I love it when this kind of thing happens. I’ve loved it ever since my very first day of Property class. I love it whenever anybody, anywhere in this country, seeks or gains title to something via adverse possession.
Every time it happens, it’s just tangible freaking proof that laws aren’t just a bunch of grand theories written in tomes that grow lonely from disuse. Adverse possession isn’t an existential contemplation, it’s a real-ass way that property can be transferred from those who are hoarding it to those who can use it.
And the fact that laypeople always freak out when confronted with this most basic of property concepts delights me to no end. Everybody loves private property in this country, but 200 million of them have no idea where it comes from. You’d think “fee simple” is something they would teach in middle school in a country like ours, but you need a graduate degree before people even try to teach you about real property.
I’m trying to say that the man who’s trying to get a $330,000 house for $16 bucks is a great American….
Gizmodo has the story. Even in the headline you can see that non-lawyer’s brain struggle to make sense of it all: “Man Used a Loophole in the Law to Pay 16 Bucks for a $330,000 House.” From the body of the post:
Kenneth Robinson beat the system. We should all be Kenneth Robinson. Kenneth Robinson for President! Kenneth! Kenneth! Why the fuss? Because Robinson found a loophole in the law that let him pay 16 dollars to own a $330,000 house.
It’s a little known law called “adverse possession” where you can avoid the inconvenience and expense of applying for a traditional mortgage. He supposedly spent months and months researching the law and combing through listings to find the perfect house that would fit within the requirements of the law. The $330,000 house in Flower Mound, Texas did just that.
I understand the need for people to be outraged anytime anything good happens to anyone else. But this guy didn’t “beat” the system. Adverse possession isn’t a loophole. It’s a fundamental underpinning of our system of private property. You can trace a line from John Locke’s labor theory of property ownership (which disturbingly has a Wikipedia page) right to Kenneth Robinson’s attempt to get a $16 house.
It’s not a technicality, it’s a principle. Robinson isn’t a squatting tenant, he’s the embodiment of a tenet of private ownership.
And he didn’t even have to go to law school to figure it all out.
UPDATE (1:45 PM): Just a quick clarification. I’m not saying that Kenneth Robinson has succeeded in acquiring title via adverse possession; I’m just commending him for trying, and offering some general reflections on the doctrine itself. You can read more in the comments as to whether or not he’ll prevail.