Squatters May Be Taking Over Your Home!

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Squatters May Be Taking Over Your Properties

If you have moved out of your property because you relocated out of the area or if you moved into a rental already because you are doing a short sale be aware that you may have opened up your property to squatters. south florida squatters

In one of our vacant short sale listings in Port St Lucie Florida- our sellers had to move closer to their jobs in Miami due to loss of income. They could no longer afford to pay for the gas to drive all those miles to and from work. So they rented a house close to the husband's work in Miami and called us to do a short sale on their property in Port St Lucie. They had it listed prior to calling us with buyowner.com who did not have a clue on how to do a short sale. Needless to say, we had to clean up the mess. 

When we arrived to take photos of the vacant property we were met with a strong smell of pot. It was fresh. All over the house, there was evidence that squatters were living there or it could have become a teenage hang out to get high. We secured the house, called the locksmith to change the locks and bolted down the windows. However, no matter what the sellers and we did the squatters kept getting in. They even had power because one of the terms of our listing agreement is that sellers must leave their water and power. 

This is happening more and more to our vacant listings. Sometimes we scare them away and sometimes we don't. A word of caution to agents- don't check on your vacant listings alone. Bring someone with you and be prepared to find anything. 

There are squatters here in south Florida who are actually occupying vacant properties and telling the owners that they refuse to move out because they have a right to occupy the house because it was abandoned. 

Here in Wellington Florida a man filed notice in the official county records that he was taking possession of 1000 homes in Broward county and 3 in Palm Beach County. He also took over 10 condos in North Lauderdale. He then rented out 6 of them and collected over $20,000 in rent. He was arrested but is pleading not guilty. His attorney says that he is a good samaritan and is saving these blighted homes. 

Well, let's see. Condos are not blighted unless the HOA stops paying for services. So that is not likely going to wash for him in court. Also, the other properties depending on where they are located are mostly in good condition. All of our vacant short sale listings are in very good condition and ready to move into when we sell the properties to qualified buyers who actually get loans to buy their houses or pay all cash.  On the other hand, we see a ton of rentals in bad shape because the tenants are not maintaining the properties. After all, they don't own the property. 

The squatters and the people taking over multiple properties through these filings are using the "adverse possession" law that is dated back to 16th century England. Here in Florida, adverse possession can take place if the person using adverse possession pays the taxes, maintains the property and lives in the property or uses the property for a period of seven years. 

This law is usually used here when there is an encroachment on one property from a neighbor, such as a fence. 

But the other side of this coin is that you can not just break into a house and start living there without the probability of being arrested for trespassing. It is also illegal to collect rent money though trespassing. 

Many homeowners live in their homes without getting foreclosed on and without making payments for up to 3 years but it is not likely that the bank will not foreclose within 7 years. 
So the seven year rule is not likely going to be successful in court. 

Be on the look out, protect your property rights. Pay your property taxes before they are delinquent, pay your HOA fees on time and try to stay in your property until your short sale is accepted by your lender. These issues can cloud your title which will make it very difficult to close on your property. 

Homeowners have choices. Maybe a strategic short sale is the right option for you. It is most often better than just leaving the keys on the table and walking away. 

Don't Delay! Don't Wait Until The Sheriff Is Knocking On Your Door! Pick up your phone and call us to see if you can avoid foreclosure.



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Copyright © By Katerina Gasset 2010 * All Rights Reserved* Squatters May Be Taking Over Your Home*



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Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Katerina: thanks for the post, because more than once I've shown a supposedly vacant listing that appears to have signs of habitation. Scary....who know what you could walk in on.

Jenna: I know, I know. Lazurus House, our tiny homeless shelter in town has all 47 beds full every night now. About half the beds are for kids...this center is mostly a safe haven for abused ladies and their kids. It's heartbreaking. The center is trying to expand, and each neighborhood they go into says "not here" and works to turn down a special use permit. A local community center wants to add a 20 bed emergency shelter....residents had a "candlelight vigil" there Friday night...publicity to keep the city from awarding a permit. I see both sides, but heartbreaking nonetheless.

Jun 20, 2010 06:28 AM #32
Tom Waite
Thomas Waite Real Estate Broker - Cypress, CA
So Cal-Apartment Bldg Investments

N & K: Great work and excellent topic.

Jun 20, 2010 07:04 AM #33
Ty Lacroix
Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc - London, ON

Wow, what a great society we live in and all lately caused by greed!


Jun 20, 2010 07:09 AM #34
Lee Walsh
SecurityNational Mortgage - Lake Mary, FL
Executive Talent Scout for Mortgage Professionals

Time to start a home watch service...

