How About a Moment of Clarity, NY Times

Look, the housing crisis is a disaster, and it really sucks that millions are out of work and at risk of losing their homes or have already lost their job or their home or both, but when I read this story, it really pissed me off:

When the woman who calls herself Queen Omega moved into a three-bedroom house here last December, she introduced herself to the neighbors, signed contracts for electricity and water and ordered an Internet connection.

What she did not tell anyone was that she had no legal right to be in the home.

Ms. Omega, 48, is one of the beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis. Through a small advocacy group of local volunteers called Take Back the Land, she moved from a friend’s couch into a newly empty house that sold just a few years ago for more than $400,000.

Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.

In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.

These people aren’t just “squatting” or engaging in “civil disobedience” or striking a blow against tyranny or whatever the hell else you want to call it. They are stealing, they are trespassing, and they are breaking the damned law. And while the NY times may think it is glamorous or sexy or a real power to the people moment, they should be clear about what is going on here and what a mess this sort of behavior causes for the authorities. If they can’t figure out why this is problematic, maybe they should read their own damned NY Times magazine about the problems squatters and illegals and looters cause in Cleveland. Give Tom Brancatelli a call and ask what he thinks about this.






109 replies
  1. 1
    John T says:

    What’s wrong with squatting an abandoned house? Especially if it’s someone like "Queen Omega" who, since she’s paying for utilities, is presumably a responsible person and not some junkie who’s going to burn the place down.

  2. 2
    cleek says:

    i blame The Riches.

  3. 3

    Even the homeless and the dispossessed have to live somewhere, John. Concentrating these unfortunate people into shelters may make them more "invisible," but it won’t make the problem go away.

    I do agree that the solution by Take Back the Land may be problematic in some senses, but other solutions haven’t worked so far, either.

    -A

  4. 4
    Mike S says:

    It’s called "adverse possession." If they live in the house openly and pay taxes and bills, then they eventually have a right to ownership. It’s very difficult to achieve because it takes many years to become the owner.

  5. 5
    Calouste says:

    What they are doing would be pretty legal in a number of European countries, where the actual illegal thing is to keep houses empty for speculation purposes when there is a shortage of homes.

    It’s not like banks are actually going to look very well after the houses they hold in foreclosure, it’s not the business they are in and in a number of areas, the value of the building is a fraction of the value of the land anyway. Squatters might do a better job of that.

    By the way, as far as I can see they are not stealing. The bank still owns the home. Maybe if they had the sense to work out short term rental contracts for people to occupy homes that are foreclosed and empty, they could even make money out of it.

  6. 6
    Zachary Pruckowski says:

    These foreclosed on, vacant homes are frequently poorly maintained or broken into. I’m not going to argue that it’s "right", and it’s not legal, but it is a win all-round.

    The woman gets somewhere to live, society gets one less homeless person, and the property owners get a house-sitter, who ideally fixes the place up a bit, but at least discourages theft or vandalism.

  7. 7
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    The punchline is that the actual ownership of some of these houses is buried so deeply in a Kafkaesque labyrinth of financial instruments that it would take months to figure out whom to contact to get an eviction order.

  8. 8
    Dave says:

    @John T:

    The problem is that it isn’t her house. What if the bank was about to put it on the market? What if someone was about to move in. This "advocacy" group doesn’t know the exact status of the property.
     
    Hell, if they are so damned concerned about housing the homeless, why don’t they BUY the house and put people up?
     
    And if she was homeless…how is she going to pay the utilities and Internet bills every month? How is she going to keep the house in good repair? Where is all that money coming from, if there even is any?

  9. 9
    djork says:

    These people aren’t “squatting”

    Umm, no offense, John but that is exactly what squatting is.

  10. 10
    Mike S says:

    @Dave:

    They would be evicted, and probably arrested for tresspassing. Even in the boom market this was going on.

  11. 11
    JC says:

    I agree with you – the elephant in the room though, is that the big bankers, the big mortgage houses, the hedge funds, the offshore parking of assets of the millionaires/billionaires, all the way down to the mortgage lenders who WROTE lots of fraudulent mortgages –

    these guys, a lot of what they do is illegal. And they’ll never – hundreds of thousands of these people – will pay in ANY WAY for their crimes and fraud.

    So, there’s a part of me – in spite of the illegality – that thinks "hey, at least a regular person benefits a bit from this mess".

    That’s the thing – if we see all these hundreds of thousands get away with this stuff – one of the first things that people start thinking about is "how can I get mine?". And there is some justification – why should only the Big Boys get everything, is that fair?

    Corruption filters down through the culture, in actions JUST like this. And it’s pernicious, and poisonous.

  12. 12
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I dunno, kinda conflicted here. On the one hand, I wouldn’t want a bunch of houses in my neighborhood sitting empty and rapidly dilapidating. But on the other hand do you really want someone living in yer neighborhood that would steal a whole fucking house? I mean, you don’t stand a chance keeping yer bicycle under those circumstances.

  13. 13
    Steve V says:

    If they can occupy the house "openly and notoriously" for seven or ten or whatever years (state adverse possession laws vary), they’ll own the house. I believe adverse possession laws have been on the books for many many years, and that it was a common law doctrine before then, so it appears that squatting is just another part of our glorious legal tradition.

  14. 14
    guster says:

    One: The rule of law. Either you’re for it or you’re against. There’s not a -whole- lot of wiggle room, there. When the law’s wrong, work to change it.

    Two: "Squatters and illegals and looters" covers a lot of ground. "Squatters and illegals and looters and goat-fuckers" are even worse, though.

  15. 15
    cleek says:

    It’s not like banks are actually going to look very well after the houses they hold in foreclosure, it’s not the business they are in and in a number of areas, the value of the building is a fraction of the value of the land anyway. Squatters might do a better job of that.

    but they probably won’t. why pay or work to keep up a house you don’t own when you can just let it crumble around you until it’s unusable, then pack up your bindle and skip off to the next empty house ?

  16. 16
    Lev says:

    A home that isn’t in use + a homeless person with nowhere else to go = no problem in my book. I’m not exactly sympathetic to bankers’ rights after kicking a family out of their home.

  17. 17
    John Cole says:

    @djork: There was supposed to be a “just” in there. Of course they are squatting, I meant they aren’t just squatting, they are also doing a number of other things. In addition to the vandalism.

  18. 18
    guster says:

    The problem, Lev, is when the bank sells the house to _you_. Then you’re fucked _and_ the Queen is fucked. The bankers are just fine.

  19. 19
    sparky says:

    squatting shouldn’t be conflated with looting. one is an appropriation of property and the other is a destruction of property. the concept of adverse possession (basically use it or lose it) is an old one in English law and is still a valid method to obtain title. in some of these cases it just might work.

    as to the bigger issue, i think it has to depend on the particular jurisdiction. it’s hard for me to see how filling empty otherwise unsaleable houses with homeless people is worse than boarding them up and having them destroyed. the problem is that this smells a bit like the usual "OMG they are getting something for nothing or not playing by the rules" idea. but in a situation like this the question is should we be applying those rules, when the system is broken at both the top and bottom? in this context, complaining about it is a bit like insisting that everyone who is in the US illegally has to be deported.

  20. 20
    Joel says:

    Getting angry about squatting is like getting angry about weeds growing in your garden. Nature abhors a vacuum.

  21. 21
    garyb50 says:

    Further verifying "Consistently wrong since 2002."

  22. 22
    JC says:

    Calouste makes a good point as well.

    In many cases, the BANKS ARE PURPOSELY KEEPING THESE PROPERTIES OFF THE MARKET.

    That would lower the prices – which actually MIGHT help people who can then buy the home, if prices dropped less than say rental parity.

    Not to mention – it’s not as if the bank is paying for the upkeep on the home. Which should be illegal.

    But no – banks get to do what they want.

    I disagree with Zachary – to assume that she – or others – will ‘keep the house up’, or be an asset to the neighborhood (neighborhood watch, etc), will be true for a minority – but won’t be true for the majority – where’s the investment, that they would really care?

    It’s up to THE BANKS to put these properties on the market, for a price that will SELL.

    This will insure that the houses are cared for, aren’t a blight on a neighborhood, and that you have an owner who will give a crap about the house. A win for the people, and the civic area of the neighborhood/city.

    Banks need to be penalized for foreclosed houses from the market, or not putting them in the market. Same thing with speculators, that buy and hold for years – thus again perpetuating the blight on the communities that will come from the untended houses.

  23. 23
    Fencedude says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    But on the other hand do you really want someone living in yer neighborhood that would steal a whole fucking house?

    This just in! A photo of "Queen Omega" has been found!

  24. 24
    Warren Terra says:

    If they’re basically house-sitting (keeping up the property well, not vandalizing), it could be a win/win (though I’d like to see a formal agreement and one presumes that either they should be paying some low rent or they should be receiving a small stipend for their services). It’s the part where they develop a sense of ownership (and in theory over a long time develop actual legal rights) where it gets hinky.

    The thing to remember, as several commenters have said, is that we really don’t want to have houses sitting vacant; it’s bad for the houses, and it’s bad for people needing housing.

    Seems to me that the real problem is that property owners refuse to either realize their losses by selling low or to instead acknowledge that in the current market they can’t get a good price, and sit the market out for a while by renting cheaply in order to have someone looking out for the property.

  25. 25
    sparky says:

    @guster: um, unless you are an investor flipping houses on ebay, i think most people would notice if there was someone living in the house before they bought it, no?

    also, speaking as a long-term renter, it’s a fallacy to assume that renters don’t care about the place they live in. some do; some don’t.

  26. 26
    JC says:

    Sparky has it right:

    as to the bigger issue, i think it has to depend on the particular jurisdiction. it’s hard for me to see how filling empty otherwise unsaleable houses with homeless people is worse than boarding them up and having them destroyed. the problem is that this smells a bit like the usual "OMG they are getting something for nothing or not playing by the rules" idea. but in a situation like this the question is should we be applying those rules, when the system is broken at both the top and bottom? in this context, complaining about it is a bit like insisting that everyone who is in the US illegally has to be deported.

    If you fix the illegality/brokenness at the top – this will help alleviate the brokenness/illegality that shows up at the bottom.

    So sure, get angry – but who REALLY deserves the anger, is what I’m asking?

  27. 27
    KevOH says:

    The sheriff’s office in Cleveland and some nearby cities refuse to enforce eviction notices on foreclosed homes for banks that owe the city money for property upkeep and demolition. Some banks owe the city millions. So staying in a home after the foreclosure filing may actually be to the benefit of the city as a house with someone living in it is less likely to be stripped of scrap metal and condemned.

    Banks, just like the NYTimes reported in Buffalo, are now refusing to take possession of foreclosed property; leaving the homeowner on the hook for these maintenance/demolition fees. Making matters worse, the actual holder of the mortgages is frequently unknown; thanks to the securitization of mortgages. This unknown party is increasingly being pointed to by the banks as the one responsible for the now worthless building.

    Cleveland has filed suit against the banks, but ultimately the pittance from any legal settlement will do little to address the very real physical scars left on the city by these banks and their irresponsible business practices.

    There may be some benefit to these sorts of advocacy groups. The woman in the story paid for some upkeep of the structure and deterred the looters from stripping everything of value from the home.

  28. 28
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    it’s hard for me to see how filling empty otherwise unsaleable houses with homeless people is worse than boarding them up and having them destroyed.

    That’s a pretty harsh way to deal with the homeless, friend.

  29. 29
    Arachnae says:

    For that matter, why AREN’T banks renting out these properties on their books that they’re not selling? Lower the rent to something affordable and lower it more if the tenants agree to do certain improvements etc… Or HIRE people to live in them and keep them up so everyone knows where they stand legally.

  30. 30
    JC says:

    I say banks, but actually has been pointed out – it’s the greater class of "property owners", that own vacant houses.

    How would you incentivize the property owners, to be really motivated to either sell a vacant house, or make sure that it’s occupied/rented?

    Because to keep a house vacant, really does have a bad effect on the neighborhood, in a host of ways, from vandalism, to property values, to a general degradation of the area.

  31. 31
    Evinfuilt says:

    If those groups worked with the banks to have homeless people house-sit (and also have the group do regular checkups on the house.) Then I’d have no problem. That would be a win-win for all parties.

    But this is just squatting with a nicer wrapper. All those items she signed a contract for, she can probably get and keep 3 months or more without paying a penny. Then she can slowly gut the house (400k home has lots of value in it, appliances and such.) Not too long after that you could have just another home with poop in the corner. I’ve already seen one too many.

    Eventually the bank will be ready to move on this property, and then the shit will hit the fan, and those people trying to help the homeless will be in jail along with the people they tried to help.

