Throughout the Twin Cities, and especially in Minneapolis and Saint Paul which have the highest number of vacant homes, it is bound to happen that uninvited guests might take it upon themselves to utilize your vacant property. Those less fortunate souls, either out of a job or out of a home, decide it is ok to break into a house and live there for a while. They don’t care if what they are doing is illegal, and some even justify it as their right. However if any squatters reading this post are planning on doing this in the near future, then you might want to make sure you don’t choose a home that is listed with a real estate agent.
It happened recently to one of my clients, and is the first time I have run into it personally with a listing. A seller that lives out of town puts a rental property on the market, and seeing as he wants to sell it quickly, he leaves it vacant with no appliances. Being in a not so great neighborhood, it doesn’t get a ton of showings. But low and behold, on Friday afternoon when I am laying in bed sick, I get a call from an agent who just showed my listing. Apparently, she and her client had walked completely through the home, coming to the bedroom at the back of the home, when they heard music coming from inside. The agent of course knocked to alert who was ever in the room that she was there, and the lady behind the door started screaming at the agent to get out. The lady then demanded to know how the agent got in the house. This friendly agent promptly told her that she used the key, which was obviously not the way the lady had gained her access to the home.
So I dragged myself out of bed, jumped in the car, and at the same time called the police to tell them we had a squatter and asked them to meet me at the home. There was no way I was entering the home without some armed help! When we all got there, on officer went in through the front door, while two others surrounded the back. (I was pretty surprised they brought three officers for little old me). Upon entry, the lady was gone, which was no big surprise. I mean, even a squatter can figure out that the jig was up. However, she had left behind all her stuff, which meant she was most likely coming back at night.
She had moved in quite well, and been there for about two weeks. All her toiletries were in the bathroom, including perfume, and she was making use of the free water and working bathroom. In the bedroom she had a large blow up mattress and plenty of clothes in garbage bags. She had a light and radio. The real kicker came when one of the police officers opened up the front bedroom door, only to have a ferret come running out, with a black bunny rabbit behind him. The squatter was so kind to let them use the carpet as their bathroom. We put all the animals back in the room and closed the door. The officers were really nice, and told me to have the owner call them if he wanted them to meet him at the house as well. With nothing left to do, I re-secured the house (hard to do with broken doors) and called my client.
After informing him of the days events, he drove down the next day, with police officers backing him up, too. Sure enough, she had broken back in that night and removed all her stuff, animals included. The home owner had to clean up after her, paint over some grafitti on the wall, remove the soiled carpet, and replace three broken doors. I also informed him to turn off all the utilities so no one could take advantage again. He left the kitchen light on and informed the neighbors of what had happend, asking them to keep an eye on the place. The squatter never came back and the place had no further problems.
Make sure you properly secure a vacant home. The doors on this home were older, so they were easy to break into. Also, the front door had glass in it, so the squatter was able to break the glass and reach in to unlock the deadbolt. Putting strong doors and boarding up windows is one sure way to keep trespassers out. Also, don’t leave utilities on which can be used by the squatter/trespasser. That’s just like being a kid in a candy store, after all, how can a homeless person resist a hot shower and a working toilet? I know I couldn’t.
I was shocked to hear from a neighbor across the street, who approached me when I arrived at the home, that she had seen someone crawl through the side window a few times the week before, but didn’t take it upon herself to call the police or me. My number is on the real estate sign in the front lawn after all. I find this sad because this is her neighbor and her neighborhood, and everyone should keep a look out for suspicious activity. Wouldn’t she want a neighbor to call the police if someone was entering her home illegally? I personally would not feel safe in my own home if I knew someone was breaking into the home next door. But hey, that’s just me!
One last note, needless to say, the buyer who viewed the home with the squatter there did not put an offer on the home. Squatters kill deals, just as an FYI!