Saturday, April 13, 2013

County Appraiser First Miami-Dade Official To Move Against Adverse Possession Hijacking Rackets Targeting Vacant Homes In Foreclosure; Targets Crackpots Who Have Filed Paperwork, But Failed To Cough Up The Unpaid R/E Taxes

From a recent editorial in The Miami Herald:

  • As the foreclosure mess continues in South Florida, it’s overwhelming the courts while scammers and squatters are finding loopholes in the law to try to live the high life on the cheap.

    Squatters like the ones recently found living in a Coral Gables mansion claiming they were renting from owners who don’t exist. Scammers who rent abandoned homes they do not own to unsuspecting renters while the true homeowners are in the foreclosure process.

    Then there was the case of a pool home in foreclosure “rented” to a pimp and hookers just up the street from the Broward County property appraiser’s home.

    The Florida Legislature can’t continue to ignore this mess.

    At least Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera is moving swiftly to set the legal records straight in the county and end some of the abuses that his office can control: the so-called adverse possession claims.

    Mr. Lopez-Cantera did the necessary due diligence to get rid of 44 percent of all adverse-possession claims that were pending since he took office in January. It wasn’t that difficult to do. He checked with the Tax Collector’s Office to see who had been paying the property taxes on those homes to determine the true owners.(1)

    The “adverse possession” gimmick has served scammers well. They just have to come in to the Property Appraiser’s Office, sign some forms, and — presto! — they can make a claim on the land and the building that sits on it. Except they never owned the property, which likely is waiting for resolution in the foreclosure process.

    The adverse possession law dates back to 1876, when quick access to property records over the Internet couldn’t even be imagined. In truth, the law doesn’t protect swindlers, but it does become a costly mess for the true homeowners to set the record straight in court.

    That’s why Mr. Lopez-Cantera’s due diligence is a good first step in stopping the abuse.

    If this law is to remain on the books, then it should be updated for the 21st century to put the burden on those seeking to take “adverse possession” of property to prove that there are legitimate reasons for them to take ownership.
Source: No more land grabs for squatters (OUR OPINION: Miami-Dade property appraiser right to move swiftly on ‘adverse possession’ cases).

(1) It appears that the county property appraiser is taking the position that if the "owner of record" has paid the taxes, the claim of adverse possession is automatically disqualified, a position that finds strong support in Section 95.18(7)(d) of the Florida Statutes.

As a casual observation, it seems to me that, as used in Section 95.18(7)(d), the term "owner of record" can refer to either:
  • the individual homeowner,
  • the bank holding the mortgage, on behalf of the homeowner pursuant to its recorded security interest in the home and/or pursuant to an associated mortgage escrow agreement,
  • a purchaser at a foreclosure sale (which could include the foreclosing lender now holding title to the home as an REO), or
  • anyone acquiring title from a foreclosure purchaser.

No comments: