'Mansion Squatters' a Growing Problem - Law and Daily Life
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'Mansion Squatters' a Growing Problem

Movin on up. And movin on in. There is one more trend brought on by bad times and many, many foreclosures. It is called "mansion squatting" and it is the new, upscale version of the squat, until now done in derelict buildings or depressed neighborhoods. As evidenced by the arrest of Randy and Evi Quaid this week for their illegal live-in situation in a house they used to own, mansion squatters are a growing problem.

According to MSNBC, mansion squatting is becoming a recognized issue in areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Louis, and elsewhere. Since the foreclosed houses are under the management of lenders who have many properties to oversee, they are often left empty and unsupervised for long periods of time. In addition, a luxury home is often walled off or otherwise screened and set back from the street, providing a ripe opportunity for someone who doesn't belong to move in and make themselves at home.

"It's immoral but I do understand, logically, how people get this idea in their heads," Tara-Nicholle Nelson, a former Bay Area broker-agent and now a consumer educator for the real estate website Trulia.com, told MSNBC. Some squatters even see themselves as protesters. One Seattle woman who is part of a group called nicknamed the "Mansion Squatters," moved into a home in Kirkland, Wash. valued at over $3 million. "Banks do whatever they want and nobody holds them accountable," Lane told the Seattle Times. "It makes me ill to see what the banks are doing. They aren't using their bailout money to help anyone. So I'm standing up for the people who are being brutalized by banks every day."

Regardless of her political stance, Lane was charged with criminal trespass. Even if the moral ins and outs of the foreclosures are debatable, the law is pretty clear. Trespass occurs when a person enters the land of another without consent. In addition to trespass, charges like those levied against the Quaids could include burglary. This is a crime that involves breaking and entering with the intent to commit a crime (such as trespass) on the property. These are all crimes that squatters in any kind of home can be charged with.

Some people may think they have little to lose and if the property is owned by a bank that failed, they have a chance of getting away with it. But, as Tara-Nicholle Nelson tells MSNBC, it won't work. "Even if the (original) bank fails, somebody owns those assets." And it is still against the law. It doesn't help a bad situation like foreclosure or job loss to turn it into one with criminal penalties lurking in the next room.

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