BOCA RATON, Fla. - A 23-year-old Brazilian national is trying to snag a $2.5 million Florida mansion for free.
Andre De Paula Barbosa moved into the foreclosed home and, because he filed an "adverse possession claim," his squatting is not against the law.
That does not sit well with neighbors in the upscale area.
"He's a squatter and that could pull a neighborhood down faster than anything," said Ellen Sagawa, a neighbor who lives a few houses down from the controversial home.
It home has vaulted ceilings, five bedrooms, and is perched right on the water.
Using the real estate law claim, Barbosa can not only sleep inside, but if he pays the bills and the taxes, in seven years he could own it.
"It isn't criminal. At this point it's a civil matter between the owner of the property, who is Bank of America, and the people who are occupying it right now," said Officer Sandra Boonenberg of the Boca Raton Police Department.
The bank said it is dealing with the situation legally.
"We have been in communication with the Boca Raton Police Department regarding the concerns with the occupants of 580 Golden Harbour Drive. There is a certain legal process we are required by law to follow and we have filed the appropriate action. The bank is taking this situation seriously and we will work diligently to resolve this matter," the bank said in a statement.
No one answered the door when NewsChannel 5 knocked and when someone pulled into the driveway with covered plates, they sped away. Calls and emails from WPTV NewsChannel 5 to Barbosa have yet to be returned.
Neighbors have a message for their unwelcome guest.
"Find a different house. Find a cheaper house. Don't ruin this neighborhood," said Sagawa.
According to the county, six others have also filed similar paperwork for other properties in Palm Beach County.
"The rules are the rules. The rules to foreclose on a multi-million dollar house are the same to foreclose on a $20,000 condo," said Shari Olefson, a real estate lawyer.
Olefson said "adverse possession" was created to help farmers use abandoned land. This latest use on a $2.5 million mansion is a use she expects will grow.
The county said 13 claims were filed in 2011. In 2012, 19 claims for adverse possession were filed. Just days into 2013, six claims have already been filed.
"One of the patterns we've seen is that the people who do it, tend to do it on multiple properties, and over and over again," said Olefson.
At least one state lawmaker is outraged.
"This is not the proper use. This is a mockery and we need to clean it up in Tallahassee," said Florida State Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat.
Sachs voted on 2011 on a bill that attempted to tighten "adverse possession." She said where it falls short is in holding the banks responsible.
"They need to be motivated to move these vacant and abandoned properties so families can move into and fuel our real estate," said Sachs.
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