Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Hillsborough property appraiser warns people against moving into abandoned homes

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office will begin issuing warnings to people seeking to take over abandoned homes.

They may be getting conned and very likely are breaking the law.

County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez said his employees have seen a sharp increase in the number of people filing adverse possession applications with his office. He said he believes the people have been convinced by third parties that they can simply move into an empty home or building, pay its taxes and eventually earn ownership of the property without having to buy it.

Henriquez said in many instances it's the same people escorting people into his office and talking them through filling out the necessary paperwork without signing anything themselves. He said the escorts appear to be portraying themselves as some form of real-estate broker, but in truth, he said he's not sure how or if they are profiting from the arrangement.

So he said his office will begin issuing warning notices to the people filling out the paperwork, both in English and Spanish since many coming into the office are Hispanic.

"Rather than accuse people of anything, we want to give them something they can look at with things to look out for to make sure they're not being scammed," Henriquez said.

As a news release issued by the office Friday explains, adverse possession laws date back centuries. The intent was to allow people to take over abandoned land or property and put it back into productive use. They typically establish a process for a person to one day take ownership of the property, put it to good use and pay taxes.

But in this case, people are moving into homes that haven't been abandoned by the owner or lender, even though they may be empty or neglected.

Florida's own law dates back to the 1800s and the Property Appraiser's Office gives out free applications.

Appraiser's office general counsel Will Shepherd said it typically comes into play on vacant land. In a metropolitan community like Hillsborough County, such applications are rare, maybe one or two a year.

Last year there were suddenly more than 100, and so far this year, more than 120.

Typically, in more modern times, adverse possession laws come into play when, for example, there is a strip of land between two homes that belongs to neither homeowner for one reason or another. One homeowner mows it for years, plants a garden and, through that maintenance and by paying taxes on it, is able after seven years to take formal possession.

"The funny thing about it is there isn't really a specific line," Shepherd said. "The best way to describe adverse possession is as a statute of limitation for trespassing.

"You trespass on someone's land for seven years and do it without objection, you could probably claim the property. In the meantime, you are trespassing. If there's a building on the property and you break in, you probably are breaking and entering. So you're clearly running a risk here."

Hillsborough authorities have arrested several people who have tried to claim adverse possession, but the vast majority of people filing have not been charged.

The Property Appraiser's Office is trying to warn people who may be innocently following someone else's guidance that they could be getting themselves into trouble.

Staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

Comments
Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

For years, Edward Peachey has bragged about the number of jobless people he has helped find work.As president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s in charge of the two main government agencies that provide training to the...
Published: 01/20/18
Sunday Conversation: Lightning VP Keith Harris strikes a chord for the Boys & Girls Clubs

Sunday Conversation: Lightning VP Keith Harris strikes a chord for the Boys & Girls Clubs

Keith Harris fondly looks back on some memorable days from his Tampa upbringing when he worked as a lifeguard at a pool next to a Boys & Girls Club. ¶Whenever it rained, he watched as the kids retreated to the safe haven of the club. They entered int...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

The state has opened an investigation into CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, days after the Tampa Bay Times asked about whether the two regional job centers were inflating the number of people they had helped get hired. The agencies, ...
Published: 01/19/18
Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

TAMPA — You could sketch an economic history of the city of Tampa — and maybe get a glimpse of its future — just by looking at the old J. Seidenberg & Co./Havana-American Cigar Factory.It opened in 1894, making it Ybor City’s second-oldest brick ciga...
Published: 01/19/18

Want to buy into an exchanged-traded bitcoin fund? You might have a long wait

NEW YORK — It may be a while, if ever, before investors can buy an exchange-traded fund made up of bitcoin and other digital currencies. Federal regulators have a long list of questions they want answered before they’ll approve a digital currency fun...
Published: 01/19/18
Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

Child psychologist weighs in on mom who charges 5-year-old ‘rent’

A Georgia mother has gone viral for charging her 5-year-old "rent." Yup — the kid pays up for food, water, cable and electric, too.Essense Evans described in a Facebook post how she handles her daughter’s allowance. The post, written on Saturday, was...
Published: 01/19/18

Addicted to your smartphone? Now there’s an app for that

Did you text? Sorry, I can’t see messages right now. Arianna Huffington locked my phone.The media tycoon turned wellness entrepreneur wants to keep you out of your phone, too, with a new app called Thrive. Its goal is to make it cool for a generation...
Published: 01/19/18
Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

Proposed monument near St. Pete pier would honor Tony Jannus history-making flight

ST. PETERSBURG — Tony Jannus’s history-making flight in an early seaplane — simultaneously as ungainly and graceful as a pelican on the wing — is what Mayor Rick Kriseman calls an "under-told and under-appreciated" story, but a team of local history ...
Published: 01/19/18
Learn how bus rapid transit (and rail) could work in Tampa Bay

Learn how bus rapid transit (and rail) could work in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest hope for transportation in the Tampa Bay area is a bus rapid transit system projected to cover the 41-miles separating St. Petersburg from Wesley Chapel and attract 4,500 new riders at a fraction of the cost of light rail....
Published: 01/19/18
Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

ST. PETERSBURG — Transportation planners on Friday unveiled a new transit vision for Tampa Bay leaders on Friday morning: Bus rapid transit.Also known as BRT, it has arisen as the leading option in an ongoing study to find the best regional transit p...
Published: 01/19/18