Jun 20, 2010 07:18 AM #35
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Squatters are trespassers and loosers.  Hate to say it that way but the ones I've had contact with just jump thru a window & live there until the police get after them.  Just because someone leaves their house unoccupied doesn't mean someone down on their luck financially is entitled to anything!  I had one foreclosure where the water was turned off & the squatters used the crawl space as a latrine!

Jun 20, 2010 07:22 AM #36
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Southampton, NY
...Finding Your Place In The sun!

Even here in the Hamptons: there is a huge house that was in forclosure and the agent who handles short sales was  toally unaware the there were squatters living in it. I needed to show it for sale and when I got there with my customer I had a sense that we were not alone and then I got to the kitchen door and someone was cooking up a huge amount of very spicy smelling food...I looked in and there was a man over the stove and big pot of whatever it was, stirring away. the minute he saw me he ran out the door and I heard a motor bike as he drove off in a puff of smoke...it is an 8  bedroom house so I am sure there had to be a dozen or so people living in it---right in the village and no one ever saw them! The house has never sold.

Jun 20, 2010 09:31 AM #37
John Novak
Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace - Las Vegas, NV
Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate

"Taking possession of 1000 homes ..." I'm suprised this guy isn't trying to move in with the Obama's because The White House is also called The People's House.

Jun 20, 2010 10:17 AM #38
Virginia Hepp - Mesquite NV REALTOR
ERA - Mesquite NV Homes For Sale - Mesquite, NV
Mesquite NV Homes and Neighborhoods - Search MLS

I hadn't heard of anyone trying to use the adverse possession law in a long time!

We don't have any squatter problems here, unless it is a relative taking advantage of the owner, heard of one son who wouldn't leave, but he was already living there rent free when his family had to short sale the property.

Jun 20, 2010 12:45 PM #39
Rob Lang
At Home Kansas / www.AskRobLang.com - Lawrence, KS
Local Expert in Lawrence Kansas Real Estate Homes

The gall of some surprises me.  Thank you for sharing this post.

Jun 20, 2010 01:11 PM #40
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Jenna- Comment #22- 

Your devil's advocate comment is not related to facts in this story. The squatters are NOT the homeowners who are losing their homes. If you read the story- the squatters are con artists who are gaming the system by ripping poor innocent tenants off. One family who NEVER owned a home were living with her parents. She and her husband have 3 kids and they are migrant workers who SAVED their only $1200 to move into a ransacked house rented out to them by this dirt bag that just got arrested. The house was so bad of mold, she had to take her son to emergency care. They tried to get their money back, but the man refused. It was then she went to the court house to discover this man did not even own the house. Now they moved back in with her mother. 

This is a crime to swindle money out of tenants when you don't own the house. 

Second, you are sitting in an AC office because you are working. You are figuring out what needs to be done and then you go and do it. This is not yet United States of Socialism and while it is not yet so, every person has the chance to change the course of their life. 

I know people who lost EVERYTHING during the real estate bust. 
You ask about real estate agents- what if this happened to them? Well, it has! I know personally many agents who are now working in other careers. We list Realtor's own personal homes as short sales who have not made a sale in 2 years in real estate. Many of them are filing bankruptcy. Many of them closed their doors and walked away from commercial leases. And many of them moved in with family or friends. 

This is where my empathy meets responsibility. 

I know mortgage brokers who have been pushed out of the mortgage business with all this new regulation and some have hired me to help them change fields. One of them just hired me as his SEO coach. He is building websites for another field where there is a need. He found the need, then he will fill that need and he will profit from it. That is the true American way which so many have forgotten because of our entitlement era. Katerina

Jun 20, 2010 01:14 PM #41
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Sometimes, I'm just at a loss for words.  The smell of pot smoke in the home property you have listed, might just be that there were kids using it, as you wrote.  (Did you get a "contact high" ;0) But, for someone to charge rent when they are not the owner  . . . again, at a loss for words.  A legimate owner of a rental unit vs. someone pretending . . . unbelieveable.  Renters beware!!  You encounter some of the hard core realities of this fall out.

(BTW, I notice my post is back up on the blog roll)

Jun 20, 2010 01:33 PM #42
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Carla- Was it ever off? 

Jun 20, 2010 03:05 PM #43
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

I've gone into homes that are for sale before and found squatters in areas where you would not expect that to happen.

It's a bit frightening to all parties involved.