    —–
    Just finished reading the article. they’re taking homes that have already been broken into and stripped down. I guess this is a temporary win, as long as the group helps people move out when someone else wants it (legally.)

  32. 32
    Steve V says:

    I think we have to simply acknowledge that it’s a sign of the economic times. There are simply too many vacant houses and too many poor people (whether homeless, or temporarily on the street or whatever) and the lenders are taking a bath either way. I suspect the 1930s looked like this times ten.

  33. 33
    John Cole says:

    @garyb50: Do I get points for consistency?

  34. 34
    guster says:

    @sparky: Yeah, sorry, I got a little specific there. What I mean is, there’s another person involved in this equation other than the Bank and the Queen. There’s the person who might wanna buy the house. The idiot who actually _does_, unclear on the fact that the Queen’s not planning to leave. There’s the ex-owner who has God knows what sorta liability.

    But most of my objection is just the Rule of Law. If this is illegal, I’m against it. That’s one of the big lessons of the Bush years for me. I’m a fanatical ‘law and order Democrat,’ now. I’m not saying I’d _prioritize_this, but I certainly oppose it. It’s friggin’ illegal.

  35. 35
    Jay C says:

    And just to add another dimension to the pile-on, John, I read the NYTimes piece you linked to, and it doesn’t seem to lack for a great deal of clarity – it’s a fairly factual description of what’s going on – these squatters and their enabling organizations aren’t being held up as romantic rebels or brave revolutionaries or anything. Yeah, the Times doesn’t rake them over for thieves like you do; but Failure To Condemn doesn’t always equal Approval.

    The issue of squatters in abandoned housing is a tricky one: on the one hand, it IS "wrong" per se – and illegal as well: but on the other, it’s hard to get incensed about the homeless poor finding (even a temporary) roof over their heads: especially when you have an organization like Take Back the Land making some attempt – if not always successfully – to decouple the concepts of "squatter" and "destructive vandal".

    Although even their best efforts can run into unexpected problems: I liked this bit:

    “We had a move-in that we were going to do one day at noon,” he said. “At 10 o’clock in the morning, I went over to the house just to make sure everything was O.K., and squatters took over our squat. Then we went to another place nearby, and squatters were in that place also.”

  36. 36
    clone12 says:

    Banks can keep all these properties off the market, but if they actually own these houses they still have to pay property taxes or risk reposession by the local government, so this is not a costless strategy.

    There are some anecdotes that banks sometimes don’t actually take over the deed after evicting someone, thereby putting the tax burden on the person they just evicted, but at some point that tax still has to be paid or the bank is still out a collateral.

  37. 37
    sparky says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: i see whut i dood thar. to che! (i kin haz pro-nounz)?

    i’m thinking homeless plywood. also.

    @guster: actually, adverse possession isn’t illegal. trespassing *can* be illegal.

  38. 38
    Steve V says:

    @guster:
    Adverse possession laws are part of the "rule of law." It looks like what these squatters are doing isn’t exactly adverse possession; I doubt they intend to try to stay in the houses for a decade. But maybe they do. The basic thrust of adverse possession is as follows: there’s a property owner that isn’t making use of his/her land. The law encourages people to go into that land, openly declare that they’re taking it for themselves, and if they can tough it out for seven-plus years, it’s theirs. The underpinning is that adverse possession is a way to encourage better use of the land, even though at bottom it amounts to blessing someone taking someone else’s property.

  39. 39
    sparky says:

    what Steve V said–i was a bit too quick with a quip. and laws vary from state to state bla bla bla (not encouraging anyone to do anything here or rely on anything said as an authoritative statement of the law or legal advice…)
    ain’t disclaimers fun? :)

  40. 40
    guster says:

    Well, if it’s legal, then I’m _all_ for. Hell, I’m tempted to donate.

    The key, per your description Steve V, is openly declaring what you’re doing? If the law’s cool with this, so’m I. Frankly, I’d like to see a more standardized way to _streamline_ this stuff.

    I’ve just gotten really kneejerk about the law in the past few years.

  41. 41
    uila says:

    Get thee back to Tent City, vile squatter!

  42. 42
    sparky says:

    @clone12: banks will walk away from the asset if the costs associated with it are greater than its value. so if the mortgage was for say, 50k, and the house is a vacant stripped hulk, and the lot would only go for say 10k, the costs to bulldoze the house and pay the taxes may be more than the asset is worth. what then happens is that the bank stops the foreclosure, thus leaving the title–and the taxes and associated costs–with the mortgagor, who is unable to pay, thus leaving the city with the costs of demolition AND the loss of the tax. i believe Flint MI is considering abandoning sections of town as a solution to the problem–just stop service delivery to abandoned areas.

    this is a phenomenon seen more in the rust belt than anywhere else, afaik.

  43. 43
    Zachary Pruckowski says:

    @JC:

    I disagree with Zachary – to assume that she – or others – will ‘keep the house up’, or be an asset to the neighborhood (neighborhood watch, etc), will be true for a minority – but won’t be true for the majority – where’s the investment, that they would really care?

    Simply sitting in those houses with a light on is an improvement over the current situation. People actually break into vacant houses and steal the wiring. I’ve seen one where the toilet, sink, and counter-tops were stolen. Even if the homeless person literally crashes in the living room with a sleeping bag and never improves anything, it’s an improvement in terms of security.

    Also, these houses generally require improvement to be livable. I’ve worked in a building code enforcement office (admittedly not in an inspection capacity), and many of these foreclosed homes are uninhabitable after sitting empty for months. If the "unauthorized tenant" simply makes the place livable and/or prevents deterioration, that’s a win for the bank. I’m not expecting them to paint the place or redo the floors.

    The punchline is that the actual ownership of some of these houses is buried so deeply in a Kafkaesque labyrinth of financial instruments that it would take months to figure out whom to contact to get an eviction order.

    Actually, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who owns the home. At that stage, there was a foreclosure sale, at which the lender re-bought the property. There would be records of the sale, and records of the foreclosure with the court system. All issues of title and subsequent loans would have been settled either before the sale, or during the auditing of the foreclosure accounting. Mortgages are also tracked in a central database called MERS, so it’s easy to see who the noteholder of a mortgage was at the time of sale.

  44. 44
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Steve V: The ability to obtain title via adverse possession arises because there is a statute of limitations on the ability to bring suit for ejectment. The adverse possessor obtains title when the limitations period expires.

    As usual, this is not legal advice. Consult your favorite lawyer for legal advice.

