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How to Steal a House and (Almost) Get Away With It

Police put an end to a Georgia woman's elaborate foreclosure squatting plan

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

There are laws in every state that allow people to legally claim ownership of property simply by occupying it. These are most usually called adverse possession laws, and operate under the notion that if someone takes over and improves upon an unused or otherwise abandoned property, they deserve legal right to that property. Enter the foreclosure crisis.

Georgia resident Susan Loraine Weidman connected those dots and hatched an elaborate plan to take over and rent out three foreclosed properties in metropolitan Atlanta. Beginning last December, Weidman identified a number of foreclosed houses and eventually filed the paperwork to acquire them through adverse possession.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Weidman allegedly went so far as to find accomplices to falsely “rent” the properties, creating phony leases, a fake property management company and a nonexistent law firm to threaten anyone who asked questions with legal action.

Weiden was indicted this week on racketeering charges, and two of her accomplices have also been charged.

In an interview last month with a local television station, Weiden argued that her actions shouldn’t be misconstrued as criminal, and that the banks claiming ownership of these homes shouldn’t have the right to them.

“What right does [a] bank have to be collecting on houses where the mortgage was predatorily loaned to begin with?” Weiden told WSBTV.

As you might expect, local law enforcement see things differently, and are currently holding Weiden in DeKalb County jail on no bond.

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.