A man in the United States lost his more than $100,000 property after his neighbor claimed squatter’s rights during a court battle over the parcel. According to New York PostBurton Banks, an Atlanta-based financial advisor, was forced to transfer to Melissa Schrock the title of the undeveloped land he inherited from his late father due to the little-known adverse possession code in Delaware.
As per the outlet, in 2021, Mr Burton and his husband David Barrett decided they wanted to sell the plot of land, which sits empty and undeveloped. However, they discovered that around two-thirds of an acre, worth about $125,000, was being used by his neighbor, who had erected a pen for her goats on the land for decades.
When Ms Schrock refused to leave the land for weeks, Mr Burton lodged a complaint to force her to scram. He took her to court to try and reclaim his property, however, Ms Schrock claimed squatter’s rights. Notably, in Delaware, squatter’s rights, known in the law as adverse possession, allow people to claim ownership of property that is not technically theirs by occupying it for at least 20 years.
“It’s just always been my backyard since I was a little kid,” Ms. Schrock said, as per Delaware Online.
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In February, Mr Burton was forced to transfer the title after a Delaware Superior Court judge ruled that his neighbor, Melissa Schrock, had a claim to the property. The judge noted that Mr Burton and his spouse lived primarily in Atlanta and “only occasionally” came to the Delaware site. Their rare visit to the state made it hard for them to convince the courts that Ms. Schrock had not freely used the land for the last couple of decades.
Mr Burton’s said that now he can’t afford an appeal, but he hopes he can at least warn others. He revealed that his father left an adjacent lot to Ms. Schrock’s mother, who later died and left the property to her daughter. Another neighbor also had an animal enclosure that encroached on the property, but that person agreed to remove it, unlike Ms. Schrock.
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