Abandoned Foreclosed Houses Taken Over Legally
Taking advantage of a very old law that allows taking over of property lying unclaimed Mark Guerette has set up his own firm, Save Florida Homes’. Moving into abandoned foreclosed houses that have been declared to be a public nuisance, he is leasing them out to renters.
He has been doing it by informing the courts, the lenders and the banks. Some think he is a trespasser and should be penalized while others consider his activities to be beneficial to the society and economy.
In the leases with the tenants there is an addendum in which it has been stated that he is not legal owner of the property. One of his tenants is Fabian Ferguson who is now residing in a two bed roomed unit with their two children. Guerette often allowed his tenants to do the repairing in lieu of rent.
The Fergusons have transformed a damaged eyesore into a warm home with hearth fires burning and children playing. Till then Ferguson had been homeless but now he is paying per month a rent of $289. He looks upon Guerette as a demigod. The neighbours too are happy.
Till now the people living nearby had no idea of the shady characters that walked in and out of the rundown house; but now they are seeing a family. Neighbour Rawle Thomas said about the newcomers, “I like them, and I’d much rather have someone in there than the house empty”.
The law that Guerette invokes is that of adverse possession. It is not all smooth sailing in other cases where the issue becomes more problematic with aggression playing a part. Carl Heflin had to be jailed for a year in Palm Beach County facing a fraud case for alleged burglary and trespassing.
But even after an agreement was reached and his plea of adverse possession rejected he got arrested once more for collecting rent on the houses that he did not own. One of his so-called tenants was single mother Misty Hall. She said, “The whole time he was harassing us and threatened to burn the house down with my kids in it”.
Attorney Sam Goren of North Lauderdale however opined that despite some benefits the fact cannot be denied that these people are trespassers. Property expert Michael Allan Wolf of the law school of University of Florida said these adverse possessors break the title chain. Even if neighbourhoods are stabilized, Wolf said that it was not a solution to the foreclosure crisis.