  45. 45
    dave says:

    Adverse possession is an extremely longstanding legal concept that encourages the productive use of land. If you fail to utilize your land the law encourages other people to take possession and make use of unused property.

    In taking possession, such people are technically trespassing, but there action is blessed by the law unless and until the true property owner takes steps to remove the trespasser and make use of the property.

    Frankly, in my opinion, it is one of the most ingenious doctrines in English law and achieves its purpose beautifully.

    I would note that commenters who have been citing 7-10 year requirements are probably wrong.

    The length of time varies by state and is usually 20 years. In some cases it is 15 or 10. I have never heard of less than 10, but there might be a few states where its 5 or 7.

    Frankly, we should be applauding these people for upholding one of the oldest traditions in English law. Although i would not condones actions they might take to affirmatively destroy the property.

    However, why should they pay for upkeep of property that they don’t own and that the current owner refuses to utilize or even maintain himself?

    John’s way off base here.

  46. 46
    rusty lazer says:

    how in the world did we (formerly european types) end up in this country in the first place? squatting works, if you’re determined to stick it out. the entirety of the lower east side of new york would probably still be nearly uninhabitable if it weren’t for people willing to squat through the worst of times. developers are just leeches who come along after the squatters stabilize things and use their connections in government to steal what they can…

  47. 47
    flounder says:

    Didn’t a bunch of these properties get chopped up into little bits and parted out across financial markets? In many cases, I bet banks were too smart for their own good and can’t actually prove that ANYONE owns this property.
    I have read where people who got a foreclosure notice asked to see the note, and the bank that supposedly owned the property could not produce it.
    Plus, haven’t we heard stories of the crooks at places like Countrywide throwing out and shredding tons of documents? By destroying their evidence of fraud, they might damn well have destroyed proof of ownership. What are these title checks turning up?
    I think if possession is 9/10ths of the law, there is going to a lot a cases where who owns what is going to be a document-less case before a court.

  48. 48
    srv says:

    If blogreeder had posted this, y’all would be all over him.

    These people are doing their civic duty. Since we can’t inflate these houses to be as pricey as Geithner and Obama say they should be, a little creative destruction is in order.

    This will all balance out.

  49. 49
    Shygetz says:

    I was initially sympathetic to the "rule of law" argument until I looked into it a bit more. The rule of law is being followed; the moment the legal title holder makes a trespass complaint, the squatters will be evicted. However, at this point, many houses either have no owner willing to confess to ownership, or the title is so confused that there is no clear owner. Such cases are exactly why adverse possession laws are on the books. Technically, these people are not breaking the law until the title holders complain about them.

  50. 50
    magisterludi says:

    I’m afeared my sympathies are with the squatters. I wonder how many were fine upstanding citizens before it all came crashing down around them? Desperate times create desperate measures.

    It really is scary watching the breakdown in civil society, tho.

  51. 51
    Jay B. says:

    It would seem to me that a program that organized this method of squatting would be a preventative method for "looting" and "vandalizing". In other words,the houses are empty. Some that are technically empty are housing squatters who want to loot and destroy the house. OTHERS, as specified by an organization designed to shelter people, are deemed suitable for a person or family to inhabit and, under the best circumstances, rehabilitate.

    I think you should really read up on citizen-led ‘organized’ squatting movements. I think you’ll find that these have been a net benefit to society precisely because they get rid of bad actors and help to stabilize a neighborhood. Soho, for example, in New York. It was largely abandoned and ripe for tear-down — indeed, it was going to be razed for a cross-manhattan expressway — but a group made up of historians, neighbors and, yes, squatters, organized one of the first successful oppositions to Robert Moses. Large swatches of London too, which were rotting, were taken over by citizen leagues of squatters, largely to the city’s long-run benefit. Christenhaven in Copenhagen. For decades, it was a "free state" of squatters in unused buildings. It had a drug trade, but it was so successful in rehabbing an old navy base and its brick housing that, now, the Danish government wants it back. It’s a high-ticket neighborhood.

    Of course there are problems too. Property, etc. But we’re talking about abandoned properties. Not forced evictions.

  52. 52
    Steve V says:

    Tonal Crow and guster:
    My understanding — which comes only from law school btw since I’ve never practiced in the area — is that adverse possession is more than simply statute of limitations. You have to satisfy the statute — you have to hold yourself out as owner, your claim of possession has to be "open and notorious" (which I think is the old common law formulation). It may even be more onerous; you might have to take on any tax obligations and there might be exceptions for properties that are well fenced off (i.e., you can’t adversely possess a property that’s walled or fenced off even if it’s neglected by the owner). I really don’t know; this is from distant memory, but a quick google search revealed that my home state (California) does in fact have an adverse possession statute which indicates it’s more than a mere matter of letting a statute of limitations run. (Though query how you can eject someone if the statute has run!)

  53. 53
    Shygetz says:

    However, why should they pay for upkeep of property that they don’t own and that the current owner refuses to utilize or even maintain himself?

    I would like to clear up one issue here, though; adverse possession isn’t just a case of using property. You have to be clearly stating "This is MINE"; sneaking in a house surreptitiously isn’t enough. Making improvements on the property is actually considered to be a big part of proving adverse possession, because it openly announces that you are claiming the property as your own. So, the squatters need to move in through the front door and start treating it like their own house. Otherwise, they are just trespassing, no matter how long they squat.

  54. 54
    Stefan says:

    And if she was homeless…how is she going to pay the utilities and Internet bills every month? How is she going to keep the house in good repair?

    It’s certainly possible to have enough money to pay those monthly bills as they come in, but not have enough money for a down payment/security deposits/first and last months’ rent whatever for an apartment or house. It’s called living paycheck to paycheck, and many Americans do it.

    Where is all that money coming from, if there even is any?

    "All" that money is probably coming from a minimum wage job or state unemployment benefits — which, again, are enough to keep you in weekly food and utilities, but not enough to save a larger sum.

  55. 55
    Queen Carlotta says:

    Hey my asshole pre-teen nephews could use a good "fort," a solid place to stash old porn mags, drink beer and smoke dope. If they crash in on a "squatter’s" new digs, like Queen Omega’s, what right does she have to keep them out? She doesn’t own the place anymore than they do, right? Can any of you legal beagle’s answer this, hmmmm?

  56. 56
    Shygetz says:

    She doesn’t own the place anymore than they do, right? Can any of you legal beagle’s answer this, hmmmm?

