Neighbor uses adverse possession to protect his own property

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on February 9, 2012 at 11:53 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 2 at 6:55 PM

DALLAS - There's no question that the white brick home on Woodlake Drive is the neighborhood eyesore, but what Chris Attig did to try to clean it up has created a lot of suspicion.

"My goal is to bring out the owner and have him step forward and say, 'We're going to take responsibility and fix this,'" Attig said.

The house needs repairs.

Ally Bank, formerly known as GMAC, owns the $269,000 house, according to the Dallas Central Appraisal District, but it has been vacant for two years.

The City of Dallas Codes Department told News 8 the property has three outstanding violations for rotting wood, litter, and a dirty pool.

Attig said he has watched it fall apart from next door.

"I'm afraid that nobody's going to step up and try to fix this property, and it'll continue to be a threat to my family and all the families who are around here," Attig said.

After he witnessed a break-in there last August, which spilled over into his own lawn, Attig filed an affidavit for "adverse possession" and essentially laid claim to the vacant house.

Attig said he doesn't plan to live in it or lease it out, but he's using the adverse possession law  to protect his own property value.

"I'm going to do what I can on the outside," Attig explained. "I'm not going to go inside without the police, because I don't want to trespass in somebody else's house."

Only a few people in Dallas have used the little-known law of adverse possession, according to Dallas County Clerk John Warren. But Warren added that he stopped accepting claims last fall.

Attig told News 8 that he will drop his claim on the house as soon as someone comes forward to maintain the property.

But some neighbors fear he's only holding it hostage.

Attig chained the doors shut, paid the $3,000 tax bill and almost $2,000 for a new fence.

He's uncertain if he'll ever recoup those costs, but said he refuses to let one deteriorating house drag down the value of his own.

Ally Bank hasn't been able to tell us when the property might get sold or whether it will start spending its own money to maintain the house.

A spokeswoman for the bank said it could not find any record of adverse possession on file. Late Thursday, the county clerk removed Attig's claim from the official record.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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