Saturday, September 3, 2011

Squatter Movement Begins To Gain Steam In Detroit As Local Laws Leave Complaining Residents Frustrated, Cops With Hands Cuffed

In Detroit, Michigan, The Detroit News reports:

  • The foreclosure crisis has led to a surge of complaints about squatting in Detroit, and city officials acknowledge they're not sure what they can do about the problem.

  • In a city with more than 100,000 vacant properties, city officials and residents say they're increasingly seeing people take over empty houses and call them their own. Once they're in, it's tough to get rid of them: Michigan law places the burden of proof on rightful owners, and the eviction process can take months.


  • Squatting isn't new, and its secretive nature makes it tough to track. But city officials say it's spiking as one in every 339 city homes received foreclosure notices last month, according to RealtyTrac, an industry marketer. City ombudsman Durene Brown points to a thick stack of complaints about squatting she's received over the past two years. A few years ago, about 100 people a year called about the issue. Now, 300 do.


  • Squatting laws present a major challenge in ridding someone who illegally possesses a home. Legally, only the homeowner or banks can seek remedies to remove squatters. And under a loophole, a squatter can gain possession of a home if he or she openly lives in it uninterrupted for 15 years, according to state law.

  • No real moves have been made to change squatting laws by the state Legislature, but some community groups and city officials said the loopholes need to be closed.


  • As the head of the mobile patrol for the nearby Grandmont Association, Muhsin Muhammad said the group has fought against people who have taken over eight homes in the past year. Rosedale-Grandmont, a larger contingent of seven associations, has dealt with about 30 homes, he said.

  • They ranged from a family just finding a place to stay for the children, to a group of about 30 young people who took over a house. At that home, there was gambling on the street, illegal drug use, incidents of the inhabitants urinating on nearby properties and loud music playing until 3 or 4 a.m., Muhammad said.

  • "The homeless and criminals have been wise as to how the system protects them. They go through the neighborhood shopping for nice homes to move into," said Muhammad, the father of the former Michigan State University and professional football star who shares his name.

For the story, see Squatter problem balloons in Detroit (State law makes it hard to evict illegal residents, city claims).

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