No you can’t claim a house through adverse possession by filing $16 worth of forms.

February 8th, 2012

In July I blogged about the story of Kenneth Robinson, who tried to obtain a house through adverse possession. He just started living in it. Turns out, Bank of America owns it. And a court ordered that he get out. And he got out.

But Robinson’s time in the house ran out Monday.

Bank of America wants possession after foreclosing on the home last month, and a judge on Monday gave Robinson until Feb. 13 to appeal or move out. Rather than wait to be evicted, Robinson slipped out before sunrise Monday, skipped a morning court hearing and refused to say where he was moving next.

“It’s been a huge learning experience,” he said in a phone call with reporters.

And he has a web site!

Robinson spoke to The Associated Press last week while standing at the front door of the two-story, 3,200-square-foot home with a backyard pool. He declined to discuss his background or say how much money he made from book sales or seminars related to his takeover.

He said he started his website — which describes him as “poised, measured, insightful and wise” — to keep the media and others from misleading the public about his story.

“They think some bum off the street came and paid $15 to get a $300,000 house by filing a piece of paperwork,” Robinson said. “That is not the case. That is the sum of what happened.”

Robinson’s website says he’s not a lawyer and isn’t offering legal advice but has done real estate research.

Good thing too, because he has no clue what he’s talking about.

Real estate experts say he’s got the law just plain wrong.

Adverse possession statutes can be found in most states, said Brian C. Rider, a real estate lawyer and professor at the University of Texas. Someone who has openly taken charge of abandoned land for an extended period of time — using a driveway on a neighbor’s property, for example — could try to claim that land later, he said.

But it takes a long time to establish those rights, typically 10 years in Texas. Until then, anyone trying to stake claim to a piece of property owned by someone else is just a squatter, Rider said.

Arlington, Texas real estate attorney Grey Pierson said the law is often used to resolve disputes between homeowners over driveways, lawns or other property with shared boundaries — not to take someone’s house.

 And, I learned something about Texas property law! That should come in handy in a few months.
Update: And it seems he lectured law students at SMU Law!

“Well, I heard it’s everywhere except Texas,” joked Tony Seagroves, the second-year law student who initially reached out to Robinson and hosted Wednesday’s question and answer session. Seagroves and a few other students were fascinated by his story in the context of what they were learning; they paid him a visit, then asked him to do the same to their class.

After the lecture, Seagroves told Unfair Park that adverse possession is covered in law school as it applies to farmland, not densely populated neighborhoods. Robinson modernized the concept.

Asked whether Robinson’s use of the law was questionable or genius, Seagroves said, “Genius. I absolutely think it’s genius … He exercised his rights within the law.”

“What better way to hear about the issues than from someone who’s actually dealing with them,” added SMU property law professor Sarah Tran. “Usually it’s lawyers, not someone who’s dealing with the issue,” she said of typical guest speakers. “I feel strongly that every one of my students will remember adverse possession.”