DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga.,None - A Douglas County man said he can show anyone how to legally occupy vacant, foreclosed homes. It's a new twist on a scheme Channel 2 Action News exposed last year. Roderick Walker's clients file an Affidavit of Adverse Possession and move right into the house.
"A lot of these houses are just in limbo, it's nobody's house," said Walker. "The bank says it's theirs, which they stole it too, it's fraudulent,"
Walker said he's helped at least 15 people so far, and most haven't had any issues. In fact, Walker said several times police have shown up, looked at the paperwork and then left his clients alone.
"I moved here in July, and I've had no problems whatsoever," said Walker, of his three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home on Mackenzie Court in Douglasville. It was once worth nearly $300,000. Walker paid nothing.
"That sounds a little too good to be true," asked Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
"I hear that all the time, Jodie, all the time," Walker responded. "I get these crazy looks on a lot of people's faces."
He said with his house, the owners just walked away. It hasn't even been foreclosed on yet. He runs a Facebook page advertising his adverse possession services, with pictures of beautiful homes literally for the taking. But it isn't without risk.
Har'rell Chisolm got caught in the bank's eviction process against the prior owner of a house on Prestley Mill Road. Deputies dumped all of Chisolm's belongings on the front lawn, most of which were broken or stolen, while he was in jail for criminal trespassing.
"All my personal papers, everything; I mean my whole entire life is gone," said Chisolm. "It wasn't a fire. It's unacceptable, because all they had to do is do what I was doing. I was following a law, that's it," he added.
Chisolm said he had already notified the sheriff's office and foreclosure attorney that he was challenging ownership on the house. He believes the bank's foreclosure is fraudulent, based on different signatures for a man named Troy Crouse, who was the subject of a Channel 2 investigation, into robo-signing and questionable foreclosures.
"It's not a criminal thing, it's a civil matter," said Chisolm. "They have seven years to contest it and file in superior court, show up with their documents and proof, and then you start the process of eviction. Or I can leave on my own."
He said he still plans to fight the foreclosure in court, and eventually move back in. Under Georgia's Adverse Possession law, if he successfully lives there for seven years, the house legally becomes his.
It's a law originally designed to address property disputes, for example, questions about property lines between neighbors.
"It's a law," said Chisolm. "If they want to no longer have this issue, then they need to do something about getting rid of that law."
But the law does have a stipulation that the adverse possession must not have originated with fraud. It does not specifically define what's fraudulent, or say anything about taking over a house.
Fleischer left several messages for Douglas County District Attorney David McDade to weigh in on the legality of all of this. His assistant said he was unavailable.