First let me thank you for all you've done. I appreciate your struggle so far in your adverse possession and I am grateful you speak out, have created this group/network.
I need your help. I have been searching (all be it limited to the internet) about the legalities of something I'm about to do....squat that abandoned house at the corner of my street.
There is this house by my son's school and for as long as I have been walking my son to school over the last 2 years, this house has been completely abandoned. I imagined that someone died and no one has claimed it....
Today I did my research, and indeed, the owner died in 2009! Its still in her name. There is garbage and old mail and phone books scattered out front. Cob webs and leaves covering walkways and entrances. The carport is falling apart...etc etc.
So I dug more, and discovered someone has been paying the property taxes....my hopes just got shot down. But wait...did it?
So I'm wondering maybe someone else is trying to pay for the property and take it over without actually living there.
So I ask for your advise, mostly in the form of your experience.
I know you got arrested several times. Can you tell me the circumstances? I need to know what I'm up against. Whomever is paying the taxes hasn't come on the property, and I can only see the taxes from the year before which was paid so I dont know yet if there are back taxes unpaid still. If there are I plan to pay them.
From the news, they say you were arrested for occupying another house in 2006. But where you arrested for occupying the house you are in now? When did the cops finally leave you alone?
I have the feeling there are multiple people eyeing this house, I'm scared that its the neighbors that wised up and are paying the property taxes. If I go in there it would be with a bang. I would get a cleanup crew and make my presence known. The cleanup crew would sort of get people used to the idea that the place has been taken. It would be anonymous activity for like 3 or 4 days to get the neighbors acclimated to humans being there again. Then do a bug spray tent even, then move in.
You can call me tomorrow if you want to chat on the phone XXX-XXX-XXXX.
I just need to talk to someone that has done this already to feel confident about what I'm about to do. Is it even worth it if someone has paid last year's taxes?
First of all I can only speak based on my experience in the Bay Area operating under California laws. I am not an attorney so I cannot provide legal advice. Any suggestion I make is based on my personal experience. I did not see what state you were in so the laws, culture, and politics of your area play an important role in determining the outcome of any situation.
It is true that I was arrested, but that was not at the property I am currently at. The situation I was arrested at was less risky than what you are proposing. The property owners had been deceased for over a decade and someone had been paying the taxes. It turned out that a daughter of the former owners was paying the taxes and had never taken steps to deal with the house.
I would suggest that you go to the tax collector and determine the address where the taxes are being sent and reach out to the person receiving the bill. If it is a relative or someone who has a legitimate claim on the property I would recommend that you work with those people and offer to manage the property in exchange for it's use. If there are living heirs paying the property taxes then attempting an adverse possession claim is risky, and you may get arrested as I did.
If there is a third party paying the property taxes then that would be a different story. There are only two legitimate reasons for someone not on title to pay property taxes that I am aware of. The first, as I already mentioned, is an heir who wishes to preserve their interest. The second is someone making a claim of adverse possession. However for an adverse possession claim to succeed one must be in possession of the property in a manner that is consistent with the reasonable use of the property. If the property is unoccupied and not being cared for then someone paying property taxes does not have a legitimate claim of adverse possession.
If, however, someone is paying taxes, has changed the locks, and occasionally cleans up then the situation becomes a bit murkier. Keep in mind that sometimes local governments hire work crews to do maintenance of blighted properties. Just because someone is weed-whacking and hauling trash one day does not mean that there is necessarily an individual making an adverse possession claim or who has an interest based on inheritance.
If the person paying the taxes is attempting an adverse possession claim then be aware that this individual will likely attempt to undermine you later. It would be good to determine who that person is. I would inquire with your local tax collector for that information, but it is possible that you will not be able to find out.
At the very least it is important to be diligent in doing your research and reaching out to any legitimate claimants because even if you are arrested later it will be difficult to convict you if you took every reasonable effort to verify that the property was truly abandoned.
I would like to emphasize that in my experience people don't normally pay the property taxes on a property unless they have a legitimate claim. Most likely you will need to come to an agreement with that person in order to occupy the property. It is unlikely that you will acquire the property by adverse possession, but you may be able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement with whoever is paying the taxes. It is not uncommon that someone in such a situation would welcome some assistance.
If it is your ultimate goal to acquire a property by adverse possession then it may be necessary to identify many more properties and research them all in order to find the most viable property. A property with two or more years of unpaid taxes is usually a more viable option. Based on my own arrest and conviction I encourage individuals to consider viability first and foremost and not to get fixated on a particular property due to its location, amenities, condition, etc. Identifying a dozen or more properties before deciding on one is a good strategy.
I was convicted because I was fixated on a particular property which had someone paying taxes. I was successful with my current house because there were no legitimate claimants; no one was paying the taxes.
For more information on property research go to http://blogsquats.blogspot.com
If you would like to make a donation to Land Action go to http://www.land-action.org/donate/
Feel free to contact me in the future. Also, it would be helpful to know your location.
