Andre Barbosa is squatting in style.
The 23-year-old has moved into an empty $2.5 million mansion in a posh Boca Raton neighborhood, using an obscure Florida real estate law to stake his claim on the foreclosed waterside property.
The police can’t move him. No one saw him breaking into the 5-bedroom house, so it’s a civil matter. And the real owner, Bank of America, isn’t responding to questions about the home.
It’s driving his wealthy neighbors crazy.
“This is a very upsetting thing,” said next door neighbor Lyn Houston. “Last week, I went to the Bank of America and asked to see the person in charge of mortgages. I told them, ‘I am prepared to buy this house.’ They haven’t even called me back.”
Bank of America didn’t respond to the Sun Sentinel’s inquiry. And neither did Barbosa, a Brazilian national who refers to himself as “Loki Boy,” after the Norse god of mischief.
Someone with his name has been boasting about his new home on Facebook, even calling it Templo de Kamisamar.
Barbosa also posted a notice in the front window naming him as a “living beneficiary to the Divine Estate being superior of commerce and usury.”
Sunrise real estate lawyer Gary Singer said Barbosa is invoking a state law called “adverse possession,” which allows someone to move into a property and claim the title — if they can stay there seven years.
A signed copy of that note is also posted in the home’s front window.
It’s the most valuable grab since the adverse possession law started being used in a handful of cases that have popped up in the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office over the past three years. Soon after Bank of America foreclosed on the property in July, Barbosa notified the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office that he was moving in.
Police were called the day after Christmas to the home at 580 Golden Harbour Drive, but did not remove him. He presented cops with the “adverse possession” paperwork, according to the police report.
Houston said that the home had been empty for about 18 months. Property records show it was sold to a family in 2005 for $3.1 million. The deed is currently valued at $2.5 million, according to county records. The county appraiser’s office lists the total market value of the 7,522-square-foot house at $2.1 million.
Real estate websites show canal views from sumptuous interiors including pillars, a curved staircase, marbled bath, second-floor balconies and a pool.
Singer says the adverse possession rule stems from the days when most people lived on farms. He said whoever tries to use the rule has to occupy the property in an “open and notorious manner.”
“They can’t be boarding up the windows and hiding in there,” he said.
After relatively few instances of the rule being invoked over the previous 10 years, 13 cases of adverse possession were filed in 2011, according to John Enck, a manager of ownership services at the appraiser’s office. It spiked even more in 2012: 19 cases, but so far, since Oct. 1, only six cases have been filed, he said.
Officials in Broward County did not respond to several requests for similar data.
In Palm Beach County, Enck said the cases have usually been in middle- to lower-class neighborhoods.
“I think a lot of the time, they were just looking for a place to live,” he said.
Singer said that few people manage to hang on — and maintain the taxes and liens — for the seven years required to take formal possession of a property, all the while keeping it maintained and improved.
Usually, the real owner files a lawsuit and an eviction action, Singer said.
“But hey, if you’re going to do this, you might as well go big,” he said.
Houston said she noticed the lights came on at the home right around Christmas. She knocked on the door recently and heard people rustling about, but no one came to the door, she said. At night, the front door’s carriage lights are on but nothing else can be seen.
It’s just aggravating, she said, considering how hard she worked to be able to afford a house in the neighborhood.
“We’re all going crazy, trying to figure out what to do,” she said. “It’s unbelievable that it can be done. Plus, if they’ve got the balls to break in the house, what’s to prevent them from coming over here?
“Is the whole neighborhood up for grabs?”
Adverse Possession is defined as “a method of gaining legal title to real property by the actual, open, hostile, and continuous possession of it to the exclusion of its true owner for the period prescribed by state law (seven years in the case of Florida). Personal Property may also be acquired by adverse possession.”
Hat tip to daytrip for sending this in!