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19th-century Fla. law used to take houses

Jan. 30, 2013 at 2:13 PM   |   Comments

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- A local official says a 19th-century law aimed at keeping South Florida farmland in use should be repealed to stop attempted takeovers of beachside mansions.

Lori Parrish, the Broward County appraiser, reported that her office received three filings from people seeking "adverse possession" of empty properties Tuesday, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Under the law, someone who lives on an abandoned property for seven years, pays taxes on it and pays off any liens becomes the legal owner.

The law was adopted at a time when South Florida had few residents, and legislators were concerned about abandoned farms. But Parrish said 22 "adverse possession" claims have recently been filed with her office, including one for a house that was not in foreclosure but was unoccupied and up for sale.

"In 1876, it served a purpose it doesn't serve in 2013," Parrish said. "Why should people have to spend money on asserting their property rights because of an antiquated law that doesn't belong on the books?"

Andre Barbosa, a Brazilian national also known as "Loki Boy," pioneered the technique by filing a claim on a five-bedroom house in Boca Raton appraised at $2.5 million.

Some legislators and housing advocates say the law serves a modern purpose -- bringing people who need a place to live together with the thousands of empty properties in limbo because of the cumbersome foreclosure process.

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