I would like to use your email in my blog. I will delete your identifying information. In this way I can help others who have similar questions as you.
Thank you for your efforts bettering your community.
I'm in XXXXXXX County, California.Yes you can use my email and my correspondence as long as you take my name out and contact info.And yes I will donate to the cause. I dont have much but I can spare some change :)
AND THANK YOU FOR THE REPLY!!!To be honest, I got up at like 3am because I couldn't sleep thinking about that house. You are right, I'm fixated on it. I need to practice letting go....kind of like what buddhism teaches. So yea.....gotta take a deep breath.Hey so I watched Squatumentary just now because I can't get my mind off this new concept of adverse possession and you were in it and I wanted to know more about your arrest situation. Man you got arrested how many times? 7? I think the documentary was made with no end in sight for your court situation....how did all that end?So the house you are in now didn't have this kind of friction? No cops? My mind is racing with all sorts of different scenarios imagining being in an Adverse Possession scenario with no owner contending it....but it seems that if the cops show up they will always charge me with criminal tresspassing. Theres no way around that. In some other states like in Detroit its different, tresspassing and squating is 100% civil matter so the cops dont get involved. Cali its not like that, ugh I hate it.In the documentary I was excited and sad at the same time. I'm excited because you made some comments about money that I have been saying for years. Not only that, they had some other squatters there saying similar things. So I was sort of happy that I'm not alone regarding money and profits and how it really messes everything up.....it breaks down the community man, it prevents us from doing what we really want to do. So I was like breathing a sigh of relief hearing that from other Californians actually being the change they want....But then I feel bad because here I am like a coward afraid of being arrested. I really do want to be the change I want to see, but you guys (in the documentary) have taken more risks than I have ever taken. I have my degree, I work a job thats so-so, not the best pay but it pays the rent. But I work like 50-60 hours a week sometimes, fighting the burnout.... tired of it. Learning about the success of the squaters in that documentary felt awesome. But at the end I actually felt horrible seeing that building get torn down, what a waste.And don't worry about the advice, I understand you need to give the shpeel to me about not representing me or being a lawyer etc etc but you dont have to. I take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt, and I'm not one to go an sue someone. I'm just doing research and I'm looking for clues. Until I can get my hands on actual California codes in writing I wont budge really. It kind of goes against my ideals to blame someone else for my actions. I'm responsible for myself. Thanks for the advice though.~XXXXX
I was removed from the house 7 times, but I returned every time until they issued a stay away order. I was very fixated. There was one warning, 5 citations, and one arrest. I was convicted of three counts of trespassing in the end. Getting arrested is less likely than one thinks. In my experience police will either (1) not intervene if you have keys and bills in your name or (2) will remove you from the property under threat of arrest. After that it is your choice to return to the property and get arrested. Very seldom do the police show up suddenly and arrest everyone even if the squat is not viable. Even if you are arrested the charge will likely be trespassing like mine which is only a misdemeanor. It took a great deal of fixation on my part to actually go to jail. Most squatters aren't that stubborn or foolish. I like to think I'm older and wiser now.
Land Action allows squatters to transfer title by quitclaim deed to Land Action and then enter into a project management agreement. This is one way to deflect the police by referring them back to us and thus taking attention away for the squatters who are Land Action volunteers. This has been very helpful with bank foreclosed properties. Of course these situations are not particularly viable for adverse possession because usually the banks or speculators come forward and sue Land Action prior to the five year period. Despite this it is always better to litigate in civil court because at least in civil court you retain possession of the property during the process with the option to negotiate some form of settlement.
Perception is everything. If the police and neighbors perceive you to be trespassers you will be treated as such even if you are not. However a fresh coat of paint and a carefully manicured lawn can easily change perception in your favor. More of that is on my blog. In this way California is different than Michigan, but it's more a sociological issue than a legal one. The laws in California are some of the most favorable to squatters in the U.S. Unfortunately the police and the courts do not know much about the law as it pertains to squatting because it is an issue that they are not familiar with. In that way police and judges are not much more knowledgeable than the average person on the street without formal training.
Ultimately there is no silver bullet in a successful occupation however one defines "success", but I have found that with a lot of research, a lot of persistence, a lot of flexible strategic thinking, and a little risk it is possible to occupy and hold onto a space for a substantial period of time.
I appreciate your kind words regarding how our experiences affected your thinking. I wish you the best.
Can you explain in plain english the CA CIV Code 1006?Hmmmm... I'll take a couple shots at explaining it:
I really dont understand it, too much jargon!~XXXXX
1. Finders, keepers.
2. The occupier of land is presumed to be the owner until someone with a superior claim proves otherwise.
3. When there is no other legitimate claim of ownership the occupier of the land is the owner by default.
4. An occupier of land has all the rights and responsibilities as the true owner against all the world except the true owner.
5. If you squat abandoned property you own it pending the outcome of either a lawsuit or fulfillment of adverse possession (Civil Code section 1007)
I hope that helps.