'16 Dollar House' Squatter Gets the Boot

Image: 16dollarhouse.com via CBS News.

Things you can buy for $16: A monthly subscription to Netflix (one DVD at a time and streaming); a ticket (senior, non-peak) to see “Hugo” at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood; an 8.4-ounce bottle of Kiehl’s miracle-working Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion; a little less than 4.5 gallons of regular gasoline in Georgia; and in the ritzy Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, a 3,200-square-foot McMansion complete with a backyard pool.

Okay, so if you don’t already know the story of Kenneth Robinson, AKA the “poised, measured, insightful and wise” gentleman behind the $16 Dollar House: he didn’t actually buy the abandoned property — the previous owner walked out on his mortgage and the mortgage company itself went belly-up — back in June for less than the cost of a standard oil change. He paid $16 to file a one-page “affidavit of adverse possession” that essentially allowed him to move into the property, squatting essentially, as long as he kept the lawn neat and tidy and paid taxes and homeowner’s association fees, according to CBS.

And for past eight months, Robinson, 51, had been living the mortgage- and rent-free dream, turning his housing scheme into an adverse possession-themed cottage industry that resulted in a hot-selling, self-published e-book, “Open and Notorious: Kenneth Robinson on Adverse Possession" and speaking engagements.

Robinson, in the Dallas area at least, is considered by many to be a bona fide real estate folk hero and has managed to spawn numerous imitators who have used "squatter's rights" as a means to claim abandoned homes. Sometimes the properties aren’t even actually abandoned like in the case of a nurse who left her Arlington, Texas, home for a few days only to return to find that the locks had been changed and two televisions were missing. Ouch. The man who had claimed the home in her absence via an adverse possession filing told her that the home was now his and that she was trespassing. He was later arrested. According to the Associated Press, the whole adverse possession craze has gotten so out of hand in North Texas that county clerks have stopped processing the filings without prosecutors’ approval.

But back to Robinson. As reported pretty much all over the place, yesterday the former marine and self-taught real estate investor who lives by the motto “Always and forever I AM ...Nothing less, but a whole lot more,” was ordered by a judge to either vacate the home or appeal by Feb. 13 after lienholder Bank of America foreclosed on it last month. Robinson quickly vacated the home without protest. Although he hasn’t been charged with any crimes, real estate experts are quick to point out that Robinson misused adverse possession. Arlington-based real estate attorney Grey Pierson tells the AP that the rather obscure law is used to settle rows between feuding neighbors over lawns, driveways, and other areas with shared boundaries — not to take over an entire house.

Remarked Robinson: “They think some bum off the street came and paid $15 to get a $300,000 house by filing a piece of paperwork. That is not the case. That is the sum of what happened.”

You’ve got to wonder where Robinson, who describes himself as a millionaire on his website, will go next. A $14 house outside of Vegas, perhaps? What do you think of this whole ordeal? Is Robinson a genius who beat the system or nothing more than a scuzzball squatter?