    She can kick them out based on prior possession. Remember, adverse possession is based on someone claiming ownership of the property, not just someone using it. If Queen Omega was there first, and then your boys broke in, she could claim title to the house based on prior occupancy and complain that your boys were trespassing. If the legal title holder did not dispute her occupancy and she could prove that she was there first, she could evict your kids. Of course, if the title holder did show up, he/she could evict both of you.

    So, in short, she does own that place more than they do.

  57. 57
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    So John, after re-reading the thread it appears you were wrong initially but then technically right but then unfortunately way off base followed quickly by probably right but for the wrong reasons. Or wrong for the right reasons.

    It’s complicated.

  58. 58
    Jay B. says:

    Come on Shygetz, the Queen was trying to be fatuous. She wasn’t actually wanting an actual answer. What is with you hippies and having a deeper understanding of an issue than a sneer, hmmmm?

  59. 59
    KRK says:

    @Evinfuilt:

    Not too long after that you could have just another home with poop in the corner. I’ve already seen one too many.

    I take it you’ve met my cat?

  60. 60
    Shygetz says:

    Come on Shygetz, the Queen was trying to be fatuous. She wasn’t actually wanting an actual answer. What is with you hippies and having a deeper understanding of an issue than a sneer, hmmmm?

    It’s the patchouli. We just can’t help it.

  61. 61
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Steve V: The exact requirements for adverse possession vary by state and sometimes by the kind of property or whose title is involved (e.g., usually you can’t adversely possess the king’s state’s property). At common law, the adverse possessor obtained title by openly possessing the property, adversely to the existing owner (i.e., without her permission), exclusively to everyone else, and continuously until the limitations period on ejectment expired. Some states have added requirements (such as paying property taxes). In some of those states, an adverse possessor who doesn’t satisfy the additional requirements gets a prescriptive easement instead of fee simple title.

    I don’t know what happens in odd cases where the statute on ejectment runs out, but the possessor hasn’t satisfied some other requirement. I suppose she can’t quiet title, but her possession becomes an encumbrance on the owner’s title, and, as current possessor, she can bring ejectment against other possessors who haven’t been there long enough to run out the statute. I don’t know what would happen if she conveyed her interest — whatever it is — to someone else.

    This topic is sure a good source of law school hypos.

  62. 62
    wasabi gasp says:

    What’s stolen is the will to maintain the tenuous link to the American Dream that the homeowner next door musters up each month when paying the mortgage. The homeowner has been squatted on by royalty, but it ain’t the Queen.

  63. 63
    Cerberus says:

    Property should never trump people.

    That’s all.

    Also, it makes me violently sick for people to get all out of shape about dirty peasants daring to try and survive the class warfare triumphant as the current solution to the Greatest Con Job in History has been to give them every demand and listen to them endlessly whine about not getting free blowjobs on top of it. At this point, as the endless crimes of the banks have landed them with thousands of properties they refuse to sell and no one seems to give a damn about the real actual increasingly homeless population and as it is more and more evident that the banks aren’t selling because no one knows who owns them, they’re lucky all the homeless aren’t doing this.

    Rule of law is falling apart because the system is broken and punitive towards the poor and frankly can be whined about the day anyone involved in the massive crimes of the last 8 years serves their first year in jail. Right now, it’s merely upholding an idea that there is one law for the rich and one law for the poor.

  64. 64
    Svensker says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    What JSF said.

  65. 65
    Nim, ham hock of liberty says:

    @Steve V:

    You’re both right, basically. I’ve litigated adverse possession and prescriptive easement cases.
    The time requirement comes from the statute of limitations for bringing actions seeking possession of lands.
    The elements of adverse possession that you’re talking about are used to determine whether the statute is tolled, or otherwise inapplicable. I.E., if your possession is not hostile, open and notorious, continuous, etc. then the limitations period is tolled.

    As a practical matter, if you’ve possessed lands for 15 years, the owner might not bother ever trying to sue you for trespass/ejectment. But yet, you claim the land is yours and want marketable title. SO, you bring your own action as a plaintiff, for declaratory judgment and to quiet title. Even though the title holder may be barred by limitations from suing, you still have carry your burden of proof on the elements of adverse possession, if you want marketable title.

  66. 66
    Pine says:

    Comment removed by author because it’s redundant

  67. 67
    Lesley says:

    If the too-big-to-fail financiers hadn’t engineered the lawlessness of finance to further their own greedy aims, there’d be few foreclosures and abandoned neighbourhoods ripe for the picking in the first place.

  68. 68
    Gus says:

    But most of my objection is just the Rule of Law. If this is illegal, I’m against it.

    Bad precedent. Slavery was legal. Smoking pot is illegal. Not necessarily defending the lawbreakers in this particular instance (though for a number of reasons, I have a lot of sympathy for the Take Back the Land folks), but absolutism in that area is an extremely bad policy. I’m with Thoreau, "It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."

  69. 69
    Morgan says:

    Didn’t read the whole thread, so this may have been covered, but with the more "legit" groups like Take Back the Land this is sort of a legal and moral gray area. There was a piece on NPR about this recently, maybe even about the same group.

    Empty houses get stripped of appliances and copper wiring and pipes all the time, which reduces the value of the bank’s asset, and are generally poorly maintained, which creates an eyesore for the neighborhood and decreases the property value of all the houses nearby. More responsible organizations like TBTL prevent both of these, so even though it’s not technically legal it pretty much works out to the benefit of everyone.

  70. 70
    les says:

    Mortgages are also tracked in a central database called MERS, so it’s easy to see who the noteholder of a mortgage was at the time of sale.

    Unfortunately, only at the time of sale; later, not so much. Notes secured by mortgages, like other securities, are bought and sold; and there’s no requirement that mortgage records be updated, and they seldom are. The servicer taking payments may stay the same, and may even get a new address to send payments received; but in many cases, the note is just one of thousands purchased, bundled into mortgage backed securities, divided into tranches by PhD mathematicians working for AIG, rated by fools and knaves and resold to your pension fund administrator. Nobody knows; and nobody knows who can renegotiate, adjust, forgive or otherwise tamper with the debt. There’s a trustee named who may have authority to foreclose, or the servicer may be authorized to foreclose; but that’s about it.

  71. 71
    tavella says:

    There’s an excellent reason why squatting and adverse possession have remained in the common law; if you are paying so little attention to your property that you are unaware that someone is living there, in the case of adverse possession for *years*, then you are highly unlikely to be maintaining the property, and decaying houses are bad for everyone.

