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Friday, July 22, 2011

Man tries to get house by adverse possession

Every 1L taking property thinks of a nefarious scheme like this at some point in time, but a Texas man has gone further by actually attempting to claim a $330,000 house through adverse possession (h/t: Above the Law). He says that by filing an affidavit asserting ownership, he will get ownership in three years (assuming he is not kicked out by the mortgage holder in the meantime).  Apparently he concoted this scheme after "months of research."

A couple of classes of 1L property, however, would probably tell him that he is on a fool's errand.  Texas does have a three year adverse possession statute, but only if the possessor is claiming ownership under "color of title."  The term is a legal term of art -- contrary to what ordinary people might think, mere filing an affidavit in the record office saying that you are claiming the property does not "color" the title.

Texas does have a 10 year statute that requires little more than bare possession.  But good luck waiting 10 years.  And our good squatter is accruing probable civil and criminal trespass liability in the meantime.

Posted by Tun-Jen Chiang on July 22, 2011 at 04:55 PM | Permalink


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Not sure an adverse possessor has rights good against all but the title holder. An adverse possessor is just a trespasser until title transfers. It would depend on state/local law, but I don't think that being a squatter automatically gives you rights against other would-be squatters. I know there are cases about chain of title in lost personal property, but not sure if these track onto the real property context.

In terms of the mortgage company going bust, all that means is that Bank of America has become the note-holder (according to the other article KHOU posted about this event). But since foreclosure has not taken place, B of A is not the party to which the adverse possessor is adverse, it's still the residents who fled. If they find some cash and manage to catch up on their payments, they could kick this guy out and move right on back in.

Posted by: Dave | Jul 28, 2011 3:25:06 PM

Poor guy might also be surprised by the tax liability if he does succeed...

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jul 22, 2011 8:24:06 PM

The neighbors are making some equally ignorant statements in this article. The squatter might have gotten his statute of limitations wrong, but the neighbors don't seem to understand that he has rights to the property as against everyone but the other. He also seems to have picked a pretty good house to try to squat in for 10 years (all things considered), since the mortgage company has "gone bust" according to the article.

Posted by: Kevin | Jul 22, 2011 5:12:01 PM

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