Let's say the house is only worth $200,000. Somebody is out $200,000 with little to no recourse. Just because this guy broke in and moved in an old couch. And you see no down side?
So the guy with 200K on the line has no rights? Multiply that by a million. Do you still see no down side?
What about the neighboring property owners? Do you think this guy is going to keep up the property? What do you think is going to happen to the value of their properties? Would you like a squatter with no "skin in the game" living next door to you? Multiply that by a million.
Do you see the down side? If stuff like this becomes the norm, its all over. Sell ALL your real estate, gather your guns and your family and head for the hills.
Ummm, No. They have all the normal property owner's rights. All the legal owner has to do is EXERCISE those rights, showing up to the door, and telling the guy to move, or any number of things... would do it. Or posting a "no trespassing" sign, ANY sign they care about the property...and showed up, would nullify this guy's right to the old English law of "adverse possession."
This is a many hundreds of years old legal principle, serving the public good, which makes for not having abandoned unused property--by owners who don't care to exercise ownership.
If you have a field, for example, next to my farm, and, I let my cattle onto your field, WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION, but, you were in a position to know (ie. the cattle were there all the time, not secretly) AND you never objected, never showed up, and never walked across the field, never put up any sign or fence or repair or a change of any kind...then voila, over a set period of time set in law, (3 years in this guy's case) the land legally can become mine. (I actually know of a field where this happened (not to me!), in pricey Loudoun County, Va.)
Most of the states (all except Louisiana?) have it, as it is very old law, inherited from English law, and a pretty good principle (not allowing functionally abandoned real-estate) for the public good. This is especially relevant to America, where most of the land ownership originally involved squatters of some kind...
This is also where we get the very old saying, possession is 9/10s of the law...
I used to have a Real Estate license, and I recall first learning of this surprising law...and reacting against it. However when you really think about it, its a good thing.