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Beating the Squatter Epidemic. Can someone take your house?

John just posted this video a couple days ago. Unfrickenbeleivable.

Beating the Squatter Epidemic

States are fighting back to restore people’s rights to their own property.

By The Editorial Board, WSJ

March 27, 2024

TikTok’s latest contribution to American domestic tranquility is a video by a Venezuelan migrant outlining his plan for “invading a house in the United States” and taking it from the owner. “I found out that there is a law that says that if a house is not inhabited, we can seize it.” Naturally this went viral.

The young migrant may have chutzpah, but he’s gamed out President Biden’s border abdication and, crazy enough, he’s not wrong about his home-invasion scam. Squatters are moving into people’s homes uninvited, and once in they can be almost impossible to dislodge.

We saw this in New York last week: When Adele Andaloro tried to rid the house she inherited from her parents of squatters by changing the locks, the cops led her away in handcuffs. The squatters could still make themselves at home.

It’s happening all over. In Georgia, Paul Callins found squatters had moved into his home and changed the locks while he was away caring for his sick wife. In Texas, Houston schoolteacher Amberlyn Prather and her family used a fake lease to occupy a Houston home. In California, Flash Shelton retook his mother’s house by moving in when the squatters were out—and then claimed squatter’s rights himself. Two squatters were arrested Friday in connection with the murder of Nadia Vitel after she confronted them in her late mother’s Manhattan apartment this month.

The problem is that most places have laws that give squatters rights after 30 days. If they claim to be tenants, the homeowner usually has to get a court order to evict them, which can take weeks. Until then the cops can’t do anything because squatting is a civil matter.

“Squatting in years past was something that generally took place when homes were abandoned or simply ignored and uncared for,” says David Howard, chief executive officer for the National Rental Home Council (NRHC). “Squatters were typically individuals that were literally in need of shelter from the storm. What we’re seeing now is intentional acts of trespassing by people who know how to work the system.”

Some states are wising up. On Wednesday Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed bipartisan legislation to let police boot squatters immediately, and apply criminal penalties for anyone presenting a fake lease or doing more than $1,000 in damage. On Tuesday, the Georgia Legislature approved a bill criminalizing squatting. A Long Island state assemblyman has introduced anti-squatting legislation in New York.

Numbers are hard to come by, but in a survey taken last fall of its members who own single-family rental homes, the NRHC found about 1,200 homes taken over by squatters in Atlanta. It was 475 in Dallas-Fort Worth, and 125 in Orange County, Fla.

The squatters are manipulating the legal system to abuse a fundamental right to property. A legal system that is time consuming and expensive works against actual homeowners. They can’t get the squatters out or prevent them from inflicting costly damage. Without the power to remove people squatting in their homes, property rights become meaningless.

More states and cities should look to ban squatters so migrants don’t think they can cross the border and take up residence in your home when you’re visiting the relatives.

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