A judge in Delaware has ordered a businessman to hand over a $125,000 parcel of land to his neighbour after she claimed squatter’s rights.
Burton Banks, an Atlanta-based financial advisor, inherited the uninhabited plot of land in Ocean View, Delaware, from his father, Ralph.
In 2021 Banks decided he wanted to sell the land but discovered that his neighbour Melissa Schrock was using around two-thirds of an acre and had erected a pen for her goats.
Banks took her to court to try and reclaim the land, but Schrock claimed squatter’s rights.
Superior Court Judge Craig Karsnitz ruled in February in Schrock’s favour, noting that Banks lived primarily in Atlanta and ‘only occasionally’ came to the Delaware site. Karsnitz felt Schrock met the threshold in proving her 20-year occupation, Delaware Online reported.
Banks said he was speaking out to warn others to take action and make sure their property was not squatted on. ‘I can’t afford the appeal,’ said Banks.
‘But (I’m) hoping I can at least warn others.’
In an interview with Dailymail.com, Schrock said that the land had always been her backyard since she was a little kid. She grazed her goats on the land for over 20 years, leading to the court ruling in her favor.
Serena Williams, a law professor at Widener University in Delaware specialising in housing law, said property owners needed to be vigilant.
‘Inspect it regularly,’ Williams said. ‘If you see something you haven’t permitted – a tree you haven’t planted, objects you haven’t placed there − make sure to remove it because that’s the beginning of adverse possession.’