It’s an adverse possession story! We have an adverse possession story. Pull out your first-year Property casebooks and remember that time in law school you learned that “law words” sometimes have no bearing on what those words mean in the regular world.
There’s a guy who is going around Ohio, “possessing” what he calls abandoned houses, and then filing quiet-title claims against the real owners. The actions have worried the owners (at least some of whom have their houses in foreclosure by the banks). In more entertaining news, we get to watch local media react with horror as they confront the mere possibility of adverse possession. I love when laypeople confront Property issues; they’re always so confused and frightened. Prescriptive easements! Fee simple! PERPETUITIES!
Anyway, of all the non-lawyers involved, the worst is the guy actually trying to possess these houses. He’s a man who knows just enough to be stupid….
The man, named Robert Carr, has filed 11 quiet title claims in Ohio. ELEVEN! WLWT talked to Carr and got this excellent quote:
“When you abandon a property, bam, walk away from it, ‘I ain’t never coming back. I don’t want nothing to do with it,’ right? Somebody can come in, ‘Oh, mine,'” Carr told [reporter Karin Johnson], describing why he believed the properties could be taken.
Carr said he does not do this alone.
“I have a team of people who go out and I say make sure the house is empty. If it’s empty, change the locks,” Carr said.
Sure, it works exactly that way… AFTER 21 YEARS! Adverse possession in Ohio requires open, notorious, and continuous possession for 21 freaking years. This guy is going around emptying out houses while people are away on vacation. That’s not adverse possession, folks, that’s straight trespass.
Johnson asked Carr, “You can just come in and change the locks and become owner?” To which he replied, “Anybody can.”
See, media, you need to do a better job than this. You CANNOT just go around changing locks to become the owner of property. Any rudimentary phone call to a local attorney or law professor would reveal that truth. I get that there’s a much better story here if there’s a chance that what he’s doing is somehow legal, but these reporters wouldn’t just go up to a murder suspect and say “You can just shoot people who you don’t like as long as you hit them in the back” and stand there while the suspect said “Anybody can!”
Don’t make the law seem so foolish and complicated that some crazy idiot can just go around stealing people’s houses.
Carr has been charged with breaking and entering in one case of disputed ownership. He is fighting that charge.
Johnson obtained a copy of the indictment, upon which Carr wrote across the front “rejected” and “offer not accepted.”
Hahahahahaha. “You’ve been charged with breaking and entering.” “No sir, I reject that. I do not accept your offer to charge me.” Something tells me we’re going to get a second story out of this guy when he eventually goes before a judge.
In any event, could someone please tell Carr’s victims that they not dealing with a case of “disputed ownership”? They’re dealing with a crazy person who has broken into their houses.