Update: I’m stalking the Squatter. Saturday night I drove up to Flower Mound to see if there were any lights in the house at 2205 Waterford (really nice ‘hood, Robinson’s house is one home in from a major street) and there were none on. Snooped in the mailbox — no mail. Quiet as a church mouse save for the “No Tresspassing” sign Robinson plunked on the gate to the back-yard. Monday morning is his hearing. Thing he’ll show?
$1530.99 big ones is the property tax bill for 2205 Waterford Drive, due January 31, less if Mr. Robinson elects to take a homestead deduction. I am driving to Denton Monday morning to find out if he paid these taxes on time, also to see if Kenneth Robinson shows up in court at 9:00 a.m for his eviction hearing. Meantime, it looks like the “real” owner of the home has been located: William P. Ferguson is living in an apartment in Houston.
Everyone is talking about the guy in Flower Mound — Kenneth Robinson — who moved into a $300,000 home at 2205 Waterford Drive and is claiming adverse possession. Dallas — actually, Flower Mound, has been making the national media rounds on this story. And Curbed graciously pointed out that Flower Mound is also the home of the Divorced Divas’ $20 million spread. The one with the musical toilets, ‘member?
Lewisville/Flower Mound Realtor Charles Nuber did a little digging for me and found that the owner of the home, a William P. Ferguson, moved out of the house but there seems to be no foreclosure on record. The home was built in 1997 and has a swimming pool. Ferguson bought the 3910 square foot home in 2004 for $276,000 ish. The home is now valued at $328,000. Ferguson appears to have a mortgage of $332,000. Which means he is underwater. The home was listed for $340,000 (reduced from $355,000) by KW agent Holly Hiller, who tells me she cannot comment due to client confidentiality.
According to AHL’s bankruptcy petition, its ten largest unsecured creditors hold “repurchaser claims” — (my son-in-law will clarify this for us):
HSBC … $91 million
Citigroup … $33 million
Goldman Sachs … $21 million
Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital … $13 million
UBS … $9 million
SG Mortgage … $6 million
Wells Fargo … $5.7 million
HSBC … $5.5 million
Lehman Bros. … $5.6 million
Merrill Lynch … $5.2 million
So there are two or more layers of litigation going on here. Now my head is swimming. If the water is off, as WFAA reported, what in the world is the condition of that pool? And what are the liabilities should anyone be injured on the property or in that pool?
Adverse possession is a common law concept developed in the 1800s to protect abandoned property. It requires posting clear, public notice that someone is at the property — like through a court filing — and that someone would remain in the home for a specific period of time. The idea was to make sure property was maintained and monitored by someone, anyone. Supposedly, and I am NOT an attorney, after the time requirement is satisfied, squatters like Robinson can claim clear title to the property. The original owner can fight the action, but what underwater homeowner on the verge of foreclosure is going to do that? This is a huge problem in Seattle and Florida, too, and many web sites are now offering on-line courses in how to claim abandond homes by adverse possession. They claim having warm bodies in a house is actually better for the neighborhood. They are, they claim, helping society.
Whatever company owns the assets of Accredited needs to step forward and go to court — that’s the only way to get Robinson out, I’m told. On the other hand, banks that are overwhelmed with foreclosures and robo-signing may just see this case as tinkling in the ocean. Which means, Robinson may well end up living in 2205 Waterford for a few long years.
Could Texas law net someone a $300,000 house for filing a $16 fee on line? Maybe. Kenneth Robinson told WFAA-TV he moved into the house at 2205 Waterford Drive on June 17 because it had the perfect storm: the home was abandoned for foreclosure, then the mortgage company that owned it went out of business. After researching a Texas law called “adverse possession” Robinson moved in. It’s not a normal process, he admitted to WFAA-TV, but a process that is not known to many people.
He allowed WFAA reporters inside: the house is virtually empty, with just a few pieces of furniture. Oh and Robinson has not yet turned on utilities, at least as of the report so there is no running water or electricity.
(Wonder how he’s flushing toilets?)
The neighbors on this pretty little street took note when he moved in without the usual sale or, I guess, moving van.
“What paperwork is it and how is it legally binding if he doesn’t legally own the house?” said Leigh Lowrie, a neighboring resident. “He just squats there.”
Lowrie says the house was in foreclosure for more than a year and the owners walked. Then, the mortgage company went out of business. Neighbors are naturally peeved that this guy may net a home scot-free.
Robinson claims Texas law gives him exclusive negotiating rights with the original owner because he has set up camp in the home. If the owner wants him out, he would have to first pay off his mortgage debt and the bank would have to file a “complicated lawsuit.” An underwater, likley bankrupt ex-homeowner is probaby not going to do that. Robinson says the law says if he stays in the house, after three years he can ask the court for the title.
When neighbors complained about Robinson’s takeover to law enforcement, they were informed that it was a civil matter and they were unable to intervene.
I called one title attorney on this case who did not wish to comment on the record. But he told me he seriously doubted that Robinson will get ownership of this home, but he may get a free place to live for several months. The owner of the home will be whoever acquires the assets of the defunct mortgage company, but that company will have to re-group and take legal action against Robinson. And that could take months.
But hey, if my source is wrong, and Ronbinson nets himself a $300,000 home for $15, I’m grabbing my sleeping bag and heading to the courthouse!