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Squatting is a widespread problem that’s flooding American neighborhoods with heightened criminal activity

  Squatters are increasingly taking over homes across the nation in a trend that is bringing crime to previously safe neighbourhoods and lea...

 Squatters are increasingly taking over homes across the nation in a trend that is bringing crime to previously safe neighbourhoods and leaving homeowners frustrated and broke.

Many squatters are turning to online listings to find vacant properties they can capitalize on, and they are getting away with it as countless states have laws in place that make it nearly impossible for owners to get rid of squatters once they have taken over a vacant home. As a result, many end up being able to live rent-free in some of the country's nicest homes for several months or even years.

The trend is being facilitated by modern technology, with squatters browsing online listings and setting up fake appointments to get access to empty homes. Some people do not even realize they are squatting because scam artists sometimes set up a fake listing for an empty property and then draft fake lease agreements. It is particularly easy to get away with in blue states. In many cases, it can take around three months to get a court hearing to evict squatters and a further three months before a deputy can arrive and clear the home out.

Squatting is out of control in Atlanta

Some areas of the country are particularly vulnerable. For example, around 1200 homes in Atlanta and the surrounding area have been taken over by squatters, with some of them even opening up an illegal strip club on a property that they are occupying. The problem is so widespread that one company actually places ads on social media offering a service that finds nice squatter homes for people and helps them get around the police. Some desperate homeowners there have taken to paying off squatters to get them to leave.

National Rental Home Council CEO David Howard told the Daily Mail: “Incidents of illegal trespassing in the Atlanta metro area are disproportionately higher than comparable markets across the country.”

He believes that networks of organized crime are involved, adding: “The sheer volume and consistency of practice in terms of how these incidents happen are clearly indicative of some kind of organized criminal effort.”

An army officer who left her $500,000 home empty while she was on active duty found it was taken over by a squatter who has a lengthy rap sheet. She told WSB-TV: “I felt violated. Had I not been serving my country, I would have been in my home.”

She expressed her frustration that police cannot evict the squatter because it is a “civil matter.”

“I want to go shoot out the windows, turn off the water, cut wires, but I can't. That's a crime. Law-abiding citizens can't do that,” she said.

Liberal-run California is an easy place to get away with squatting

In super liberal California, getting rid of squatters is often a losing battle, and this has given rise to a highly sophisticated criminal ring of squatters who are holding parties in a $4.5 million Beverly Hills estate. The listing agent for the home, John A. Woodward IV, told Los Angeles magazine that the squatters who have taken over the mansion make more than $30,000 per month renting out its rooms, and they often host big house parties that rake in entry fees of $100.

Condoms and drug paraphernalia can be regularly seen littered throughout the property, and partygoers can be found outside at all hours. Some neighbors have had to hire armed security guards to protect their families.

One dismayed neighbor told the media: "There are people drunk and stoned, wobbling, walking in and out, and then driving the canyons. Does someone need to be killed before the police will do something?"

In another extreme case, squatters took over a full apartment complex in Fife, Washington. At Sherwood Park apartments, police officers can be seen patrolling the area outside regularly due to the amount of crime associated with the complex. People living nearby are afraid to even let their children go outside.

Because it is so difficult to evict these criminals, homeowners need to take serious precautions to prevent their homes from being taken over during long periods of vacancy.

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