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Michelle Pinder, Florida Homeowner, Finds Squatters In House The Night Before Closing Sale

11/09/2012 12:01 pm ET

After her mother passed away, Michelle Pinder was anxious to sell her mom's home and move on with her life. But when a realtor came to do a final round of checks the day before the sale closed, she was greeted by a startling surprise.

“I show up and there are people outside and the door is open and I’m like what’s going on? Why are people in this house? I go up to them and ask them excuse me who are you?” Brittany Barreto, Pinder’s realtor, told CBS4 News.

Ibet Flores Castano, the woman living in Pinder’s house with her young daughter and another man, presented authorities with an alleged lease and said she paid rent in cash for the property to a man who alleged to be the owner. Unfortunately, the the phone number the supposed "landlord" provided belongs to a store that claims to have never heard of him and his address doesn’t exist.

Pinder is taking the case to court, but the buyers of her mother’s property are threatening to walk away from the deal.

In the state of Florida, citizens are legally allowed to take ownership of a deserted piece of property, the Florida Times-Union reports. The original purpose of the law, known as adverse possession, was to allow people to live in deserted houses in order to revitalize neighborhoods where homes had been abandoned. The law requires tenants to pay taxes and have consent from the property's owner.

In the wake of the housing crisis in Florida, the law has paved the way for some to illegally claim ownership over the many foreclosed or vacant properties across the state, the Insurance Journal reports.

In 2011, nearly 20 percent of Florida houses were vacant due to foreclosures and abandonment, CNNMoney reports. In March, three people were arrested for illegally taking over not one, but five of Florida’s vacant homes to live in or rent out to others, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

Squatting is a problem in other abandoned neighborhoods across the country as well. A homeowner in Detroit who abandoned her rundown home returned to find a woman had moved in and refused to leave. The squatter changed the locks and put in new appliances.

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