Sunday, December 15, 2013

Squatters Rights and Real Estate: Fact or Fable?

There is a new breed of squatters appearing across the country, especially in areas where there are a lot of foreclosures. Some of these are scams where foreclosed houses are rented out by a scam artist to several people, where they collect the first and last months' rent and give them a bogus lease. These unsuspecting people move into what they think is their new rental home only to find out they have been duped. With a lease in hand, police can be powerless to evict these unknowing victims, except by taking them through the court system with the lender who owns the foreclosed property.

The other scams that are taking place is where squatters are moving into vacant properties, changing the utilities into their names and then go through eviction proceedings, but in the meanwhile they live rent free for a few months and then move on to the next property.

In some parts of the country with high foreclosure rates, lenders are settling with these squatters by paying them a couple thousand dollars to move. The problem with this tactic is that these squatters move to other properties that are owned by the same lenders, expecting another payback.

When it comes to squatter's rights and real estate, you would think these are stories that are more fable than fact, but the sad part is that many people are taking advantage of these vacant homes and living in them, and making them in worse condition than they were when the lender took them over. The other problem is that they are causing legitimate sales to fall through because buyers don't want to wait through the entire eviction process.

The unfortunate part is that some of these squatters are innocent victims that don't realize they have been scammed. The party that leased them the home didn't own it to begin with and they are out the hard-earned money for the first and last month's rent and have no place to go and no money to go there.

The other type of squatters are those that are repeat offenders that can be hard to evict any way but the legal way, through normal eviction proceedings, since they already have transferred utilities and can claim they had a verbal month to month agreement, which can stand up in court, in some cases, especially if it is true.

The best thing for neighbors in the area of foreclosures to do is to keep a list of foreclosed homes and who to contact, form a neighborhood watch to keep an eye on foreclosures, notify police immediately before you see squatters moving things in and do everything they can to keep squatters away from the foreclosed and vacant homes in their neighborhoods. Some of these squatters are making the neighborhood worse than the foreclosed properties are, by inviting all kinds of transients and derelicts into these vacant homes. That is not something most homeowners want to live next to for several months.

It seems that there really are squatter's rights and some con artists are profiting by living in vacant homes for free and then taking payoffs from lenders that want to speed up their evictions. Neighbors need to be aware to protect their own home's value, when it comes to squatters in the neighborhood.

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