High unemployment, rising evictions, and homelessness along with the surge of vacant housing may be contributing to the resurrection of squatters. Squatting is occupying an abandoned or empty space or building without the owner's permission. The first step should be to contact the police immediately to have him removed. However, if squatters have been occupying the unit for a while and have created the appearance of a tenancy, such as having furniture in the unit or receiving mail or bills at the address, the situation may get a little more complicated. If it looks as if they're living in the unit, the police will probably be reluctant to act, and the burden shifts to the owner to prove that it is a trespass violation. It then becomes a civil matter, and the owner can begin an action for ejectment to remove them. Vacant units should be securely locked at all times, and site staff should make regular visits to inspect the units. Keep in mind that the tax credit law requires all low-income units at a tax credit site to be suitable for occupancy.
November 2009 TAX CREDIT HOUSING MANAGEMENT INSIDER 7 security safeguard Your site Against squatters Squatting may be making a come- take immediate Action to ment would then have the author- back in the United States. In the Remove illegal Occupants ity to enforce it. 1970s, it became a widespread What should you do if you find problem in cities after the hous- signs that someone is illegally PrACTICAL PoInTer: If, upon ing market collapsed. Nearly 40 occupying a vacant unit? The entering a vacant unit, you find years later, high unemployment, first step should be to contact the signs that someone may be squat- ting there, change the locks imme- rising evictions, and homeless- police immediately to have him diately and secure the premises. If ness along with the surge of vacant removed. However, if squatters the squatter returns and finds the housing may be contributing to its have been occupying the unit for a unit locked and security reinforced, resurrection. while and have created the appear- he will probably move on. ance of a tenancy, such as having The recession has supplied the furniture in the unit or receiving ingredients for a squatting boom, mail or bills at the address, the sit- Prevention is the Preferred says Eduardo Peñalver, a profes- uation may get a little more com- Method sor at Cornell Law School and co- plicated. If it looks as if they’re For most site owners, court should author of Property Outlaws: How living in the unit, the police will be a last resort, says Weisbroth. Squatters, Pirates, and Protesters probably be reluctant to act, and “It’s much better to protect the Improve the Law of Ownership. He the burden shifts to the owner to property in the first place.” writes: “As rising unemployment prove that it is a trespass violation. pushes more people out of their One way to deter potential houses and apartments, growing It then becomes a civil mat- squatters is to make vacant units numbers of Americans…have little ter, and the owner can begin an look occupied with blinds or cur- choice but to break the law. And so action for ejectment to remove tains, and having lights on timers. some of them are turning to a strat- them, Weisbroth says. “The action Vacant units should be secure- egy that has cropped up repeatedly for ejectment is more appropri- ly locked at all times, and site in American history—squa
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