A recent article in the Seattle Times, “Empty Foreclosed Houses Burden Cities, Neighborhoods“, highlights a severe problem affecting community associations throughout the Pacific Northwest, and nation. In addition to losing out on receiving monthly and other assessments from homeowners going through the foreclosure process, homeowner associations are now facing squatters taking over many of these properties and turning them in flophouses.
Overwhelmed by a massive inventory of foreclosed homes, banks lack the resources to ensure the properties are maintained and secured properly. As a result, squatters have besieged many of these homes. The squatters often engage in drug activity, theft, vandalism and other highly disruptive criminal behavior which adversely affects neighbors and entire communities.
Community associations should take the following steps in an attempt to avoid or minimize such threats:
- If a bank fails to foreclose on the property, the association should commence foreclosure proceedings. At a minimum, the action may jump-start the bank to take action. The goal is to get a new responsible homeowner in the home as soon as possible.
- If foreclosure has occurred and the property is vacant, the association should implement a “community watch” type program. The volunteers could keep a watchful eye on the property and call police at the first sign of trouble. The sooner squatters can be interrupted, the more likely the community will be in keeping them out.
- Meet with the local police and obtain a helpful contact person. It may not be effective to constantly call 9-1-1 for “routine” problems such as loud parties, trespassing, etc. However, if the association can forge a relationship with a community support officer, or other police representative, a collaborative, long-term solution can be created.
Though it may seem at times as though an association lacks the power or tools to rid squatters within its community, proactive, comprehensive steps often result in eviction and success.