and asked to see the person in charge of mortgages. I told them, ‘I am prepared to buy this house.’ They haven’t even called me back.”
Barbosa, according to records, is a Brazilian national who refers to himself as “Loki Boy,” presumably after the Norse god of mischief. He did not return calls.
Someone with his name has been boasting about his new home on Facebook, even calling it Templo de Kamisamar.
Barbosa also posted a notice in the front window naming him as a “living beneficiary to the Divine Estate being superior of commerce and usury.”
A spokeswoman for Bank of America said her company has sent overnight a complaint and an eviction notice to a clerk in Palm Beach County.
“The bank is taking this situation seriously and we will work diligently to resolve this matter,” said Jumana Bauwens for Bank of America.
Sunrise real estate lawyer Gary Singer said Barbosa is invoking a state law called “adverse possession,” which allows someone to move into a property and claim the title — if they can stay there seven years.
It’s the most valuable grab since the adverse possession law started being used in a handful of cases that have popped up in the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office over the past three years. Soon after Bank of America foreclosed on the property in July, Barbosa notified the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office that he was moving in.
Police were called the day after Christmas to the home at 580 Golden Harbour Drive, but did not remove him. He presented cops with the “adverse possession” paperwork, according to the police report.
Houston said that the home had been empty for about 18 months. Property records show it was sold to a family in 2005 for $3.1 million. The deed is currently valued at $2.5 million, according to county records. The county appraiser’s office lists the total market value of the 7,522-square-foot house at $2.1 million.
Real estate websites show canal views from sumptuous interiors including pillars, a curved staircase, marbled bath, second-floor balconies and a pool.
Singer says the adverse possession rule stems from the days when most people lived on farms. He said whoever tries to use the rule has to occupy the property in an “open and notorious manner.”
“They can’t be boarding up the windows and hiding in there,” he said.
After relatively few instances of the rule being invoked over the previous 10 years, 13 cases of adverse possession were filed in 2011, according to John Enck, a manager of ownership services at the appraiser’s office. It spiked even more in 2012: 19 cases, but so far, since Oct. 1, only six cases have been filed, he said.
Officials in Broward County did not respond to several requests for similar data.
Meet the squatter: Loki Boy humself:
But the 23-year-old Brazilian national does not own or even rent the palatial $2.5million estate legally – he is a squatter.
Barbosa, originally from the neighboring Pompano Beach, moved into 580 Golden Harbour Drive in July
Speaking to ABCNews.com Thursday, a homeowner who asked not to be identified said that he entered the house around the same time and found four people inside, Barbosa among them.
One of the people said that the group is ‘establishing an embassy for their mission,’ and that families would be moving in and out of the property.
The neighbor said he believes that the 23-year-old is a ‘patsy’ who got caught up in something bigger.
According to his Facebook page, the 23-year-old, who refers to himself as ‘Loki Boy’ after the Norse god of mischief, attended South Technical Education Center in Boynton Beach and South Tech Academy in West Palm Beach.
In a brazen move, he also created a page for the Boca Raton mansion where he has been living and entertaining friends, which he calls Templo de Kamisamar.
Meanwhile, neighbors around Golden Harbour Drive who spoke to the station WPEC had a clear message for the unwanted resident: Leave now!
‘You’re walking into a house, it’s crazy. And the point of not being able to get him out is even crazier,’ one unidentified neighbor said.
HOW TO TAKE OVER SOMEONE’S PROPERTY AND GET AWAY WITH IT
Adverse possession is a principle of real estate law that gives anyone who possesses the land of another for an extended period of time in an ‘actual, open, hostile and continuous’ manner the right to claim legal title to that land.
The exact elements of an adverse possession claim may be different in each state. In Florida, the law prescribes continuous possession of at least seven years. In New Jersey, a squatter must be in possession of the property for 30 years, while in New York it’s 10 years.
In some states, the trespasser must have paid taxes on the property during this time period. Other states don’t require payment of property taxes, but will apply a shorter time requirement for occupying the land if the trespasser has paid taxes.
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Just like that lightbulbs went over the heads of millions of Americans, especially when one considers that for the vast majority of banks there is virtually no imperative to pursue squatters out of houses to which the banks themselves most likely don’t have the original “wet title” to.
That, and all the other allergies the US seems to developing with respect to “private” property slowly but surely.