Alleged Adverse Possessor Charging Rent Gets Arrested

In West Palm Beach, Nathalie Heil was arrested on February 1, 2013, and faces charges of grand theft and fraud. Various news sources indicate that Heil has been accused of renting her neighbor’s foreclosed home. Heil claims she owns the property through adverse possession. To claim adverse possession, a claimant must file a DR-452 form with a proper legal description to the property appraiser of the county where the property is located within one year of entering into possession.

While infamous Boca Raton squatter, Andre de Paula Barbosa, was not arrested when police showed up to the property he is claiming through adverse possession, Barbosa was able to produce the paperwork he had filed with the county property appraiser.  Unlike Barbosa, the police found no paperwork filed with the county property appraiser claiming adverse possession.  The county property appraiser lists Juan Cedeno as the owner of record since 2007.

According to news sources, Cedeno’s property manager had not checked on the home in eight months because it is in foreclosure, but recently stopped by and noticed the property looked as though it was being lived-in.  Two women had been living in the home since mid-June when they found an ad on Craigslist. The women were paying $1,500 a month in rent to Heil. Heil maintains that she is legally subletting her house.

Adverse possession is a means of attempting to gain legal title to property by continuous possession of the property for at least seven consecutive years in an open, notorious, and visible manner such that it conflicts with the owner’s right to the property. Fla. Stat. § 95.18.  The adverse possessor must pay all taxes for the seven year period and enclose, cultivate, or improve the property.

Adverse possession is a means of attempting to gain legal title to property by continuous possession of the property for at least seven consecutive years in an open, notorious, and visible manner such that it conflicts with the owner’s right to the property. Fla. Stat. § 95.18.  The adverse possessor must pay all taxes for the seven year period and enclose, cultivate, or improve the property. The adverse possessor must file a DR-452 form with a proper legal description to the property appraiser of the county where the property is located within one year of entering into possession.  

In Boca Raton, Florida, Andre de Paula Barbosa (“Barbosa”) is attempting adverse possession of a $2.5 million mansion. The adverse possession paperwork was filed by him in July 2012, the same month that Bank of America became the owner through foreclosure.  Local news sources indicate that neighbors called police to the home in December, but Barbosa was not removed because he presented the proper paperwork and no one saw him break-in.

The applicable Florida statute provides that in order to remove the adverse possession claim from the property: (a) The person claiming adverse possession notifies the property appraiser in writing that the adverse possession claim is withdrawn; (b) The owner of record provides a certified copy of a court order, entered after the date the return was submitted to the property appraiser, establishing title in the owner of record; (c) The property appraiser receives a certified copy of a recorded deed, filed after the date of the submission of the return, from the person claiming adverse possession to the owner of record transferring title of property along with a legal description describing the same property subject to the adverse possession claim; or (d) The owner of record or the tax collector provides to the property appraiser a receipt demonstrating that the owner of record has paid the annual tax assessment for the property subject to the adverse possession claim during the period that the person is claiming adverse possession.  Fla. Stat. § 95.18(7).

In this particular case, Bank of America has filed suit against Barbosa in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit of Palm Beach County, Florida in the form of an ejectment action.  The suit was filed January 23, 2013, and the case is currently pending before the Honorable John Kastrenakes.

South Florida has seen an increase in adverse possession claims in recent years as a result of the many foreclosures in the area. Some people are trying to take advantage of empty homes by filing claims for adverse possession. Those filing adverse possession claims take a risk when they trespass, break-in, or collect rents at properties they do not own.