No more adverse squatters as new law kicks in

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Marci Shatzman

Published July 11, 2013


A squatter justifying his existence in a multi-million dollar home in Boca Raton went viral earlier this year, but it wasn't a laughing matter for the neighbors in Golden Harbour.

Andre "Loki Boy" Barbosa occupied the house around Christmas and wasn't locked out until early February. The home at 580 Golden Harbour Drive was subsequently sold on May 6 for $2,229,900.

"We felt it was important that no other neighborhood go through this," said Christine Cherepy, president of the Golden Harbour Homeowners Association.

The community of 106 homes came together when this happened, Cherepy said. Led by 30 neighbors, "we contacted multiple representatives to try and change the law."

That effort worked. Co-sponsored by State Reps. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, and Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, House Bill 903 was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on June 28 and went into effect on July 1.

The state law prevents "acquiring title to real property by possession," according to the summary. The occupant would have to pay all taxes for seven years, file a return of the land for taxes, protect the property with an enclosure or cultivate it, and maintain and occupy the land.

That should put the matter to rest, Cherepy said in an interview.

Does this new law criminalize adverse possession?

It allows law enforcement to go in and arrest people on trespassing charges.

Did you and the neighbors see the bill beforehand?

We sent in several suggested conditions, but the bill is stronger than we had even asked for.

In what way?

It makes it a criminal act to occupy a home that has been claimed as adverse possession or to lease or rent it to another renter. It makes it illegal to occupy property without being the owner or having the consent of the owner.

How scary and disruptive did this get?

These people told the neighbors the laws of Boca Raton and the United States didn't apply to them. They were posting notices on the front of the house saying it was a sovereign property and had they rights under the United Nations for indigenous people. Things were not normal and it had the neighbors concerned. You wondered what illegal things they were doing or would consider doing. They blocked out the windows.

Did you have private guards?

A neighbor helped hire security and a guard was posted 24/7.

Is the house really a mansion?

It is 5,600 square feet, [not more than 7,000 as reported]. It does have a boat dock, second-floor balconies and marble baths.

Was the house in foreclosure?

It was vacant, but the previous owners turned it over in lieu of deed back to the bank so it was a bank-owned property, not a foreclosure.

Reports said Bank of America had the locks changed and that Boca Raton police went in after consulting with the State Attorney's Office. What did Golden Harbour do to recognize what Boca Raton police did during that months' long standoff?

We nominated Capt. Josh Mindick and Police Chief Dan Alexander for outstanding commendation awards from the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum. They were approved, and we presented them before Boca Raton City Council at a meeting on June 11.