    Similiarly the complaint that they won’t maintain and improve them like owners is silly; most won’t, but most will maintain them as *renters*, and that’s a hell of a lot better than decay. They won’t rip out the pipes. They won’t tear out the fixtures. They’ll close the fucking windows so the rain doesn’t blow in and rot the wood.

    Squatting, and most especially adverse possession, are our *friends* in regards to the banks. The competent and ethical ones will be maintaining and securing their properties. The rest? Deserve to lose them, when they are still worth something, as opposed to letting them rot and then abandoning to the cities and states who have to pay for demolition.

  72. 72
    Doug says:

    @dave:

    In most jurisdictions, it can be 10 years or less when possession is under color of title (for example, as grantee in a defective deed), but that generally wouldn’t apply to these people. Some other jurisdictions allow a shorter duration even when not under color of title.

  73. 73
    buermann says:

    They are preserving the value of the property against the rampant looting of foreclosed property that’s going on. The banks should be (and in some cases are) paying them to squat.

    We have camps filled with evicted home owners, running up costs for the local governments that have to cope with the new Bushvilles. After the biggest real estate boom in the history of mankind, leaving vast unpopulated ghost towns behind, this is absurdly revolting.

    That they’re really doing the banks a service makes me think this should be a federal program, since it’s just minimizing everybody’s losses on unoccupied property that is going to have to be bulldozed if it’s just left vacant for actual trespassing thieves to loot. The worst of the worst right now are banks walking away from foreclosed, looted property, leaving the evictees with legal title, plus the liability to clean up the destroyed property.

    Tax payers have already paid the banks for the homes, and then some. Might as well put somebody in them.

  74. 74
    The Other Steve says:

    Unfortunately, only at the time of sale; later, not so much. Notes secured by mortgages, like other securities, are bought and sold; and there’s no requirement that mortgage records be updated, and they seldom are. The servicer taking payments may stay the same, and may even get a new address to send payments received; but in many cases, the note is just one of thousands purchased, bundled into mortgage backed securities, divided into tranches by PhD mathematicians working for AIG, rated by fools and knaves and resold to your pension fund administrator. Nobody knows; and nobody knows who can renegotiate, adjust, forgive or otherwise tamper with the debt. There’s a trustee named who may have authority to foreclose, or the servicer may be authorized to foreclose; but that’s about it.

    Ok, that’s bullshit. A Mortgage Backed Security has a Trustee. The trustee is the "owner" of the underlying securities, and the deal’s prospectus outlines what happens when individual mortgages go into default. i.e. sometimes those are the responsibility of the bond holder, sometimes the trustee, whatever.

    Even in the case of a private deal, there may not be a prospectus, but there is a private placement memorandum which details how this works.

    So there is an owner, and a chain of responsibility.

    That being said, I suppose that it may be hard at times to identify what deal the mortgage is in, but then the Servicer knows and can find this out.

    Because the service has to report their servicing to the Master Servicer, and the master servicer knows what deal the mortgage is in because they’re paying out the investors.

    I find the whole argument is just bullshit, and it’s all about hiding from responsibility. The information can be found, they just don’t want to.

  75. 75
    The Other Steve says:

    Back to the squatting thing. This is fascinating.

    Although I know it’s legal to squat on land… I’m not sure it’s legal to break into a house. Still, it’s really interesting.

    Although the advocacy groups promoting this are fucktards.

  76. 76

    A term we used to use when I was a planner was "demolition by neglect." Between the weather, the varmints, and the vandals, it’s really easy for a valuable home to turn into a worthless nuisance if nobody’s minding it – on the off chance that the arsonists don’t get there first.

    Surely, John can recognize the difference between someone who occupies a place and someone who trashes it. True squatters – people who intend to make a property their own – treat it very differently from people who just crash there or party there. In fact, they keep out the people who would just crash there or party there.

    A property isn’t a dollar bill in your sock drawer. It doesn’t just stay the same and have no effect on anyone else if you ignore it. For a place to be squatted in, it needs to be abandoned, and abandoning a house is an act of aggression against the rest of the neighborhood. English Common Law’s abandonment and adverse possession laws treat property-abandoners as having reduced rights for a very good reason.

  77. 77

    So if I’m not using my car, it’s okay for someone that doesn’t have a car to use it without asking me? Hey, maybe they’ll rotate the tires and change the spark plugs, too. How do I know they won’t, after all? At least someone would be actually using my car, instead of it just sitting there waiting to be vandalised.

    Yeah, I’m sold on that.

  78. 78
    MikeJ says:

    If they can occupy the house "openly and notoriously" for seven or ten or whatever years (state adverse possession laws vary), they’ll own the house.

    Someone here knows what OCEAN means. :)

  79. 79
    buermann says:

    "Although the advocacy groups promoting this are fucktards."

    People should actually read the report. TBTL is screening the people they help squat, they’re getting the utilities turned back on, they’re squatting out homes that haven’t been looted yet with people – as often as not the same people who lost the home – who aren’t going to loot it. There’s nothing fucktarded about it at all.

    Todd@76, if the options are between the car being ransacked and you getting stuck with the city impounding fees, or somebody squatting it, anybody with brains would pick the latter.

  80. 80

    Todd,

    No, adverse possession only applies to property – actual land and buildings – because of the unique characteristics of those things.

  81. 81
    srv says:

    Hurrah!

    Time declares the Banking Crises is over.

    Now we can kick these people back into the streets where they belong.

  82. 82
    Origuy says:

    Squatting is one issue; the last paragraph of John’s quote talks about an entirely different matter.

    In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.

    In many cases, these renters have no idea that the property is in foreclosure until they get an eviction notice. They’ve been paying the rent to the former owner, who may be cashing the checks illegally. San Francisco passed a law to prevent evictions in this situation until the property actually sells, I believe.

  83. 83
    MNPundit says:

    Christ no wonder you were a right wing hack for so many years. The people are living in and maintaining the home that the owners AND the banks have abandoned. They are keeping the house from deteriorating and looters from going in there keeping the house up and property values too.

    What a moran John Cole.

  84. 84
    va says:

    Let’s take a moment to appreciate the many ironies of invoking the rule of law as an anti-Bush reflex in the service of kicking homeless people out of vacated houses. Dudes, the Bush administration fucked people legally and illegally. For instance, Bush quite legally fucked homeless people by slashing various budgets for programs that were working quite well.

