The Donovans, a Colorado family that moved to Indiana for work in 2012, was informed by a neighbor that squatters had moved into their vacant home. When they sent the police the squatters showed them an affidavit for adverse possession, which was enough to scare the officers off even though it was bogus. The Donovans then had a court declare the document false and moved to have the sheriff evict. When he went to carry out the court order the squatters filed for bankruptcy, further prolonging their illegal stay. Experts say the process is not uncommon and that homeowners should get the matter into court as soon as possible when it occurs. For more on this continue reading the following article from JDSupra.
A family that has been frustrated in their months-long efforts to remove squatters from their home may finally gain satisfaction later this month, after the occupiers used every twist and turn of the law they could find to avoid moving out.
Troy and Dayna Donovan left behind their home in Littleton, Colorado last August and moved to Indiana for work. This March, they got a rude surprise when a neighbor called to let them know that a family had moved into the vacated property. The Donovans had been working on a deed in lieu of foreclosure with their bank, but hadn’t yet turned over the property and were still the official owners. Veronica Fernandez-Beleta and Jose Levya Caraveo had taken over the home illegally in November, according to court documents. The Donovans called the police.
When the police showed up at the house, however, the family inside showed them an affidavit of adverse possession, meaning that they had legally taken over ownership of the house by living in it. Put off by the official-looking document, the police declined to remove the squatters.
The affidavit was bogus. In Colorado, adverse possession can be used to take over a property after seven years of residing there and paying taxes, or 18 years of openly occupying the home without the owner’s permission. The new family had been squatting less than a year. The police, however, wouldn’t step into what looked like a civil dispute, so the Donovans had to take their case to court. On July 12, a court dismissed the adverse possession documents and ordered the squatters out within 48 hours.
It didn’t happen. When the sheriff finally moved to evict the squatters, they pulled a neat trick by filing for bankruptcy – preventing the eviction and setting off another potentially lengthy court process. The Donovans, meanwhile, lived in a friend’s basement after moving back to Colorado to deal with the situation.
However, the bankruptcy filing looks just as bogus as the adverse possession documents, prompting the bankruptcy trustee requested an emergency hearing, scheduled for August 23. “Generally speaking United States Trustee is very careful not to take sides on particular issues on particular cases unless they think there is something going on that really impairs the integrity of the process,” says Brad Schacht, a commercial litigation and bankruptcy attorney in Denver. “In this case, the trustee has asked for an emergency hearing to determine that these people have no legal interest in the property and should not be protected by the bankruptcy court.” If all goes well the Donovans might finally get their house back in a week or so.
Scams Across America
The squatter scam faced by the Donovan family is not an isolated incident. In the request for an expedited hearing, the trustee notes that he has seen “a recent uptick of squatters moving into vacant homes and using the bankruptcy process to prolong their occupation,” which he calls “an affront to the bankruptcy system.”
Included with the court documents is an 18-count indictment against one Alfonso Alvarez Carrillo and alleged co-conspirators for theft, criminal trespass and burglary, as well as a racketeering charge for various real estate scams.
Carrillo signed the squatters’ bogus adverse possession document using the title “President and Trust Officer of America’s Home Retention Service.” Fernandez-Beleta and Levya Caraveo said they paid him $5,000 for the document.
If your house is taken over by squatters, make sure you act sooner rather than later. “The first step is, you call the police,” Schacht says. “Then if whoever is in your house presents legal documents and the police say they can’t do anything about this, you really need to engage an attorney immediately.”
“If [squatters] are clever enough, they may be able to delay eviction by a month, six weeks, something like that,” says the attorney. “The sooner you deal with the problem the more likely you are to get the attention of the courts and more likely to get the courts to move as quickly as they can . . . It’s unfortunate but it’s the kind of thing that has to work its way through the court system.”
This article was republished with permission from JDSupra.