A Springdale, Ohio, family was shocked when they returned from a visit to a dying relative to find that a stranger had moved into their house and changed the locks – and even more shocked to learn that the intruder may have the law on his side.
The family, who asked to remain anonymous, is moving to Pittsburgh and a local bank is foreclosing on their home of 21 years in Ohio. However, the bank had nothing to do with emptying the Ohio house and changing the locks – the new "owner" did that.
The situation has escalated into an all out legal battle, with the man saying he has the documents to prove he’s the rightful owner of the family’s home.
A local news group, WLWT-TV, investigated the family’s legal situation and found at least a dozen similar cases linked to the same man.
The new "owner," Robert Carr, began his occupation of the family’s home shortly after they left to visit a relative. He emptied the house, changed the locks and then produced court documents alleging ownership when confronted by the family.
The document Carr showed the family is referred to as a “quiet title,” which can be used in situations involving abandoned property.
More specifically, a “quiet title” is an “action brought by a person in possession of real property against any person who claims ‘an interest’ adverse to him for the purpose of determining such adverse interest,” WLWT-TV explained in a follow-up to their original investigation.
Simply put, Carr is saying he “lives in the properties, everyone knows he lives there and he has lived there long enough to gain the legal right to own it despite having another person say they own the property,” the report added.
The family, of course, disputes these claims.
"What he's looking for is full title and ownership of the home," said the family's attorney, Alison Warner, adding that the family is frightened by the entire ordeal.
"He's in their home. They don't know when he's there. He can be there now," Warner said.
Carr, for his part, has no intention of paying a cent for the home. And this is apparently how he operates, according to WLWT-TV’s investigation.
The report found 11 cases where Carr had filed similar ownership documents, seven on the same day. When the news group went to look at some of these houses, they found Carr had put up “no trespassing” signs – even though he has yet to be listed as the legal owner of those properties.
Carr explained himself to the news team: "When you abandon a property, bam, walk away from it, 'I ain't never coming back. I don't want nothing to do with it,' right? Somebody can come in, 'Oh, mine.'"
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carr is not acting alone.
"I have a team of people who go out and I say make sure the house is empty. If it's empty, change the locks," Carr said.
"You can just come in and change the locks and become owner?" WLTL-TV’s Karin Johnson asked Carr.
“Anybody can,” he replied.
But the Springdale family is not as impressed with Carr’s strategy as he is.
"I feel violated. (I'm) very scared, you know, because I never know if somebody's going to be here," the family said, adding that their legal battle has become a nightmare.
"It's really been hard," the family said.
The family’s lawyer added: "This is stress that has fallen on their shoulders out of nowhere, after the death of a loved one and now they're responsible to answer to this.”
Carr has been charged with breaking and entering in at least one case. He of course disputes the charge.
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Featured image WLWT-TV.