PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council calls it a growing problem: Squatters moving into private homes. Not vacant, abandoned buildings, but homes temporarily left vacant. A council committee heard testimony Monday on a bill that would allow police to evict illegal occupants in 48 hours, but they voted against taking action.
Carla Waychoff and her husband had sold their home in Frankford, but before the sale went through, while it was temporarily vacant, she became a victim to squatters.
“I don’t have to imagine showing up at my house with a stranger because I did it,” Waychoff said. “I stood on the street and watched a police officer knock on the door and woman come out and say, here’s my lease, I live here.”
It was just the beginning of a nightmare she described testifying in support of a bill that would allow police to evict trespassing squatters.
Don Magee is dealing with the same problem.
Magee and his wife Debbie raised their family in a tidy row house in Northeast Philadelphia. After 30 years, the kids gone, they sold their home and moved. But when they went with the buyer for an inspection, a locksmith was changing the door knob and ten people had moved in. They claimed to have a lease, so police told Magee he’d have to go to court.
“150 days in, they’re still there today,” Magee said. “There’s no reason the burden of proof should be put on a legal homeowner.”
But tenants groups and lawyers called the bill overbroad. Jennifer Schultz of Community Legal Services said, for instance, it would work against another chronic problem.
“Forged deeds are regularly filed with the Recorder of Deeds Office,” Schultz said.
The committee voted not to advance the bill, but chairman Allan Domb urged that the advocates help craft a new bill.
“I would like us to come back in 30 days,” he said, “and maybe, jointly, we can have something that solves the issue.”