Some Midtown Miami neighbors are furious about what they call attempts by a family to use an archaic law to move into a home in the neighborhood where they don’t belong.
The family is squatting at 210 NE 44th St. using Florida’s adverse possession law, Midtown resident Tom Joule said.
”We have called the police many times. We have called the utility company saying these people are stealing utilities,” Joule said. “The first time the police came out they entered the residence and told us there is nothing we can do.”
Joule said he believes the people who have moved into the home filled out a form with the county indicating they were trying to gain ownership through adverse possession.
“There's a one-page form that they downloaded from the Internet,” Joule said. “No one verified who these people were. They simply said OK, you’re in possession of the property.”
The property appraiser said late Monday afternoon that that no one has filed a form to officially begin the adverse possession process, however.
Florida Power & Light said it could not provide account information. The water department said that officially there is no water there, as there is no account for the address.
A man who was in front of the home Monday told NBC 6 South Florida that he spoke to the owner of the property, and police, but he didn't have anything to say about how he ended up there. The man also didn’t answer questions about whether he filled out the form with the county.
Both Joule and neighborhood resident Carlos Carrillo said they have called 911 about the situation. Carrillo said he and his wife did so when they felt concerned for their own safety.
”We have no power or no ability to get them out of the home,” he said.
Miami Police confirmed that they have responded to the home on multiple occasions after calls to 911 about disturbances between the neighbors, as well as noise. Police said they cannot do anything about removal because that is up to the courts.
The state’s adverse possession law says that for a person to be in exclusive possession of a home, it has to be done openly, notoriously, and they have to stay in the home for seven years.
In a high-profile adverse possession case in Boca Raton recently, police eventually evicted Andre Barbosa after he lived in a mansion there.
Tax records show the home in Midtown is owned by Dr. Smith Joseph, who is running to be the next mayor of North Miami. Court records show the bank is moving to foreclose on the home.
NBC 6 looked for Joseph at medical practice and campaign office Monday, but could not find him for comment.
Joseph came to the property to see who was there, according to Joule.
”He was out the first day with the police,” Joule said. “The police said oh there’s nothing we can do, even though the owner was right here saying I don't know these people.”
Real estate attorney Ben Solomon there is a mortgage on the property, and that prevents any attempts at using the adverse possession statute there.
His advice to residents that believe squatters are present in their neighborhood?
”Well, obviously identifying the problem, reporting it to the owner and the authorities is a first step,” said Solomon, of the Association Law Group. “The owner should call the police and have the illegal trespasser removed.”