Adam Schiestel doesn’t mind telling people that he lives in the squatter house.
always good for a laugh,” said Schiestel, who recently purchased a
Flower Mound home that was once caught up in a controversy over
In the summer of 2011, Kenneth Robinson, a
50-year-old vitamin salesman, cited an obscure law, paid a $16 fee to
file an affidavit of adverse possession and moved into the $340,000
Publicity about Robinson’s legal feat made him a
celebrity of sorts and sparked a short-lived run on vacant or abandoned
homes in North Texas.
But the fame was fleeting, and the legal loophole failed to become an easy route to homeownership.
fact, it led to the prosecution of eight squatters inspired by
Robinson’s creative interpretation of the adverse possession statute, a
100-year-old civil law to address boundary disputes.
“It was never
meant to be used as a sword to steal someone’s home,” said David
Lobingier, a prosecutor with the Tarrant County district attorney’s
By November 2011, after Robinson had written an online
manual on his homeownership method and had been invited to speak at
SMU’s Dedman School of Law, about 60 affidavits of adverse possession
had been filed in Tarrant County.
The DA’s office deemed the
documents fraudulent, instructed County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia to stop
accepting the affidavits and encouraged law enforcement agencies to
pursue charges against squatters.
After a Tarrant County grand
jury indicted eight people on charges of burglary to a habitation and
theft, the squatters still at large abandoned the properties.
“They scattered like a covey of quail,” Lobingier said.
first of the eight Tarrant County defendants to be prosecuted was David
Cooper, a DeSoto man accused of moving into a fully furnished, $400,000
Arlington house. It was owned by a couple staying in Houston
temporarily while the wife was undergoing cancer treatments.
jury deliberated two hours before sentencing Cooper to 10 years of
probation and ordering him to pay a $10,000 fine. His wife was
After Cooper’s sentence was handed down, the remaining defendants pleaded guilty, Lobingier said.
L. Brown was sentenced to 10 years of probation. Andrew James LaTour II
and Andre Brown each received three year of probation. Charges against
their wives and other family members were dismissed.
we’ve stopped all these affidavits from being filed as a ruse to steal
someone’s property,” said Lobingier, who testified earlier this year on
behalf of a bill that would have prohibited adverse possession from
being used as a defense for burglary.
The reform, which would have criminalized the practice, passed in the state Senate but didn’t make it to a House vote.
Adverse possession remains a civil statute to remedy boundary disputes.
police normally don’t get involved in civil matters, “it really
hamstrings police agencies,” said Lobingier, who believes Tarrant County
was alone in prosecuting the squatters.
The Dallas County
district attorney’s office does not compile statistical information on
adverse possession cases, a spokeswoman said.
The Denton County
DA’s office never prosecuted any squatters using the adverse possession
claim, although a man was just indicted on a charge of filing a
fictitious deed on a Plano home. That case is pending.
once called America’s most famous squatter, quietly complied last year
with a civil order to vacate the Flower Mound home. He could not be
reached for comment.
His failed attempt to stake a claim to the home didn’t complicate matters when legitimate buyers came along.
“It was not an issue,” said Schiestel, the new owner who lives in the home with his wife, Regan, and their three young children.
year, the couple was in the process of buying the home from Bank of
America when a picture of the house appeared on a local news segment on
That was their first inkling the home had a squatter. It gave them second thoughts.
“We took a step back,” said Schiestel, who finally decided it was a great home and continued negotiations with the bank.
before closing on the house in January, he made sure of a title
insurance policy in case Robinson made another run at the property.
the Schiestels, the two-story brick home that features a swimming pool,
stainless steel appliances and granite countertops is where they want
to put down roots and raise their children.
They love the home — even if it cost them considerably more than $16.
“I think we got a good deal,” Adam Schiestel said.