The New York Times features the story of an entrepreneur who has fixed up unclaimed foreclosed homes for which he has no title and rents them to needy families. He's banking on an 1869 Florida statute that enshrines adverse property law to give him title to the property in seven years. The story, "At Legal Fringe, Houses Go to the Needy," is rich in detail. Equally interesting are the many comments. These are typical:
- This is precisely the underlying principle of adverse possession -- maximizing land utility. It may have grown out of arable land principles, but the concept is identical: it is better for land to be used than left derelict. It is better for society, for neighbors and for those using the land, and is only allowable if owners show no interest in their property.
- Given that many of the actual owners of foreclosed or abandoned properties are banks so irresponsible in their lending and record-keeping practices that they have lost all or much of the relevant documentation and may not, themselves, even realize they own some of the properties illuminates the underlying justice of this ancient common law principle. Industriousness, not greed, is rewarded by the law.
- If he was taking rent for homes he didn't own—he should go to jail. It's theft. I have no problem with people fixing up abandoned property that the banks are unwilling to poreserve, but playing landlord when you aren't is fraud. Book him.
- This is very BAD. First, people bought places they could not afford. We bailed the banks out for their stupidity. Those foreclosed houses need to go down in price and new smart buyers should be getting them. Instead, the process will be further delayed by squatters who have NO claim whatsoever to these properties. Wow, could it be any worse? Maybe a scheme to take my tax dollars to buy foreclosed houses for the squatters?