Broward County cracks down on squatters

Property appraiser charging suspects over adverse possession claims

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - The Broward Property Appraiser's Office is cracking down on people claiming adverse possession on vacant and foreclosed homes.

Sylvio Savidis bought a $2 million fixer upper in Hollywood in December. He arrived home last Thursday to find it crowded with strangers having a party.

"There's people everywhere. There's a party going on," he said. "They came up to me cursing at me, 'Who the F are you?' they said. I said, 'Am I hearing this right? Am I at the right house? This is the house.' At the point, I lost it. I went blank."

The squatters had removed the realtor's sign, broke open the back gate of the waterfront home, and were living inside. When Hollywood police responded, the squatters produced paperwork showing they owned the home.

"They had paperwork from court saying they were allowed to be here," said realtor Johanna Levy. "I was in shock."

"These people had more right than we did," added Savidis. "We weren't allowed on the premises when they were here."

It's the latest case of trespassers using Florida's adverse possession statute.

"They're trying to throw people out of their own homes. That's not going to happen," said Ron Cacciatore, who heads the Broward Property Appraiser's Office's investigate unit.

Cacciatore said the office has been flooded with adverse possession cases -- after only 30 filings in 2012, there's been 36 so far in 2013.

He said the office will press charges against those people who lie on the forms.

"These are official forms from the state of Florida, from the Department of Revenue," said Cacciatore. "If they falsely file them, it's perjury, and we're going to go after them and indict them."

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