The idea that a total stranger could sell a house you own without your permission, pocket all the proceeds, and then blame you for making his life a “nightmare” sounds like the plot of a movie.
But that is exactly what happened to a U.K. resident named Colin Curtis, according to Metro UK.
The property originally belonged to Doris Curtis, who died in the 1980s and left her house to her son, Colin. Mr. Curtis moved out in 1996 to live in another inherited property but continued paying the tax on the Newbury Park house in East London.
In 1997, a man named Keith Best noticed that the house was vacant and started renovating it. Best said he spent about $188,000 renovating the empty three-bedroom semi-detached house, eventually moving his family into the house in 2012.
Best then filed an adverse possession claim to become the registered owner, according to The Daily Mail.
The adverse possession law enables a trespasser occupying a property openly for an extended period, often 10 to 20 years, to then legally gain possession and title ownership.
Colin Curtis launched legal challenges but he lacked sufficient legal grounds as the registered executor because his mother had not made a will.
As Best demonstrated visible control of the house since 1997 without permission, arguing this met the legal time period threshold, a High Court judge overturned an initial ownership rejection and ruled in Best’s favor.
After 12 years of battling in court, Curtis passed away in 2018 while living on about $321 a week from his state pension and tax credits.
Best then sold the inherited family house for nearly $665,000.
Still, Best claims that he’s the victim because of the bad publicity, telling the Daily Mail, “Under the law I had a right to make this house mine so if anybody has a problem with that, they should be angry at the law, not me. I’ve done everything by the book. Nobody was cheated and I legally got what was mine.”
Squatter who won battle over dead woman’s home sells it for huge profit.*** Seems Squatters Rights Laws need to be revisited in USA and by our cousins across the pond. Squatters should categorize as Criminal Embezzlement. https://t.co/tyI3WlT0Na
— ALR229712812 (@ALR229712812) December 9, 2023
If you think this kind of thing could never happen in the U.S., think again.
The article spotlighted the case of Delaware resident Burton Banks, who tried to sell vacant land inherited from his late father only to discover that his neighbor, Melissa Schrock, had erected a goat pen on the $125,000 property and claimed two-thirds of an acre as her own via adverse possession.
Despite paying taxes on the land, Banks lost in court as Schrock insisted the area had “always” been her backyard because she openly encroached on it for the 20 years as required by law.
Even with no evidence backing her claim of using the land for two decades, the judge ruled in Schrock’s favor, depriving Banks of rightful ownership due to her mere assertion.
In August, the New York Post covered a story of a suburban Atlanta man who was arrested for calling 911 when he went to visit his property and found “weapons, a prostitute, a bunch of dogs in the back, my fence broken down.”
the criminal isn’t the squatter, it’s the homeowner
the criminal isn’t the illegal immigrant, it’s the border town farmer
the criminal isn’t the looter, it’s the bodega shop owner
the criminal isn’t the subway vagrant, it’s the hero marine https://t.co/7w5MvfHXLQ
— Logan Hall (@loganclarkhall) August 17, 2023
In California, a COVID-19-related eviction moratorium made it impossible for landlords to evict their tenants even if they owe more than $100,000 in rent, according to Fox News.
Much like the tragic case in the U.K., authorities in many states on our side of the pond may side with scheming squatters over inheritors or owners of empty homes.
It feels like we’re living in the Wild West where squatter takes all.
With more laws protecting criminals rather than homeowners, it’s important to be vigilant and protect your own property because if you lose it, most likely, you’re on your own.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.