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The Law That Lets You Legally Steal Houses

The Law That Lets You Legally Steal Houses
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This video was made possible by Dashlane. Stay safe online for 10% off by being one
of the first 200 to use the code, “HAI” at checkout. Here at Half as Interesting, we take a firm
stance against assault, arson, kidnapping, adults napping on subway benches, pickles,
slow walkers, referring to travelators as moving walkways, people using the iPhone alarm
sound as their ringtone, nuclear proliferation, the under toiler paper orientation, wind faster
than 15 miles per hour, murder, mosquitos, referring to personal flotation devices as
life jackets, Bombardier CRJ200’s, square earthers, 3D movies, crocs, the lack of video
editing function on YouTube, under-hydration, and stealing. Well, maybe I should be more specific. Here at Half as Interesting, we don’t condone
stealing when it’s illegal. When stealing is legal, on the other hand,
I mean, go for it. You see, there are times when stealing someone’s
house can be totally, 100% legal. If you’re wondering how, allow me to introduce
you to a little something called “adverse possession.” Adverse possession, commonly called squatter’s
rights, is a legal process whereby a person trespassing on someone else’s property,
if they stay there long enough, actually becomes the legal owner of that property. In other words, if the trespasser trespasses
long enough, they not only become not a trespasser, they also become the owner. It would be like saying that if you pretended
you own a country for long enough, you would actually end up owning that country—*cough*
Britain. Now, in what is the least surprising thing
since the violation of the treaty of Versailles, adverse possession, the principle of sitting
on land long enough until you own it, derives from old English common law. See, back in ye olde days, when lands were
constantly being conquered and pillaged and stolen, it was often hard to know who legally
owned property. So instead of figuring it out, the courts
kind of just shrugged and decided that if someone had managed to live on a piece of
property for long enough, they were probably its rightful owner. Somehow those laws have continued to exist
until today—in several formerly or presently crumpet consuming countries, including England,
Australia, and the United States, adverse possession remains the law of the land. Today, adverse possession is usually used
for minor land disputes between neighbors. For example, if you have a fence that technically
goes a bit into your neighbor’s property, and you’ve maintained that area for several
years, it’s possible you can claim it through adverse possession. But in some cases it can be used for much
more than that, with squatters successfully using it to claim entire houses as their own. Now, I’d like to welcome you to the segment
called, “HAI’s Super Cool, Super Accurate Legal Advice: I’m Not a Lawyer, This Isn’t
Legal Advice, Please Don’t Sue Me.” Before you get all excited and decide you’re
going to steal your neighbor’s house, you should know that there are five specific criteria
that must be met in order for adverse possession to work. First, the possession must be “hostile.” That doesn’t mean you have to invade with
trebuchets, the gentleman’s weapon, but it does mean that you must, in fact, be on
the land without the owner’s permission—you have to actually be trespassing. Otherwise, for example, people who are renting
or borrowing a house might be able to claim ownership under adverse possession. So, pro tip, put a sign up inviting anyone
in and then nobody can claim adverse possession! Criteria dos, the possession must be “actual.” That means that not only must the trespasser
actually be on the property, they also must be using it as if it was their own, and actively
maintaining it. You have to be living there and doing the
stuff that a normal homeowner would do—mending the hedges, mowing the fences, watering the
windows, taking out the lawn, weeding the trash, the normal stuff. Criteria number c, the possession it must
be “open and notorious.” In other words, you can’t be hiding the
fact that you live there. So don’t worry—if somebody is hiding in
your attic for five years, they can’t suddenly take you to court and claim that they own
your house. Open and notorious possession means that the
trespasser must be living there clearly and openly, in such a way that the real owner,
if they were paying any attention at all, would be able to know that they are there
and kick them out. Criteria number IV, the possession must be
“exclusive.” The person or people claiming the property
must be the only ones living there. The owner cannot be living on or using the
property at any point; if they do, then your claim is gone. Which means that if you’ve been on a property
for years waiting to take adverse possession, if the real owner even stops by to use the
bathroom, then the clock starts over again. It is for this reason that in New York, for
example, where there are plenty of privately owned courtyards open to the public, many
of these are barricaded off by their owners once a year just to prove the owner’s domination
of the land so that nobody can live on and subsequently claim the courtyards. And finally, criteria number cinq, the possession
must be “continuous.” You must continuously live on the property
for a certain period of time. That doesn’t mean you can never leave—you
can go to the grocery store or on a normal vacation—but you must be using the property
the way that a normal property owner would. You can’t go to an abandoned house once
or twice over several years and then claim it. How long you have to live there depends on
the state or nation’s laws. It could be as short as five or as long as
forty years. But once you reach that magic number—boom,
you own the place… assuming you succeed in proving you meet the
criteria in a complex and expensive legal process. Nonetheless, people successfully apply the
law of adverse possession all the time in the countries where it exists—often fixing
up and living in abandoned buildings. Now, if you become an adverse possession master
you might end up with quite a few houses and they’d be safe because you’d probably
have a different key to each house. That way if you lose a key, only one of your
houses would be compromised rather than all. If that makes sense, then why would you use
the same password on all your online accounts? You should have different passwords for each
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