November 16, 2011
By Leslie Minora
The Dallas Observer
The property rights law of adverse possession is normally a dry topic, a chapter covered in law school to be forgotten immediately after final exams. This will not be the case for about 100 SMU law students who attended a Wednesday evening lecture by Ken Robinson, the Flower Mound man (and subject of an Observer cover story) who overtook a vacant suburban home for $16, the price of filing notice with Denton County.
Robinson is not a lawyer, but with a background in real estate and a penchant for unusual investments, he knows the law. He lectured with the charisma of a seasoned professor, first thanking everyone for having him, and even giving a hat-tip to Christopher Columbus, who used some version of adverse possession before the law even existed.
"One of these was not like the other," he said, explaining that the home where he now lives was unkempt compared to its perfectly manicured neighbors when he noticed it in the beginning of summer. He approached the property as an investment opportunity, figuring he might get a good deal if he could contact the owner. But he couldn't. He couldn't even track down information about the mortgage.
The home was apparently abandoned. Throughout his research, the only option he could find was adverse possession. So he filed notice with the county, moved in and fixed the place up to the trimmed and pruned standards met by his neighbors.
Soon, neighbors got wind of what had happened. Channel 8 showed up at his door, as did many other reporters; the Observer hung around on-and-off for about a month, and his home became a circus of curious visitors who hoped to follow his lead.
All along, he warned: adverse possession is not for everyone. It's not a simple investment opportunity; you must intend to make the home your permanent residence. It must not be owned by someone who still has interest in the property. This could, and does, get tricky.
Read the full story.