Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Property Grabs
It's made national headlines. A man in Boca Raton used an old law to get a mansion, and live in one, on the house. Now 7News investigation reveals other people are taking advantage of that very same loophole. Fancy digs without paying a dime to purchase a home or condo? Now one South Florida official is on a mission to get this outdated law off the books. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- How would you like to have a mansion on Fort Lauderdale Beach for free? That's what a Broward man tried to do using a very old law called adverse possession.
Lori Parrish: "It's a scam."
Broward property appraiser Lori Parrish is on a crusade to get rid of the law.
Lori Parrish: "You know, it's one of those old laws that worked hundreds of years ago with farm land, but that's not what it is today."
The law allows possession and ownership of an abandoned home after seven years of paying taxes and improving the property. Today it is being used to try to take properties, even if the taxes are paid and the house is not abandoned.
This multimillion dollar beach front home is an example. It's for sale, but Tommie Milton, who has an arrest record that includes child support issues and bad checks, filed an adverse possession claim and tried to take it over.
Carmel Cafiero: "We found Tommie Milton living in a modest condo in West Park. A mansion on the beach would be a step up."
Milton hid behind his door and was concerned about his property rights.
Tommie Milton: "This is private property."
He refused to discuss his adverse possession claim.
Carmel Cafiero: "Well, I'm right here. Why can't you just tell me...?"
And then this notice appeared in a window: no hunting, fishing, trapping or trespassing.
Back at the mansion, authorities say Milton changed the locks on the gate and front door. When a maintenance worker discovered that and called police, it stopped the takeover.
Ron Cacciatore, Property Appraiser Investigations: "They attempted to take possession of the residence, and then when the owner was notified, he had to hire a caretaker to stay here, and they have security here."
Milton also filed on the mansion next door, which is currently being rented by a family on vacation from Chile.
Jose Aguera: "I just saw them come into the next door house, so I'm worried about that. But they don't try to come into this house yet."
It's an issue that hits close to home for Lori Parrish. She says a house in her neighborhood was once taken over by two hookers and their pimp, who had a gun and drugs.
Lori Parrish: "So what this is, is this scam is being perpetuated by an antiquated state law. It's putting a bunch of real unsavory characters in all of our neighborhoods with our children and grandchildren. I hate it."
Parrish took her concerns to Broward's legislative delegation and appears to have convinced some lawmakers to try to get rid of this law, but for now, property owners beware. If someone gets into your house using this old law, it could be hard to get them out. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.
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