This dude exploited an ancient Roman law to seize a dead woman's home and then sell it for a big profit
· Dec 14, 2023 ·

I know the real estate market is crazy, even in England, but this feels like a bit much:

A man in the U.K., who took over a retiree's empty home in London and gained legal ownership of it under a "quirky" ancient Roman law, has sold the property for a profit, local media reports.

A British construction worker identified as Keith Best spotted an empty three-bedroom, semi-detached home in London's Newbury Park back in 1997 while working a construction job nearby, according to Express. Best began renovating the property and ultimately moved his family into the home in 2012.

Can we just pause for a moment and give some props to Mrs. Keith Best, who, if we're being honest, has apparently put up with a lot in that marriage?

Well, apparently it all worked out in the end, at least for the Bests. It had originally belonged to another homeowner, Colin Curtis, who had more or less abandoned it.

Curtis, who died at age 80 in 2018, lived at the property with his mom, Doris, until her death in the 1980s, then stayed there until 1996 before moving out. He continued to pay property taxes on the home even though he rarely ever visited.

In 1997, Keith Best saw the property was empty and decided to make it his own, citing the alleged Roman law that allows "someone in possession of a good without title to become the lawful proprietor if the original owner didn't show up after some time."

(Gotta be honest, that sounds pretty vague. Not sure that should hold up in court.)

Apparently British judges feel differently! Best won ownership of the home and lived in it for years with his family until Curtis or someone else finally noticed and took him to court.

In 2014, however, a judge said that because issues of squatters are civil (not criminal) cases and Best had lived there for at least 10 years without any action on the part of Curtis to remove him, the home was now legally his.

In addition to this, Curtis had never applied to become the administrator of his mother's will, which had left the home to him.

And when he eventually sold his he made quite a lot of money:

The home was worth roughly £400,000 when Best took over the property. He sold the home to Atiq Hayat, 35, for £540,000 - the equivalent of roughly $682,000 - meaning he made a profit of roughly £140,000, or $177,000, the Daily Mail found.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding this, but wouldn't Best's profit actually be the total value of the house? If he didn't pay for it at all, then his profit wasn't $177,000, it was the full $682,000, right?

Perhaps I'm missing something here. In any event, $117k or $682k, the guy made a bundle. But he didn't win any favors with the neighbors, who apparently felt some sympathy for the family that used to live there:

"This house has a very troubled past because there is no way Best should have got his hands on it for free. A lot of people around here are still very angry that he was allowed to get away with it and that the law backed him.

Doris would have been turning in her grave. They were a very hardworking, east end family and her descendants should have benefited from this house."

Even the home's current owner, who purchased the property from Best, was baffled by the situation, telling media: "It doesn't make sense to me. How could the courts have just allowed him to become the legal owner?"

That's European law for you, folks!

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