To squat or not: Can you take over the abandoned home next door?
In some cases, yes — but it’s not always a cut-and-dried process. Other options for upkeep of neglected property also exist.
Q: The house next door is vacant. The previous owners let it go into foreclosure and moved out. The bank that owned it has abandoned it. I know because I’ve tried to contact them, and they say they have no record of it. Can I go in, change the locks, fix it up and rent it out? Will I be protected under squatter’s rights?
A: The problem is, some entity does own that distressed house, even though it’s not “taking ownership of it” in the way that you and the rest of the neighborhood would like to see. If that foreclosure was not finalized — which is possible — the previous owner is still the owner. If it was finalized, the bank or whoever acquired the bank’s assets owns it.
Sorry, but a bank employee who wasn’t willing to dig into the property’s institutional history isn’t an official information source. Countless distressed properties seem to be disappearing in an ocean of red tape and red ink these days.
Research county records to locate the property deed, which will list the owner. Then make the right contacts from there.
Of course, you could try to take “adverse possession,” where you openly and without resistance “squat” on the property from five years to 25 years or more, depending on applicable laws. At that point, occupancy rights might revert to you.
But I don’t recommend it. The place could all be whisked away from you at a moment’s notice, and any tenants would be out on the street.
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By the way, squatters who take over abandoned houses face more legal challenges in the United States than in most other countries. This is true even in so-called “front-door squats,” where occupants make little effort to conceal their presence.
A better option would be to make a cursory cash offer to the owner that would cover back taxes. This assumes you can locate the owner.
There also may be a local process for acquiring the home cheaply. At least 100 U.S cities have modified their abandoned-home laws in the last three years, and many are working with buyers who are interested in seized homes.
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Home-abandonment laws in this country essentially say owners must clearly demonstrate they have given up rights to a property. Long-term nonuse of a property isn’t quite enough to illustrate that, although it may help illustrate the owner’s intent to abandon.
On the other hand, leaving a house unguarded or free and open in a place that’s easily accessible can be considered abandonment in court. But there are no guarantees.
People who have moved into abandoned homes and started paying property taxes on them in recent years have had some success keeping them — or at least getting those tax payments reimbursed when the houses’ true owners reclaim them. But it’s a process fraught with uncertainty.
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In the meantime, if you are entering the property to police it for trash, mow the overgrown grass or perform other upkeep, you are probably trespassing, at least technically.
Of course, few would complain about this case because it improves the neighborhood’s appearance. But if you were to mow into a cable or injure yourself there, you could face nagging legal or insurance complications.
To clean the place without such personal risk, contact the municipality or governing body where you live with a code-compliance complaint — be it for an overgrown lawn, trash, broken windows, vagrancy on the property, etc.
That should at least get an inspector out there who will assess the situation and contact the absentee landowner, if possible. If nothing else, the city will clear the lot and bill the owner.
I would like to purchase a building that has been abandoned for about twenty years. I have tried to contact the owner and found the company that owned it went bankrupt over twenty years ago. I can not get contact information for the owner. The city tells me the business is located in another state. I have tried to find out if there are back taxes on the property, I get the same answer. I tried finding the owner in the other state to no avail. I have contacted real estate agents also to no avail. I don’t want to be arrested, yet with the owner no where to be found … how would they know I was there … swatting? Any suggestions?
what if there is a empty lot next to your house the owner dosent mow it we do but this year we are not whats the law on squtters rights on this i have lived here for 6 years and taken care of this land and i dont even use it
Sometimes collection agencies act on the authority that the uncollected debt
is their own accounts or they buy and trade and sell such accounts and thus
are entitled to the property under the fair debt collection practices laws.
Figure the address on the mail box to be the first account number
and take it from there......
Really when you buy a new home or build a new home YOU should pay for the labor that goes into building it. That means all the lumber and concrete and fixtures, roofing and windows. Most
modern folks only show interest in the home, pay a down payment and then pay at closing of the sale; which can take many many years. In my opinion this is the same as squatting plus
one's credit looks so good they'll give you a bigger and better looking house to move into. Truly owning it means paying for it in full first. Most of us are just squatting if you look closer at the price tag and avoid fuzzy math.
Secondly, ownership means taxes and banks don't pay taxes so as a form of escrow it makes good sense for the bank to own and not you. Can you imagine a Credit Union owning houses too!
if the house is a rotting pile of wood with no windows and only used by crackheads, i say burn it down, (make sure no crackheads inside first) this should help with any rat problems as well, then get the neigborhood together and clear remaining debris and plant grass maybe even put up a swingset for the neigborhood kids
( warning could be charged with arson, so it must be a covert operation)
People who say it's stealing to take a property that someone else has abondonded don't have a clue what they are talking about. There are laws that make provision for taking title to real estate in this manner. Those laws are there for a reason. Land is a precious commodity and if people don't want their land, well, there is someone else who does, and they can take it by "adverse possession". I myself think it's pretty awesome. And if there was ever a time when such a thing was possible it is now. (BTW easements come into effect in a very similar way)
why are some of the a-holes on here repeating what the article already said???