A mortgage broker in Ft. Lauderdale is using an old Florida stature from 1869 to save abandoned homes and may face consequences. Using the a statute called adverse possession, common in all 50 states, the broker is finding homes that have been designated by the county as a “public nuisance”. He then cleans up the home, pays the taxes and rents the properties for low cost to needy but responsible tenants. He has made it clear to the tenants that he is not the owner of the property in a clause in the lease. They are just happy to have a place to live.
The adverse possession stature requires that a property be maintained openly and continuously for a period of at least seven years. This means cleaning it up, paying taxes and utilities and using it as one’s own.
Many owners of adjacent and nearby properties are very happy with the new tenants and feel it makes the neighborhood safer, more attractive and helps property values. Local authorities disagree and the broker is scheduled to go on trial in December (2010) in a test case of the statute. The broker faces up to 15 years in jail.
If owners and banks do not take responsibility for abandoned properties, someone must. The towns consider them a problem but are doing nothing. More people should do as this man has. Neighbors should form committees to clean up these homes and help their neighborhoods. And towns, cities, counties and states should cooperate by allowing them to do so. Once a property has been designated a nuisance, governments should protect individuals or committees which maintain these derelict properties. They should protect any investment, allowing a lien on the property for taxes and expenses.