Word has gotten around of the Dallas-Fort Worth man who claimed ownership of a $340,000 house for only $16 through adverse possession. But not many know what adverse possession is or how it works.
If you believe Kenneth Robinson, the man with the $16 home, adverse possession is the best undiscovered law on the books. He even has his own website, promoting the practice so others can have “greater understanding of the legal doctrine of adverse possession.” It seems like Robinson didn't have that great of an understanding himself.
The realities of adverse possession are much more complicated, evidenced by the fact that Robinson now no longer lives in the prized home. He was called to eviction court on Monday, but didn’t show. Neighbors in the DFW suburb of Flower Mound said that moving vans were at the home over the weekend.
Robinson’s eBook is by no means the bible of adverse possession, and clearly will not prevent anyone from criminal charges. Eight people who followed Robinson’s advice in neighboring Tarrant County, the county seat of Fort Worth, have all been evicted and charged with theft or burglary. I guess they should have heeded the warning on Robinson’s website that he was “not a lawyer” and had simply done a lot of research on real estate.
Adverse possession is not extremely well known. The state law, which has been on the books since the 1800s, allows someone to claim an abandoned property in Texas if they pay taxes, maintain the property and the owner doesn’t contest their claim.
But those requirements are strict, and are clearly laid out in the state of Texas. Attempts at adverse possession that are not by the book will be thrown out, and you could be charged — like several people in Tarrant County, Texas — with trespassing, theft or burglary.
For instance, in Texas, the property typically must be abandoned for a decade before adverse possession is an option, and is usually meant to solve disputes over shared boundaries (like driveways or neighboring backyards), instead of entire homes, says the AP.
In Robinson’s case, the home hadn’t been abandoned for that long, and is actually owned by Bank of America, which bought the home in foreclosure and took ownership of the property on Jan. 3. So, while Robinson convinced people to believe otherwise, legally he was just a squatter — not a legal tenant.