The squatter phenomenon that began with current recession and is reminiscent of the great depression is still going strong according to an article in “In These Times”. Squatters are people who move into vacant homes and refuse to get out until someone evicts them or pays them. There are plenty of these homes to choose from now in California and many other states due to the ongoing foreclosure crisis. These squatters are often violent, angry, and sometimes hardened criminals.
In an article about a case right here in San Diego a squatter moved into a foreclosed home and refused to get out until he was paid $25,000 for “cash for keys”. Banks rarely pay former homeowners more than $5000 for this. This squatter was arrested fortunately but many others are not. Another article in FOX 5 News told of a Broker that has been attacked by violent squatters when he was checking on a vacant home for a client.
I wrote in a previous blog ( http://bit.ly/JdF7ea ) what a big headache it is for a homeowner when a squatter moves in and takes over the property. In the end you may have to pay for an eviction the because the cops don’t want to get involved in a legal dispute between you and the squatter. This is especially true when the squatters create phony rental agreements to say that they have a legal right to occupy your property. During the eviction process the homeowner has to support the squatters by paying the bills for the home until the eviction is over and the sheriff comes to throw them out.
These realities are the same for a bank which takes over a foreclosed home that a squatter moves into. And worse it can happen to an investor who buys a foreclosed home at a foreclosure sale. They may try to move in but find that someone has beaten them to it and that someone may have one of these phony rental agreements. Then a legal eviction would be required to remove the squatters. Of course once the eviction is finalized the homeowners will find a completely ruined, trashed, and vandalized homes. Indeed some of these homes are gutted by the squatters.
Technically these people are trespassers but it is difficult to prove that when they have the lies and phony rental agreements. Cops won’t remove them in these circumstances and owners have to go through the legal process of eviction. I used to do evictions in San Diego and I know what a mess they can be especially if the squatters hire an attorney who can fight and delay the process.
Worse than this though is the phenomenon written about in the “In These Times” article. This is the political movement that is growing up around these squatters and their takeover of these vacant homes. In the article they talk about a woman who has occupied a vacant home in Chicago’s south side with the help of a group called “Liberate the south side”. The article states that this group “targets vacant homes for reoccupation”. The home apparently had been vacant and the group put money into renovating the home.
The article points out that this is happening across the nation in cities like Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis (and apparently here in San Diego too). And it is also a global movement. They talk about highly organized groups with “squatting offices” in Spain where they coordinate squatting for squatters. Similar movements are happening in Ireland too.
These political movements are much more disconcerting than the individual criminal squatters that occupy and then extort. Law enforcement can take care of them more easily but large groups of squatters who hold sit-ins, occupy homes in large numbers, and refuse to get out can be much more dangerous. They hold up signs and they come up with names like “sovereign women of the republic of california” or “poor people’s economic human rights campaign” .
I wrote about these groups in a previous blog (http://bit.ly/I5nsoT ). They are now buoyed by the Occupy movement and they are now and were then calling housing a “human right”. I presume that this means to them that houses should be free or supplied by the government like health care and eventually everything else. If these people were to get their way and occupy these homes permanently then what about everyone else who is paying rent? Won’t they want their free housing?
In my previous blog I warned about the reality of what really happens when houses are occupied by squatters. First of all utilities are shut off because they are not provided for free so squatters often live in the dark and cold with overflowing toilets and they still refuse to get out. Some of these could move into your vacant home sometime before you can find a renter so be wary! If the have a political movement behind them demanding free housing because it is their “human right” them they could be even more difficult to get out of your home.
I recommend anyone with any kind of vacant property check their home regularly to see of this is happening. If the entire neighborhood is vacant then it is even more dangerous because no neighbors are there to watch. Be on the lookout for squatters!
I am a San Diego bankruptcy attorney. Please visit my websites at www.farquharlaw.com or www.freshstartsandiego.com. Or call my office for a free consultation at (619) 702-5015.
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