Squatting has been going on in the U.S. for centuries. It happens when someone is unlawfully occupying an uninhabited building or land. We’ve heard of squatters showing up in homes that have been uninhabited and living there for months or even years.
And in some instances, squatters have been able to avoid homelessness because of being able to find just the right place to “squat.”
There are actually squatter’s rights in the U.S. – and every state has a rule to determine how long it takes for rights to be established.
In places like Florida and Arkansas, it only takes seven years (or less) for a squatter to establish rights. Meanwhile, in states like Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, it can take over 20 years.
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This is crazy, right? It absolutely is – and it dates all the way back to medieval England where it’s common law. If the owner of the land didn’t take action against the person occupying the land without permission within a set amount of time, that individual was granted the ability to stay.
One man in Long Island, New York, was able to use the system to his advantage for 23 years.
Guramit Hanspal is a 52-year-old who “bought” a home in East Meadow back in 1998 for $290,000. The three-bedroom home is worth a whole lot more right now – but there’s no way that he could sell it because he doesn’t own it.
The bank owns the home, yet they can’t do anything about selling it to recuperate their losses, either. Why? Hanspal has bee been living there for 23 years – and squatter laws are basically allowing him to do so at this point.
The man only made one mortgage payment after buying the home.
It wasn’t long until the bank foreclosed on the home. However, seven declarations of bankruptcy and four lawsuits have made it possible for him to stay inside of the home.
It’s really a great example of how someone is able to work the system.
Several banks and real estate companies have owned the home since it was foreclosed upon back in 2000. However, this story is proof that just squatters most certainly have rights. No one has been able to successfully evict the man in order to get true ownership of the home – at least not in a way that would be financially beneficial.
There are “automatic stay” laws within the U.S. And when someone files for bankruptcy, the debtor is given a temporary break from collection efforts – and that includes foreclosures and harassment – including harassment of eviction.
At least three other individuals are living with Hanspal in the Long Island home. And several have filed for bankruptcy over the years so that they can claim the “automatic stay” benefit. The claims get dismissed, which means that the individuals can continue to live inside of the home without being evicted, according to court documents.
Imagine – living in Long Island for over 20 years without having to make a mortgage payment. It’s an impressive way to work the system – but does that mean that the system is broken?
Oh, you better believe it.
The property owner at the moment, Diamond Ridge Partners, is looking to figure out what their legal rights are to obtain the property once and for all. Their attorney, Jordan Katz, said, “It’s really a group of people that are more than willing to use the courts and abuse the courts to whatever extent they need to extend their illegal occupancy.”
What Hanspal has been able to do is unlike anything else. He bought the home in 1998. Foreclosure started a year later, and he filed for bankruptcy the very next year. And then, he filed several other times.
And according to a judge’s order in 2005, there were even times when he went to a state court to seek relief, serving as his own lawyer.
Hanspal has even transferred the deed of the home to a friend, which he didn’t do legally since he doesn’t own the deed.
With the way that the case has been trapped in litigation for decades, it seems that Hanspal will always have the privilege of living in that home – and without having paid more than one mortgage payment.
It’s time to start looking at the rights that squatters have. Since they’re not financially invested in where they squat, should they get any rights?
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