On the news last night and today is about squatters in an upscale part of Oakland, in the hills. The headline said “Squatters bring crime wave to Oakland Hills”.
The squatters took over a home going through foreclosure. The owner had taken a reverse mortgage on it, and when her husband passed away, she went into a nursing home. Since the home was vacant, it attracted squatters who moved in and refused to leave. One said she had invested time and money and sweat, and she's not leaving unless she gets paid!
in the meantime, the police have arrested suspects at the house, and recovered stolen cars. One is being investigated for identity theft.
It seems to me the City of Oakland could have done something more --- after all, they have their VPRO (Vacant Property Registration Ordinance) in effect since 2012.
And there are serial squatters.
Besides the story about the squatters, some questions are bubbling up in my mind:
Does the owner have any relatives who could have moved in, or taken care of the house instead of leaving it vacant
Couldn’t the owner have sold the property as a short sale
Were neighbors aware of the owner’s predicament, being an older woman who could no longer live alone, and as such could they have offered help
Did the neighbors report trespassers before the squatters could “settle in”?
Could a Neighborhood Watch program help prevent this from happening?
Vacant homes spell trouble. This is why some cities have VPRO --- Vacant Property Registration Ordinance.
Here’s a dynamic link to take you to your state to see what is in effect. This also provides resources on what to do to get one enacted in case your city doesn’t have it yet.
I’m happy to see that Alameda’s VPRO is in effect.
There’s a house on our block that is also vacant when the owner went into a nursing home. However, in her case, her nephew and niece are taking care of the house, making sure the grass is mowed, and checking on it quite regularly. Neighbors know about the situation and are keeping a close watch on it to make sure no one trespasses.
However, let us remember that owners have to take responsibility for ensuring that their vacant property doesn't invite crime. Here's BankRate's 5 Rules for the Empty House Next Door.