Jun 20, 2010 07:59 PM #44
Jenna Dixon
DRA Homes | Cobb County Real Estate - Marietta, GA
Empowers You With a Better Real Estate Experience


I did read the post and I did understand the point that you were making about scammers and con artists...I get that.  There are PLENTY of people out there who want to take advantage of absolutely EVERY OPPORTTUNITY to screw people over.  And the more desperate the situation, the more people there are to try to capitalize on it.  And I am not saying that whatever the circumstances, that anyone has the right to SQUAT in a property.  Not a former owner who has been legally foreclosed, not some random person off the street...NO, I am not saying that it is RIGHT.

The purpose of my comment was to extrapolate the situation into a different direction.  There have been many many posts here on AR about squatters.

You are quite correct in your statement that this is NOT THE UNITED STATES OF SOCIALISM, unless of course you are a multi-billion dollar corporation, then there is NO LIMIT to the amount of help and handouts available. 

There are VERY FEW SOCIAL RESOURCES available to citizens of this country facing a TRULY DESPERATE SITUATION.  I know that to be a FACT as I have worked with a displaced mothers ant their children with no job who suddenly find themselves homeless, a single man who lost his job & became homeless when his girlfriend put him out. 

Believe me, there are NO EASY answers for people who find themselves in that situation.  Yes, I can get the mom into a shelter with her kids for only $132 per week on a temporary basis, that would be great if she had $132 a week. 

The man, yes, if he arrives at the shelter 2 hours before check in and waits in line, he might be able to take a spot in the 50 bed facility...where they do not serve any food...and he needs to be back on the street at 6am.  Oh, and NO BAGS can be brought into the shelter.  A single man falling on hardtimes in this country faces nearly insurmontable obstacles with very little help.

What about subsidized housing?  Well, in Atlanta, the Section 8 list HAS BEEN CLOSED SINCE 2001.  That's right.  There is no waiting list...they are still working on the list from 9 years ago.

So, don't misunderstand my comment.  I was not supporting anyone's right to be a squatter.  Nor anyone's right to scam others in an already precarious situation.  I am a pull yourself up by your boot straps kind of girl...I have done it many times in my own life.

My point was that our country has moved into territory that is unprecedented in our lifetimes.  And we are being lied to at every turn about the severity & dire nature of our situation.

Jun 21, 2010 04:32 AM #45
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Jenna- Thank you for your clarification. :) 

Jun 21, 2010 04:55 AM #46
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Gene- Well, that theory did not work out too well in the Soviet Union or in Cuba. 

Jun 21, 2010 04:57 AM #47
Jenna Dixon
DRA Homes | Cobb County Real Estate - Marietta, GA
Empowers You With a Better Real Estate Experience

Katerina & Nestor,

Thank you for reading my clarification.  I have a great deal of respect for you and the way that you run your business and share so much great information (including about coupons) here in the Rain.

Have a wonderful week.

Jun 21, 2010 04:58 AM #48
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes


I am far from a Red.  The development and settling of America was done with Land Grants of public land and there were requirements for getting the land.  You had to live on it and use it.

I do not like the situation we are in and I do not like the bank bailouts.  My point is the Banks have taken from the public trough and are essentially owned by the government now, even though they claim they paid back the TARP funds.

I think the government wants to control the housing market through the banks and ultimately put us all in public housing.  Having banks or government agencies rent out the houses.  The government and the banks are trying to contol the market and are not moving the homes back into the private segment fast enough. 

What I am saying is Bank Owned/Public Owned property not being used and becoming a blight should be open to some sort of homesteading.  This will also encourage the banks to move the property back to the private segment.

You may disagree with me but please don't put me in the same boat with the Reds.  I am far from it and it hurts.

Jun 21, 2010 10:37 AM #49
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Gene- I know you are not red. I send you an email. 

You are right, the gov't does want to own it all and have us all pay our rent to them. That is why private property rights are being diminished more and more with each passing administration and will continue until only the elite own housing. It did not work anywhere else in the world and it won't work here. And I pray that people will get off their couches and do something about it rather than be the good sheeple the schools have taught them to be. 

Jun 21, 2010 01:14 PM #50
Carrie Sampron
Home Smart Realty Group - Highlands Ranch, CO
ABR SFR & Kathy Sampron (303) 931-3629 Highlands R

You are so right!  We showed a condo last year that the listing office told us was "vacant".  When we walked in with our client it was clearly not vacant, however, it also was evident the homeowner was not the one living there.  The power and water were both turned off and the individual "living" there was using a camp stove to heat their food.  We left immediately and called the listing agent to notify him of this issue.  Wow, what an experience. Carrie

Jun 23, 2010 11:00 AM #51
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