Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Adverse Possession
Some people in South Florida have tried to move into foreclosed properties and live there without ever paying a dime. And these opportunists are getting more brazen than ever. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
Jason Banton: "How are you?"
Carmel Cafiero: "I understand you guys are here trying to file adverse possession."
It was a moment not caught on camera before an attempt to take a property without buying it by filing a claim based on adverse possession.
It's a law from 1867, back when South Florida was mostly swamp. The law allows ownership of abandoned property after seven years of paying the property taxes and improving the property.
Lori Parrish: "Bottom line - it's a scam."
Broward property appraiser Lori Parrish minces no words. She sees the law being abused by people filing paperwork and immediately moving into vacant homes.
Lori Parrish: "And now they're heading for places where people are residing which is scary stuff."
That's exactly what happened here at Silver Falls, a gated community in Miramar.
Two men knocked on this door and told the woman who lives here with her family to get out.
Anilkumar Ishwaragonda: "They were saying like do you live here? And uh - well - I own the house. And my wife got scared."
Anilkumar Ishwaragonda says he rushed home and called police.
He says the men continued to claim his home was no longer his home.
Anilkumar Ishwaragonda: "They were pretty vocal in the sense like - you know - like strong gesture and trying to scare you."
Police ended up arresting one of the men, Dordy Dolcine for providing a false name.
The other man was released with a trespass warning. That man, Jason Banton is one of the men we caught up with in the property appraiser's office.
He was trying to file adverse possession on this $300,000 house also in the Silver Falls community.
Banton told me he was already living there.
Carmel Cafiero: "What gives you the right to take possession of such property?"
Jason Banton: "First I want to tell you I reserve all my rights and I wave none of them."
He never answered that question and many others. It turns out, Banton's free on bond after being arrested trying to get back inside Silver Falls. He's accused of punching a police officer.
Tania Rues: "You know we were just glad it didn't escalate beyond that point. You know there was also a firearm that was located in the vehicle and there was also a rifle located behind the driver's seat."
But Banton who's unemployed claims he follows the law.
Jason Banton: "And I'm just a law abiding citizen trying to do something that is legal."
At the appraiser's office, his attempt to file on the Silver Falls house was rejected.
Jason Banton: "I went about it the legal way. My attorney gave me advice on it."
Carmel Cafiero: "Who's your attorney?"
Jason Banton: "That's a very privileged question ma'am."
His associate did his best to hide his face and videotaped the encounter, but would never give his name.
Banton also avoided answering questions from the appraiser's chief enforcement officer who told him the home is owned by a bank.
Ron Cacciatore: "So I don't know where you come up with this."
Jason Banton: "This is a legal case. It's a civil case. I will talk to my attorney."
Ron Cacciatore: "Go talk to him because you come up with more nonsense than the man in the moon."
Changes to the law will make trying to take property this way much harder.
Lori Parrish: "Well now, I think the new statue - the changes to the statue - will help law enforcement because it clearly states you have no legal right to be there."
Carmel Cafiero: "But until the governor signs into effect the new changes to the old adverse possession law - and they take effect - any community could be the next target."
If there's something you think Carmel should investigate, send an e-mail to email@example.com