November 2009 TAX CREDIT HOUSING MANAGEMENT INSIDER 7
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