Man Who Bought His House for $16 Should Get to Keep It

Adverse Possession It’s the kind of sneaky plan my Grandpa Mike was always trying to come up with. A man in Texas identified a legal loophole that would let him obtain a foreclosed house for the $16 fee to file some legal papers. All he had to do was walk into the chi-chi neighborhood and move into a house worth more than $300,000.

Man, I wish I had thought of that. And as much as his neighbors might deny it, they do, too. And I hope he gets to keep it!

Here’s how it works:


The house was foreclosed on over a year ago, and the bank holding its mortgage went out of business. This put the house in a sort of limbo-state -- it essentially had no owner and was standing empty. 

Kenneth Robinson learned of a little-known process called Adverse Possession, which allows someone to claim ownership of abandoned property. In the past, this was used to ensure that people who settled on land would be able to keep it even if some long-lost heir showed up. These days, it's a way for someone to take over the responsibility for a property when nobody else is able to step up.

Robinson filed an affidavit stating that he intends to take over the property. Now, he has to play a waiting game and occupy the house, which has no electricity or running water, for at least three years (the amount of time varies by state). He can't just come in every once in a while; his possession has to be uninterrupted and observable by others.

It's all legal, and as long as another owner doesn't challenge him, it'll work. The bank that now holds the mortgage hasn't done anything so far -- and goodness knows, mortgage-holding banks are overwhelmed these days. 

Meanwhile, the house's neighbors are hopping mad. They’ve called the police to kick Robinson off the premises (that they don’t even own!) and appeared in a news report saying, “If he wants the house, he can get the money and buy it.” Yep, they'd rather have an abandoned home in their neighborhood rot on its foundations than see someone come in and get it at a bargain rate. Oh, they are soooooo jealous!

I’ve got news for them: if you paid $100K for your house, and then prices drop and your neighbor gets the same house for $50K, there’s no price-adjustment like at Macy’s. Your neighbor just plain lucked out.

In New York, where I used to live, the now-hip Lower East Side used to be full of blighted buildings that the owners refused to keep up and basically abandoned. Many of them were taken over by squatters, and after years and years of keeping those buildings running all year round, some of those squatters were actually rewarded with the titles to those buildings.

Did they get something for nothing? No. They put in years of time and of sweat equity, and Robinson is doing the same. Did they get weirdly lucky and use their ingenuity to claim something that wasn’t being used properly? Yep, they did, and it all checked out legally. So if Robinson ends up owning that home, his neighbors can do nothing but eat their hearts out.

But hey, we all know rich kids whose parents bought them BMWs in high school, or got help with a down-payment, or got introduced to the right people to get the right job. It might make you grumpy, but you don’t get to call the cops.

And as for the neighbors, maybe this is unrelated, but they’re all lily-white, and Robinson is black. Hmmmmm.

Do you think this pioneer should get to keep this house? Would you take advantage of a loophole like this?

Image via YouTube

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