Neighbors Resort To Prank-Playing In Attempt To Drive Out Squatter

Last summer, a home in the Palmer Woods section of Detroit became vacant when the homeowner walked away on the mortgage. Not long after, a moving van pulled up and a new neighbor moved himself in. Thing is, he wasn’t the new owner — and there wasn’t much the neighbors could do about getting him out.

The squatter says he filed paperwork claiming the property under the much-misunderstood (and almost never successful) adverse possession laws, which allow people to assume ownership of an abandoned property if they live there long enough, pay taxes and provide upkeep — and if no one legally buys it.

But the bank that had foreclosed on the home couldn’t sell the property yet because the homeowner had a six-month period to reclaim the home.

So the neighbors took matters into their own hands.

First they got the utility company to cut off gas and electric service to the house. When that didn’t work, the neighborhood’s inner 12-year-old began to show.

One neighbor spent an entire day placing large rocks in the property’s driveway. Another thought that putting glue in the locks would do the trick.

“We have no way to know what the person is doing in the house,” one neighbor tells the Detroit News. “We are trying to protect the assets in the neighborhood. People really do care about the neighborhood and will be proactive.”

The broker who is now showing the home says he even offered the squatter $4,000 to leave the property.

He should have taken the money and split, because now he’s facing charges of filing false ownership paperwork on this property and two others.

Neighbors find Detroit squatter tough to dislodge [Detroit News]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Power Imbalance says:

    Those are pretty weak pranks.

    • spamtasticus says:

      We got rid of a squatter in our neighborhood by chipping in and changing the locks. When he returned we called the police and reported a break in. When he could not provide proof of ownership he was taken away. Unfortunately for the family that then bought the home we did not do it soon enough because it cost them over $10,000 to repair the damage the guy had done to them home. ServPro was there cleaning mold and cigarette smoke damage for days.

  2. dangermike says:

    $4000 to leave? Pay dirt. That’s probably like twice the value of the house in Detroit.

  3. Lackwit says:

    Take back Detroit! Starting with the rich, historic neighborhoods…

  4. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Should have gone and peed in his pool!

  5. ChuckECheese says:

    So … it’s okay to vandalize property if it is to remove a squatter. The squatter’s solution to the real estate crisis is unacceptable, but destruction of property is acceptable. Got it.

    • evilrobot says:

      I missed the ‘destruction of property part’. Please cite.

      • atomix says:

        Glue in locks? Sounds pretty destructive to me.

        • evilrobot says:

          Yes, corrected. The neighbors should have brought a basket of muffins.

          • ChuckECheese says:

            And why not, if the squatter wasn’t causing any other problems. Their reaction appears very close to jealousy.

            • daemonaquila says:

              Let’s see… he closed the windows off with garbage bags… neighbors had to peer over piled garbage WITH A LADDER… piles of construction debris… that’s not jealousy, that’s sensible people worried about illegal activity and potential health issues going on next door.

        • dwtomek says:

          Well at least the squatter owns something in the house now, that being the replacement locks.

        • dolemite says:

          The locks would be changed when a real owner bought the house anyhow.

      • VintageLydia says:

        I think glue in the locks would qualify.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          Not really. Elmers glue in the locks would make them unable to be used, until you squirted some water or steam into them.

          • damicatz says:

            Go try that and see what the police charge you with.

            • nicless says:

              If you think the cops in Detroit have time to deal with any of that, you don’t understand how bad the police situation in Michigan is.

    • daemonaquila says:

      Yes, it absolutely is depending on the circumstances.

      I lived in an inner-city neighborhood where dealers or pimps would move in if a house went vacant even temporarily, while for sale. Not only would they run all sorts of illegal business out of the house, but they would trash it, making it unsellable, and would run off any broker trying to sell it. Some would gut the homes of nice, very sellable fixtures such as old woodwork or chandeliers. Others would just break into the walls and take out the plumbing and wiring to sell for scrap. The houses sometimes would burn down due to the squatters starting fires to cook or for warmth, or to make meth. Sometimes, people died in there from any number of causes – overdoses, gunshots, stabbings, beatings… The police didn’t prioritize ending this kind of activity, so neighbors made a habit of evicting these scum. Occasionally some damage occurred. It was much less than the damage the house was taking from the illegal activities going on inside.

