Fake it until you take it

From Bloomberg:

How to Hang Out in a House Until It’s Yours

The cult of adverse possession is alive and well in New York City.

Adverse possession is the centuries-old legal principal that says, basically, if a squatter occupies a piece of land long enough, he owns it. This week, a Howard Beach man named Peter Zephyrin has been telling local news outlets that he’s using adverse possession to take ownership of a boarded-up apartment complex in Queens — and that he’s charging tenants $250 a week to take up residence there. Zephyrin says he has been arrested three times for trespassing on the property, according to the local Fox television affiliate.

His tenants appear to enjoy greater rights. Earlier this month, a housing court ordered the property management company responsible for the complex to replace a door it had removed from one of the occupied buildings.

So what we have is a legal tangle wrapped in a fallacy wrapped in a tragedy. The tragic part is that New York’s housing market is so tight residents will pay $250 a week for an apartment without gas, a refrigerator, or a working stove. The tangle is that unlike Zephryin, his tenants appear to be protected from immediate eviction, perhaps by virtue of paying rent.
And now, the fallacy.

The apartments are in foreclosure, according to court records, and have been vacant for years, according to Fox. Zephyrin, who has been arrested for squatting before, took up residence and, according to the New York Post, installed electricity and water heaters and started charging rent.
“Imagine you woke up one day and found out the U.S. government gave you license to use your brain and do something unorthodox,” Zephyrin told the Post. “I’m taking what the lazy wealthy person left behind.”

In New York State, where it takes 10 years to win adverse possession, the notable cases have involved things like shuffleboard courts and chicken coops. The famous squatters in Manhattan’s East Village won ownership of their building through negotiations with the city, which owned the buildings, not by adverse possession.

Yet interest in adverse possession and squatters’ rights remains strong, in some quarters. It picked up after the foreclosure crisis emptied houses, lending the idea of the little guy claiming a piece of land a kind of frontier romance.

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6 Responses to Fake it until you take it

  1. homeboken says:

    Frist – Happy Sunday!

  2. grim says:

    99 out of 100 times adverse possession has more to do with fences, sheds, and short cuts.

  3. grim says:

    And before you think you are going to try this in NJ, I believe it’s 30 years here, I believe we’re longest or second longest in the US.

  4. Fabius Maximus says:

    Gary, I have found your dream kitchen! I wonder what he’ll charge to ship it to NJ for you.

  5. Liquor Luge says:

    WTF? Was this dude just using the garage to cut up dead people?

  6. NJGator says:

    Habitat for the well-off? N.J. lawmaker’s husband sought charitable aid to build new luxury home

    When state Assemblywoman Linda Stender’s husband asked a Habitat for Humanity group for help after his nearly half million dollar Manasquan bungalow was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, he wanted to replace it with a two-story house that would be nearly three times larger, documents show.

    Zoning plans filed with Manasquan’s construction office show that Richard Stender, who owns a printing company and is married to the longtime Union County Democratic assemblywoman, sought to replace the 700-square foot, single story bungalow that the Monmouth County-based Coastal Habitat for Humanity demolished for him with a 2,000-square foot house.

    The “Stender residence” plans, filed in August 2014, show a proposed home far from the more modest ones Habitat for Humanity groups typically build for lower-income families.

    The plans call for four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, an eat-in kitchen, a dining room, a two-car garage, a wood-burning fireplace, a screened porch on each floor, and an outdoor shower with a “louvered ceiling,” privacy screen and a changing area.

    Assemblywoman Stender did not respond to a call to her cell phone seeking comment. But last night, she acknowledged that her family had sought help from the non-profit group, which is intended to help lower-income homeowners.

    “Like many others, our family suffered significant losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy,” Stender said in a statement. “An application was made to Coastal Habitat for Humanity to assist in rebuilding. There are outstanding issues which are the subject of continued efforts to resolve.”

    Indeed, the house has been at a center of a dispute between Richard Stender and the non-profit group.

    “When the plans were presented to Coastal Habitat and I saw them, I immediately said no,” said Maureen Mulligan, executive director of Coastal Habitat for Humanity. “This was not the type of house that Habitat builds, which is a three-bedroom one-and-a-half bath, 1,200 square foot house.”

    Mulligan’s group helps homeowners who make up to 80 percent of Monmouth County’s median household income, which is $84,526. However, Linda Stender’s legislative financial disclosure records shows her combined income with her husband was at least $99,000 a year in 2012 and 2013.

    The financial disclosures also list the Manasquan property as the only one owned by either Stender or her husband. Stender registered to run for reelection in 2013 from a Scotch Plains address, and told her district-mate, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union), that she lives with her mother and that her husband lives in Manasquan.


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