    I’ve thought for a long time that Greenwald’s advocacy for the rule of law would have blowback like this, even though he himself is quite reasonable about it.

  85. 85
    John Cole says:

    Look- maybe I just have a knee-jerk reaction to people obviously breaking the law. For every “Queen Omega,” assuming she actually is taking care of the place, there are probably 20 folks in shitting on the floor, creating fire hazards, shooting up and ripping the copper out of the wall to sell for a fix.

    Trust me, I know the banks have not covered themselves with glory, and the NY Times magazine piece I linked shows some of their disgraceful habits. But that doesn’t excuse people just walking down a street, picking a house, and deciding it is theirs and they will live there.

  86. 86
    Jason says:

    That’s not likely what’s happening, though, is it? Unless you’re implying that homeless people become homeless in order to walk down the street, pick a house (for fun!), and "decide" it’s theirs. That’s a lot of bullshit, imho, and implicitly puts "Welfare" in front of names like "Queen Omega." Who I’m sure wasn’t chosen for this even-handed NYT appraisal based on the name alone.

  87. 87
    Aaron says:

    The use of the term Squatting implies that the person is there for the long haul.
    And if you are the legal owner, go to the police and tell them there is a trespasser. And if the police don’t want to do anything, you can go to civil court to establish your title to the property and get a vacate order. And the squatter can counter-claim for the amount of improvements/taxes they put in….
    Hmmm… there has been an empty house in my neighborhood for about 4-5 years now. Roof has major holes so the interior is f–ked.
    I am strongly tempted to squat it….

  88. 88

    […] turned down for a mortgage; our local homelessness problem is on the rise, so be on the lookout for squatters; prices are still dropping, even while the number of sales is […]

  89. 89
    va says:

    "For every “Queen Omega,” assuming she actually is taking care of the place, there are probably 20 folks in shitting on the floor, creating fire hazards, shooting up and ripping the copper out of the wall to sell for a fix."

    Even if it’s true that there’s a 20 to 1 ratio of crazed sub-human animal homeless people to decent, clean, well-meaning homeless people, I still say let them all have shelter for however long they can wrangle it. If the real problem here is that people are shitting and doing heroin, that seems like another issue entirely, and maybe where they do it isn’t such a big deal.

  90. 90

    For every “Queen Omega,” assuming she actually is taking care of the place, there are probably 20 folks in shitting on the floor, creating fire hazards, shooting up and ripping the copper out of the wall to sell for a fix.

    But don’t you see? This project isn’t that; it’s a solution to that.

    What you just described is what happens to properties if they are abandoned and left unoccupied.

  91. 91
    gwangung says:

    But that doesn’t excuse people just walking down a street, picking a house, and deciding it is theirs and they will live there.

    Except that the law DOES allow this, given certain conditions.

    And the real stupidity is that banks and financial institutions have created those conditions, plus others that allow and encourage this.

  92. 92
    Tonal Crow says:

    As a longtime homeowner, I’d much rather have a well-behaved squatter occupy a foreclosed house in my neighborhood than to have the vandals at it. If the title-holder wants to eject the squatters, that’s her (its) right, but I don’t think that the police should make a general rule of ejecting well-behaved squatters. There’s a pretty clear difference between good behavior and "shitting on the floor, creating fire hazards, shooting up and ripping the copper out of the wall." And if you have a problem with well-behaved squatters, it’s not because they are "breaking the damned law". It’s because you don’t know the damned law.

  93. 93
    gwangung says:

    But don’t you see? This project isn’t that; it’s a solution to that.

    That this is a solution just points back to the originators of this mess. If there were "normal" times, banks would foreclose, they’d sell the house to a new set of owners who would immediately move in.

    Letting them set there to rot is not a solution, is not a policy that should exist. If people think "squatting" isn’t acceptable, then there should be other strategies and tactics…

  94. 94
    Ed Marshall says:

    For every “Queen Omega,” assuming she actually is taking care of the place, there are probably 20 folks in shitting on the floor, creating fire hazards, shooting up and ripping the copper out of the wall to sell for a fix.

    What’s new? That was happening before the shitstorm. That’s *why* you want them to be able to turn the power and water on.

  95. 95
    gex says:

    @Todd Dugdale: Well if you left your car unattended in one place for 15 years without ever using it or checking on it, yes.

    What, can’t you read or do you just refuse to read?

  96. 96
    gex says:

    @John Cole: From reading the thread, I don’t see how this is clearly illegal. As others have pointed out, there are adverse possession laws for a reason. If the entire process for adverse possession were truly and clearly illegal, how can adverse possession be the law?

    The empty houses and for sale signs in my neighborhood are very worrying. So far there doesn’t seem to be a lot of destructive vandalism, but I’d rather these houses provide shelter for someone than become the local teenage hangout. And I don’t see how anyone is going to sell these things at the prices that the banks and the Fed want to pretend they are worth. I’ve had a dog for 8 months now, and I notice how many houses go empty and go on sale on our walks. There’s 4+ houses for sale on every street in this wealthy Minneapolis/St.Paul suburb.

    Oh well. You never claimed you weren’t a conservative anymore. You just claimed not to be a Republican. It shows.

  97. 97
    Dervin says:

    Jay B had it right and John you are just back to your right wing fever swamp. I guess it’s always good to go home again.

    Squatting saved large swaths of NYC including SOHO and the East Village, which now have 250ft co-op studios with common charges more than your mortgage.

    Banks, Mortgage Holders, Security owners don’t want to sell the houses because then and only then they would have to take the loss. If a mortgage is worth $400K and the house sells for $200K, the Title Holders would have to write down that $200K loss immediately. But, keeping that house abandoned and unsold means they don’t have to write down any losses.

  98. 98
    MNPundit says:

    @gex: A point of clarifty: Adverse possession is open and notorious, hostile, continous occupancy of the land. Basically if you tresspass for x amount of time and don’t hide it, and the owner doesn’t want you there, eventually you get the land. While you are in the midst of adverse possessing you ARE doing something illegal and the owner can toss you off.

    It’s only once the appropriate limits are met that the possessor stops breaking the law. So adverse possession IS illegal, until it’s completed at which time it’s legal. And I think retroactive to time of possession but it’s been a while since property so don’t quote me on that.

  99. 99
    JC says:

    For every “Queen Omega,” assuming she actually is taking care of the place, there are probably 20 folks in shitting on the floor, creating fire hazards, shooting up and ripping the copper out of the wall to sell for a fix.