      Tsk-ing over minor damage caused by neighbors trying to keep the area safe only works in a very privileged neighborhood where the “squatters” drive nice cars and sip $4 lattes.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        We have no indication from the story that any of these horrible things you describe were occurring. I would be inclined to believe that pimps and meth dealers don’t set up shop in squatted homes in affluent neighborhoods.

        • SuperSnackTime says:

          I see you haven’t visited my corner of the Earth.

        • sadie kate says:

          I live in a fairly affluent (or, at the very least, upper-middle-class) neighborhood, but my next-door neighbor is a crack addict who has drug dealers coming in and out several times a day. He moved in as a caretaker for his elderly mother who had dementia; one day he was high, and she wandered out of the house and got hit by truck, and he inherited the fully paid-off house. I doubt my situation is unique. I mean, it probably is, but I’m sure other people everywhere have bad situations next door.

      • Kuri says:

        We almost lost our house before we even moved in because someone tried to break in to strip the plumbing.

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    “He should have taken the money and split, because now he’s facing charges of filing false ownership paperwork on this property and two others.”

    So the banks can robo file falsified paperwork by the millions but as soon as one person uses the same tactics that the banks have perfected he is somehow regarded as a villian?
    With that said, this guy shouldn’t even have been allowed to stay in the house for a day. He doesn’t own the house and as far as i’m concerned he is guilty of breaking and entering. Also, paying him $4000 to move? I’d rather pay someone $50 and a case of beer to break his legs.

    • RandomLetters says:

      $75 and a bottle of tequila and you’ve gota deal.

    • George4478 says:

      I’m not following your logic. How does regarding this individual as a villain mean that I DON’T regard Bank of America as villains also? For me, the ‘but’ in your sentence is an ‘and’. Both clauses are true, not one-or-the-other.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        I think the problem was more a legal question. Bank of America gets punished to the equivalent of this guy being fined a dime, while he’s going to be punished to the fullest extent of the law – which likely means prison time.

        The question is why BoA can commit millions of crimes which result in the loss of homes without just punishment, but one guy can commit minor offences and have the entire neighbourhood vandalising a house.

  7. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    The city must be full of blonde bland middle-classed republicans. Those pranks sucked. They should have hired my nephews. They will annoy neighbors for food!

    • CubeRat says:

      Nope, blondes can come up with some really good pranks, especially if they ‘play dumb’ well. These people just didn’t have any skills. Nobody even TPd the house. so sad

      • iesika says:

        Of course they didn’t – that would be a violation of the HOA (you can see that from the road!)

  8. Dirt Farmer says:

    Years ago when our lease was up, our landlord told us that he was keeping the security deposit, even though the house was a pile of crap when we moved in.

    My roommate told him, “I’ve placed a dead trout somewhere in this house. Give us back the security deposit, and I will tell you where it is.”

    We got the deposit back.

  9. CubeRat says:

    Well, it wasn’t a squatter, but as a kid, we got rid of a neighbor. It takes true dedication to find things that annoy someone enough to leave, without damaging the property or the value of other homes.
    — Children (with supervision) out playing LOUD games – preferable whenever this person wants to sleep.
    — Knocking on the door at 2 am to invite them to some function, say the Christmas party in 7 months….repeat as often as possible. When said party time arrives, cancel party.
    — When they leave, park a car across the driveway to prevent them from parking there.
    — If they park illegally, call the local public safety (and make sure the other neighbors are parked ok)

    • dolemite says:

      “– When they leave, park a car across the driveway to prevent them from parking there.”

      Wouldn’t that be illegally parking? If someone did that in front of my driveway, I’d have the cops out asap.

      • huadpe says:

        Not if (as indicated in the article) you’ve got about 100 code violations going on you could be ticketed for.

    • DrPizza says:

      Are you saying that parking across someone’s driveway *isn’t* parking illegally? If someone parked across my driveway in an effort to annoy me, that car would be towed rather quickly. Tow companies love to make money.

      • CubeRat says:

        Yes, but as I said, it takes dedication. You watch your car carefully and as I said, if you are calling the parking authority/police you need to be sure neither you or any other neighbors are parked illegally.
        I admit the parking thing worked for us because we had no parking authority – we also used a tractor. And, another time, we told the construction crew working on the road that the house was vacant as the renter was on vacation, so they could park their equipment there overnight. When he complained to the company, we said, ‘sorry, we thought you were gone’. It annoyed him, but didn’t cause the construction workers any problems and no fines for the company.

        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          Wow. Now I gotta know what the guy did to incur the wrath of the neighborhood like that.

