Six houses in Jacksonville are the latest involved in a controversial property swap known as adverse possession.
Some people say it's perfectly legal, while others call it squatting, which can be a crime.
Adverse possession is when homes have been abandoned and someone takes them over. They usually rent them out to unsuspecting tenants who have no idea their landlord does not own the house.
Channel 4 has been following several cases for more than a year, and as a result of that, the state attorney's office is now involved trying to keep it from happening.
"They see an abandoned house that was either in foreclosure, short sale or something else, take advantage of the status of that. You know, that's hard for the homeowner," State Attorney Angela Corey said. "Then they would go cut the locks off and move in, claiming ownership under this adverse possession statue. If the law is followed, people don't have to worry, but cutting locks off and moving in, we consider that a crime and continue to vigorously pursue those types of cases."
Rosemary McCoy, a real estate broker, says she is working with a client who has taken over six properties. She claims her client has done so legally.
"This is not squatting. This is taking that dang gone property adversely," McCoy said. "You make everyone known you are taking the property."
Channel 4's Jim Piggott looked in to whether McCoy and her client are following the rules.
Part of the requirement for adverse possession is to pay back taxes. In a house on the Westside for which McCoy's client is claiming adverse possession, taxes have not been paid this year, and they were paid by a mortgage company the year before. It's the same case for another of the six houses. The taxes have not been paid at least for this year.
Piggott checked with several mortgage companies listed for some of the properties to see if they've been notified of the takeover. They are checking but say they have not and would not allow it if they were.
McCoy was angry in a phone interview Friday, saying "we were jealous that they were getting to take over homes for free," Piggott said. She said they are paying the taxes and had shown some of the receipts on Wednesday. But she did say today they've only done that for three of the houses.
Corey and police are investigating these latest cases to see if a crime has been committed, but they believe by bringing these to light, the problem might go away in the future.