Virginia Beach landowners struggle to sell property due to squatter

10 On Your Side

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — What if you want to sell your property, but you have a squatter on the property, and you can’t sell it until the squatter is gone? That is the problem for two Virginia Beach landowners.

For years, Everette Brown and Curtis Wilson have been trying to get a squatter to leave, but for years the squatter has been successful at not only staying, but improving the structure he has built on the property.

“It’s obviously a threat,” says landowner Everette Brown. Brown is standing on a ladder on his property looking over a fence. There’s a doll in a tree, with a noose around its neck.

“It’s interpreted by us as a warning to us. Mike has made other threats to us in the past.”

“Mike” is Mike Bateman, who WAVY interviewed back in 2015 for an unrelated story. What he has accomplished is simply amazing, and puzzling and concerning all at the same time. He has built an elaborate structure on property that is not his.

“It’s illegal. We have laws that protect us from these things, but they’re not being enforced through our Virginia Beach city officials,” Brown said.

Brown complained about what he called the illegal construction, and met with then director of Planning and Community Development Barry Frankenfield on October 31, 2017,

“[Virginia Beach City Officials] said they were going to do something about it, and they absolutely have not done anything about it,” Brown said with disgust.

In an email WAVY obtained, Frankenfield, who has since retired, called Bateman’s structure an unauthorized dwelling.

“Unauthorized Dwelling: We have coordinated efforts with our City Attorney, Housing and Neighborhood Preservation and Permits and Inspections,” Frankenfield wrote. “We are preparing notices of Violation with language required for demolition. The notices will be posted, mailed and advertised for two weeks. The notices will give the adjacent property owner and the person living in the structure 30 days to demolish the structure. If the structure is not demolished in 30 days then the City will provide a contractor to demolish the structure. Our goal is to have the actual demolition take place at the end of this year or early next year.”

That email was two and a half years ago, and nothing has happened.

“This is not only unsightly, but it is a health hazard,” says Brown. That is true. There is no running water, which is a reason to condemn a property,

“There are no facilities out here. I mean where is he using the bathroom?”

If that is not enough, the City of Virginia Beach goes further. In a classic case of right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, one month after Frankenfield called Bateman’s structure an unauthorized dwelling, the same Planning Department allows Bateman, on November 30, 2017, to get a permit for a Dominion Energy utility pole.  

Bateman then gets an electric meter, and the city assigns him an address, 214 St. Pauls Street, to establish an electric power account. Bateman’s account is currently active, WAVY learned. Frankenfield did not return a call asking for comment.

Brown’s attorney Sonny Stallings is stunned by what Virginia Beach allowed Bateman to do.

“In three years the city hasn’t been out here to see what they gave a permit for. Where are they? Where are the city inspectors?” Stallings asked.

The city refused repeated requests for an on-camera interview, but city spokesperson Julie Hill did send this message:

“It looks like a temporary power pole was issued to the property at the end of the street. This property was assigned a temporary address (214 St. Pauls) by the Planning Department.  The permit was issued to a customer that was claiming to be the property owner; however, they have since been determined not to be. The permit was issued on 11/30/2017, likely on misrepresented facts. Since the person pulling the permit was not authorized, and therefore the permit not valid, Dominion has been contacted and is expected to remove the temporary pole.”

To that Stallings says: “I think the only reasons it has been determined [that Michael Bateman is not the property owner entitled to a power meter] is because what you and channel 10 have done to show them this. The fact that you came out here and put a camera on it and all of a sudden oh, we made mistake.”

Hill also wrote: “the permit … issued … likely on misrepresented facts.”

Hill refused to say anymore, but WAVY went to Bateman to ask him about “misrepresented facts.”

Bateman was leaving the property with his dog in his hand and not happy to see us.

We asked, “Mike, what I want to know is: what you said to the city in order to get the power/. You are squatting on someone else’s property that you do not own,” to which Bateman said nothing.   

Bateman walked to a white pickup truck at the end of street, and got in.

Hill finally concludes in the email: “Since the person pulling the permit was not authorized, and therefore the permit not valid, Dominion has been contacted.”

Following our investigation, the power meter was removed, and shortly after that Bateman left the property. As he was leaving, we asked Bateman, “Can you please tell me how you got the power turned on in your name on that property?” Bateman responded, “Get out my face, dude.”

Stallings remains incredulous. “The city would let someone who walked in with no credentials, no deed, no anything and says I own this property give me temporary power permit? The city better tighten their system down there.”

Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris sent WAVY a statement via email Monday afternoon:

“As you know customer information is confidential. I can tell you that when someone qualifies for electric service, we have an obligation to provide it if all necessary qualification are met. First it goes through Dominion Energy’s internal process, then to the municipality for a permit and electrical inspection. Once it passes the inspection, Dominion Energy is authorized to provide power.

It’s unusual for a permit to be revoked. but can happen if a local governing authority reviews it and requests the service be de-energized. “

– Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris

Stallings remains troubled that what happened here, he thinks it could only happen in a less affluent neighborhood, and it goes to the heart of who has pull and who does not.

“If the neighbors had any political power, this would have been gone in 24 hours, but because they don’t have political power it’s been ignored. This would not have been ignored in Bay Colony I can assure you of that.”

On Friday, Stallings, his clients and Mike Bateman are expected to be in a Virginia Beach courtroom.  

They are bringing a criminal trespass charge against Bateman.  Bateman is claiming he has adverse possession of the property, that he has been on the property continuously for 20 years.  Stallings says that is absolutely not true, and it is clear from Google Earth that the first evidence of any structure in that spot was April 2013. To get adverse possession of the property, it must be for 20 years without being ordered to leave the property, and Bateman was officially asked to leave the property in 2017. 

“There is no 20 years of Mr. Bateman being on that property, and he should leave immediately,”  Stallings said.

Watch Andy Fox’s report tonight at 6.


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