    Absolutely. I guess the question is, which was alluded to by Zachary’s response to me, is whether it’s accurate:

    Simply sitting in those houses with a light on is an improvement over the current situation. People actually break into vacant houses and steal the wiring. I’ve seen one where the toilet, sink, and counter-tops were stolen. Even if the homeless person literally crashes in the living room with a sleeping bag and never improves anything, it’s an improvement in terms of security.

    Now – really, it shouldn’t be an either/or in this situation – that it’s DETERIORATED to this either/or, just shows how bad the powers that be let the situation get – all in pursuit of their FILTHY LUCRE.

    I’m wondering what other tactics there would be, to pursue – proposals, with no attachments to whether they are good or bad.

    a. Homes that are demonstrated to be ‘abandoned’, within 3 months, those properties MUST be held out for rent/sale – no matter how low the price – or the bank forfeits the property, to be sold at an auction to ONLY 1st time homeowners – and it gets SOLD, even if the price is 25K on a 300K place. (No speculators allowed!)

    b. The suggestion that "squatters" are given guidelines for their ‘squatting’. If they are well-behaved, they are left alone. How would one administer being "well-behaved?"

    c. Given to the cities these houses are located in – to be allocated as the cities choose?

    No investment in any of these ideas – just thinking.

  100. 100
    Tonal Crow says:

    /@Dervin:

    If a mortgage is worth $400K and the house sells for $200K, the Title Holders would have to write down that $200K loss immediately. But, keeping that house abandoned and unsold means they don’t have to write down any losses.

    Actually, under mark-to-market accounting, the disincentive to sell is much greater than this, because the seller (and possibly other institutions that hold mortgages on similar houses) might have to write down every such mortgage in a similar proportion. This is why banks recently pushed through a loosening of mark-to-market accounting rules. http://www.marketwatch.com/new.....aspx?guid={33F70684-4207-4EDD-B7C3-1B82B7A7F6B6}&dist=msr_4

  101. 101
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Looks like we got a bunch of potential house thiefs in here. I better buy a coupla more guns.

  102. 102
    Begs2DIffer says:

    John you’re great, but this seems like the worse type of outrage.

    "Goddamn homeless people, making choices I personally wouldn’t make if I were "theoretically homeless!!!"

    Everything is easier to demonize when you have a roof over your head.

  103. 103
    buermann says:

    @John Cole: "shooting up and ripping the copper out of the wall to sell for a fix"

    Wow. That’s what you got out of that story? People need a goddam roof over their heads who used to live normal lives. Now they’re all junkies.

    Did anybody RTFA? After a good blanket judgement or dozen in this thread, whatever is left in my account after taxes goes to http://takebacktheland.org/ just out of good natured spite. I can only hope it all goes to crack addled junkies who think they can melt the copper wiring down into pennies and strike it rich, just so I can feel that they’ve spent their time better than I have in following this thread.

    First sensible thing done with this real estate bubble is anybody at all claiming the surplus inventory before the bulldozers do. Hell knows the banks can’t prove they have title, and almost nobody is challenging them on that.

  104. 104
    McDuff says:

    The law is like sex – it’s great, but only if it’s consensual.

    The peasantry will tolerate a lot from the aristocracy, but when the aristocracy can’t fulfil their side of the bargain you end up with disgruntled peasants and the first flushes of revolution.

    So, just for shits and giggles, let’s say the State starts moving through neighbourhoods and evicting people without proper title from their homes, so that the banks can keep them empty in order to protect the fantasy of the Geithner plan. Do that often enough and you end up with riots and marches on the state house. The mechanisms of democracy may be enough to prevent open revolt, but really I think it’s better to accept that when The Rule Of Law is already palpably failing to protect the citizenry that a somewhat laxer interpretation may in fact be more humane.

    These people have a right to ask of the state aristocracy that enriched itself at their expense what the hell it intends to do about them, where they are expected to go. A shrug and a "not my problem, sweet cheeks" isn’t going to keep the property values up for long. You can’t sell a house that’s on fire.

  105. 105
    Dave_Violence says:

    They are stealing, they are trespassing, and they are breaking the damned law.

    That, sir, is conservative, republicanspeak. WTF?

    Oh yes it is, you leftist pukes!

  106. 106
    Dave_Violence says:

    And… you folks in favor of this behavior are rallying behind the "personal property is theft" banner. That’s un-American to the core.

  107. 107
    Shinobi says:

    Y’know I’ve been thinking for a while that all these empty homes could be a useful tool for dealing with the homeless problem in the US. I keep thinking, wow, if I had Fuck You Money I could buy some houses really cheap and work out some kind of thing where I put out of work people to work fixing them up AND give them somewhere to live.

    But y’know, I was thinking people could BUY them at a discounted price and then eventually sell them to the residents. Not fucking encourage people to squat.

    So yeah, I like the IDEA of using the home oversupply to help people. But uhm, their execution needs a lot of work.

    (Incidentally if anyone out there DOES have fuck you money…. yeah right.)

  108. 108
    Shinobi says:

    Y’know I’ve been thinking for a while that all these empty homes could be a useful tool for dealing with the homeless problem in the US. I keep thinking, wow, if I had Fuck You Money I could buy some houses really cheap and work out some kind of thing where I put out of work people to work fixing them up AND give them somewhere to live.

    But y’know, I was thinking people could BUY them at a discounted price and then eventually sell them to the residents. Not fucking encourage people to squat.

    So yeah, I like the IDEA of using the home oversupply to help people. But uhm, their execution needs a lot of work.

    (Incidentally if anyone out there DOES have fuck you money…. yeah right.)

  109. 109
    Comrade grumpy realist says:

    Also keep in mind that a lot of banks have been deliberately keeping these houses in limbo–kicking the original owner out but not foreclosing on them either. Even if they do foreclose, a lot of them aren’t paying property taxes.

    Paying of property taxes is considered in a lot of states a way of claiming property, by the way. If you’re down on the record as being the person who paid, it’s considered constructive notice and part of the "open and notorious" requirement.

    Actually, John, adverse possession is a damn good way of dealing with the present situation. If states wanted to really clean up the mess quickly, they’d put in something like "anything the bank owns and hasn’t been paying property taxes on you can get if you pay the back taxes and live in it for 5 years." Let the mortgages fall and the banks scream about the CDOs collapsing–cramdowns or possibility of someone suddenly coming in, paying the back taxes, and swiping the lot, are the only ways that we’re going to incent the banks to get off their asses and fix the problem.

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