          • Rachacha says:

            We had an annoying neighbor who in a single household had 10 vehicles, a travel trailer and a boat, and parked them all in the street on both sides making it difficult to drive down the street or back out of the driveway. One weekend I wanted to do some yardwork that might throw some rocks and damage a car, so I parked my vehicles in the road in the area where I was going to work, and moved them when I started work. It just so happened that my neighbor was having a party that weekend and decided to invite 100 of their closest friends. I had all of my tools and yard equipment, and most of the guests got the hint or asked if they would be in the way if they parked there. I cautioned them that I was using a power edger and was throwing up some rocks, and I would not be held responsible if they parked there and their car was damaged by a stray rock.

            This one B!+ch pulled up, and parked where I was working, and I nicely warned her of the work that I was doing and that she might want to move her car. She thought that I was threatening her, and started yelling . I said fine and walked away. She spent the entire party in the front yard watching me when I was working, and I spent an awful long time edging near her car throwing dirt, grass and small stones around (nothing intentional, just what the power edger was doing). I then decided to water my lawn, making sure to position the sprinkler in such a way that no matter what door she went in she would get wet. All of the dirt and dust I had kicked up also made a nice mud pie on her car…but hey, I warned her.

            The neighbors were just all around inconsiderate @$$holes, coming home from a wedding and urinating in the road, letting their dogs crap everywhere and never cleaning it up, pushing snow out into the road after it had been plowed and blocking the road for other residents.

    • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

      I just reported them to IDEM who got up the county health department’s ass for not following up on a reported septic leak. I tried to get the EPA involved but there was no waterway involved.

      Funny thing is, both bureaus showed up the next day for an inspection. I got a personal visit from the health department that afternoon guaranteeing action with the honcho’s business card “so I wouldn’t have to waste my time calling those other agencies.”.

      They got their vacate in 10 days notice that afternoon.

      • LMA says:

        If you want to get the EPA after someone, say you saw them change their oil and pour the pan off into the storm drains. I know it works ’cause a neighbor did this to someone I know.

  10. Kate says:

    I wonder if the neighbors could have just sort of communally moved into the property themselves and pushed the dude out. It’s hard to stand up to a group of 30 or so people telling you to get out and stay out.

  11. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    Pay for a trespasser to leave?
    The house was never abandoned.
    Why not just call the cops on the trespasser and be done with it??

    • Difdi says:

      And what standing do you have to do so? It’s not your house, so you can’t issue a trespass notice.

      If it were possible to do what you describe, I could have you evicted from your house, even if you own it, simply by reporting you to the police as a trespasser, unless you could show your title deed to the police on the spot.

  12. sirwired says:

    If the “neighbor” is keeping up the property, tending the lawn, etc., why are they so eager to kick him out? It’s better than being vacant.

    Let the bank fight their own battle.

  13. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    What ever happened to breaking and entering and trespassing charges? Squatters should have zero rights.

  14. moonunitrappa says:

    Should have pranked them with a lottery letter (or other idea) because the squatters sound like greedy folk. Lock em out when the leave. Easy peasy.

  15. eezy-peezy says:

    Best way to get them out? Hire a very LARGE intimidating guy and a couple of his friends, have them show up at the door with boxes in hand, and announce “This is MY house now, I just bought it.”

    • Difdi says:

      And then the squatter demands to see the deed, with his demand backed by Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. Castle doctrine laws being what they are in many states, the large individual might not survive that altercation.

  16. iesika says:

    It’s taken a guy I know about 4 months and $2000 in legal fees just to get his ex girlfriend out of his apartment. I don’t know why squatters are so hard to remove, and I’m a legal professional. It makes me feel a bit like a sucker for actually paying rent.

    • Snip says:

      There are laws on the books in most places that are designed to protect the working poor from exploitative slum lords. Unfortunately, they also protect your freeloading soon-to-be-ex friend who asked to crash on your couch for a few days after he starts getting mail in his name at your place. I got rid of mine by turning off the power and the water and living in a hotel for a week. It wasn’t easy. They left me a big mess to clean up. But it was worth it.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Is this in New York State? The whole state has wacky rental laws.

  17. The Wyrm says:

    Step 1: Legally obtain a firearm
    Step 2: Walk into the house you own.
    Step 3: When confronted by squatter, shout: “DROP IT! DROP IT! GET AWAY!”
    Step 4: Kill him.
    It’s your word against the corpse of a trespasser.

  18. TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

    Squatters are douchebags