Squatters and Other Insane Money-Related Situations

squattersEvery now and again there are some money-related stories that make you stop and take notice. In some cases, you just might shake your head at what you’re reading. I just recently read one that fit the latter category.

There was an interesting write-up on Yahoo! Finance about how a man purchased a home, only to find out that the locks were changed before he could move in. And no, this wasn’t some innocent mix-up. Rather, there were squatters in his house who apparently took temporary “possession” of it.

According to the story, the guy bought the house and then brought in a contractor to do some work on it. Unfortunately, his plans were thwarted by squatters who had decided to move into the apparently vacant home. They even set up their own utility service there.

Now, to me this is just crazy. How can you buy a home, and then find out that some interlopers have moved in? After all, they didn’t own it.

It gets better. The guy went to the police, which would have been my next step. Unfortunately, he was told that they couldn’t do much about it. His next step would be contacting an attorney and getting the legal system involved.

You know, I would have thought that this was trespassing, and that these squatters would be kicked out immediately. To me, this seems logical. They were living in someone else’s home, on that person’s property. Yet, they couldn’t just be quickly removed by the law.

It seems as though squatters actually have some rights in certain cases, which doesn’t make much sense to me either. In a truly long-term situation, adverse possession could apply. While the article said this guy likely to prevail, it clearly would be a complete nuisance and waste of time and money to fight for the right to take control of the home you purchased!

Now, when people lose their homes due to financial circumstances, I feel a bit differently about it. I get why people would want to fight to stay in their homes as long as possible for the sake of their family. However, squatters who just take over a home that they clearly don’t own? No, that’s very different.

But, that’s apparently a real, potential issue that can come up in home sales!

This is yet another example of how anything can happen, and knowing to expect the unexpected can be a key life and personal finance lesson.  Things happen.

Two other Examples

We can also learn from this and take extra steps to be careful when buying something. I previously wrote about homebuyers who went through a home inspection and walk-through, and thought everything was fine – other than the weird furniture placement that the sellers had in the home. Later, after closing, they discovered that the furniture arrangement was strategic in that it covered massive pet stains.

Buyer beware!

Another example of caveat emptor, unrelated to real estate, was the purchase of a camera by someone I traveled with years ago. This individual was part of a group I was with traveling to Hong Kong, and he bought a camera. Or, so he thought. Given that he was younger and only spoke English (like myself and the rest of us), he was an easy target. When he opened the box, it ended up being just a box of rocks. Yes, rocks.

My takeaway from all of this is that things don’t always go as planned, and that there are those rare, infrequent times when people try to get away with taking advantage of others when exchanging money for goods (or real estate). It reminds me of a football analogy, where someone is running down the field for an easy touchdown but fumbles the ball at the one yard line due to either carelessness or simply accidentally.

The bottom line is that we should pay close attention and understand that when there is some wiggle room, crazy things can happen – so we should be prepared!

My Questions for You

Have you ever witnessed or heard of any crazy, devious attempts to rip someone off?

If so, what were the circumstances (without specific names of course)?

What do you think of the idea that squatters can wreak havoc with the lives of property owners?