The Squatters Next Door: Part 1

, Written by Kyle Aevermann, Posted: Mon, May 13 2013 at 6:10 PM, Updated: Mon, May 13 2013 at 6:14 PM

In a tough economy, the number of foreclosed homes has skyrocketed.

And with it, the number of squatters illegally taking advantage of the recession.

But what is a squatter?

A squatter is a person who settles on land or occupies property without a title, right, or payment of rent.

And it doesn't matter where you live, squatters are prone to every neighborhood imaginable.

Neighbors on Oakview street in Grants Pass have had enough.

"Squatters don't have any rights on this block, we are taking back our block," said Oakview street resident, Danny Perez.

Perez organized the blocks's neighborhood watch program after a group of squatters moved in to the foreclosed home next door.

"At one point, it was a really nice house, now it's the sore eye on the block," Perez explained.

There are an roughly 87 foreclosed homes in Jackson County and another 45 in Josephine.

But its not just foreclosed homes that squatters move into.

A few years ago one woman moved into a Washington state couple's home, all thanks to a legal loophole known as 'adverse possession.'

Which in a nutshell, potentially gives legal ownership of a property to anyone openly occupying the land after a certain number of years.

In Oregon, it's 10 years.

"What they amount to is some stranger coming in and recording something that looks legal and using that to claim the property," said real estate attorney Gerald Robison.

And if a home is vacant, all a squatter needs to do is contact a utility service like the water or electric company and have it turned on. That act alone claims thier residency.

But if you, as a homeowner, find a squatter on your property and turn off any of the utilities, you could be facing some serious legal trouble.

That's because, believe it or not, squatters have the same rights as a legal tenant which means basic services like water and electricity must always be provided.

While a landlord is not legally allowed to cut off the utilities, the utility company can turn services off for unpaid bills.

And to add to that, a landlord can be held liable for any harm that comes to a squatter on their property, even without permission to be there.

Removing squatters can be a nightmare of a process thanks to the loopholes that help them.

The squatters on Oakview, were offered cash to move out of the neighborhood.

"Our police told us they were given $2,500 to move out and they turned it down and we said why would you turn it out. and she said to us that because they are living for free. If they took the money they'd have to leave and pay for someplace to live. To us that crazy, we all have to pay for a place to live," Perez explains

Now the question is, how do you remove a squatter from your neighborhood?

Be sure to tune into NBC 5 News at 6 on Tuesday, May 14 for that answer.

What do you think? Sound off on our Facebook page and on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Kyle Aevermann

Kyle Aevermann reports weekdays and anchors NBC 5 News Weekends. He joined NBC 5 News in March 2012 as a morning producer and reporter. Prior to joining KOBI, Kyle interned at KISL-FM on Catalina Island, CA. He was also a regular contributor to CNN's citizen journalism program.

Originally from the Chicago-land area, Kyle moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2009 to work in the social media industry. Kyle enjoys hiking, traveling, learning about cultures, and has a serious love for food.

Catch Kyle anchoring weekends on NBC 5 News at 6pm and 11pm.

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