Last June, when squatters moved into the West Market neighbourhood of Kirkland, a suburb of Seattle, they claimed a $3.3-million, 8,000-sq.-foot, six-bedroom mansion that had fallen into foreclosure. The squatters’ stay was short-lived. The police arrested the ringleader, Jill Lane, 30, for criminal trespass. However, in recent weeks, Lane has staked claims to 10 other houses in the Seattle area that have gone into foreclosure and have been shuffled from bank to bank. She recently told the Seattle Times that she’s “standing up for people who are being brutalized by banks.”
In the wake of the U.S. housing collapse, squatting has become a nationwide problem, and it’s not going away. Last month, the FBI said in a statement that “property theft targeting bank-owned properties” is soaring. And it’s not uncommon to find people who have been filing felonious paperwork to police and courts so they can rent out foreclosed properties to unsuspecting tenants. Some squatters are being called modern-day Robin Hoods, and are exasperating police and realtors who say their actions are hardly heroic. After all, dislodging them can lead to tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs, repairs and locksmith bills.