Flower Mound Leader > News
Court gives squatter one week to leave, appeal (updated)
ROANOKE -- The most prolific Flower Mound squatter may be moving on.
Justice of the Peace J.W. Hand on Monday ruled that Kenneth Robinson has until Feb. 14 to leave the $340,000 home in the Waterford Park Estates subdivision he has been living in since the summer, or Bank of America can force him out.
Robinson moved into an empty foreclosed home in the 2200 block of Waterford Drive in June after the owner had vacated the property. Robinson took advantage of a Texas law known as adverse possession, or "squatter's rights," in which someone can claim ownership of an abandoned home if certain criteria are met. Among those is filing an adverse possession affidavit, which cost $16.
Bank of America began foreclosure proceedings and acquired the property Jan. 3. Bank officials sent Robinson a notice to vacate in late January, but he did not.
Following Monday's ruling, Robinson has until Feb. 13 to appeal the decision by posting a $8,917 bond, an amount that takes into account estimated rent, bond and fees for two months.
Robinson was not at the hearing. But some of his neighbors were.
"I'm glad this finally took place," said Chris Custard, a resident of Waterford Park. "But it's sad that they have to wait a week. Nobody was happy with him being there."
Custard added that he and neighbors saw two vans and several cars at the home during the weekend, a sign that Robinson may have already moved out.
Various media reports Monday state that Robinson did in fact move out. Custard said there were never hostile incidents between Robinson and the neighbors, though he said Robinson called the police on the neighbors when they approached him. He said Flower Mound police initially took Robinson's key from him but later returned it after researching the law.
Capt. Kurt Labhart of the Flower Mound Police Department said police couldn't do anything about the situation at the time since it was a civil matter and since Robinson had followed the procedures for an adverse possession.
Custard said he wishes Denton County could evict squatters like Robinson sooner, much like Tarrant County has.
"Nobody is happy with this situation," Custard said. "You have to live a certain quality of life to live here. But he came in and paid $16 to move in, and that's not right."
The foreclosure amount for the home was $409,206.
Not only did Robinson live in the Flower Mound home, but it is believed he taught others how to take advantage of squatter's rights to do the same thing. However, some of the people who followed his advice -- Robinson gave seminars and has a website discussing the strategy -- weren't so fortunate.
Tarrant County officials have arrested eight individuals for trying the same scheme, said Tarrant County Constable Clint Burgess.
The county stopped accepting the affidavits in November after doing some research on the subject, though it hasn't stopped individuals from trying the plan. Denton County is still accepting the documents.
"They are legitimate, and we can't stop accepting a legal document if they can be recorded and meet the requirements," Denton County clerk Cynthia Mitchell said.
Mitchell said Denton County hasn't received such documents since news broke of the situations in Tarrant County. She said if someone submits one, they will be handed off to a legal team for review, and at that point they will be recorded or rejected.
Burgess said the law, which was originally established for border disputes, has been misunderstood.
"This law is mostly dealing with property that has been abandoned," Burgess said. "But this hasn't been abandoned. It's been unoccupied, but there is still an owner. It needs to be vacant for 10 years, and in this day and age, there is no way this house would be un-owned for that long."
Burgess said the problem with these situations is often finding the owner and the mortgage holder.
But he said rules may change soon.
"We're going to change the law in the next [legislative] cycle," Burgess said.
Until then, he said, more district court hearings such as the one Monday will be required.
"This can't take place until a claim is heard," Burgess said. "That will solve the problem. But every legislator agrees that this needs to change."
In the meantime, others are copying Robinson's lead.
One couple who attended the hearing said they believe the same situation is taking place in the Grand Park subdivision in Flower Mound, located in the southeast corner of Dixon Lane and Morriss Road.
It's unclear if Robinson is involved in that situation or if he is doing the same thing somewhere else. But if he is ...
"I guarantee it's not in Tarrant County," Custard said.