Squatting by Harper Dimmerman
This is my first posting on the EZine. I'm actually looking forward to chatting about current real estate stuff. And it's pretty obvious that now is a pretty wild time in the economy in general, arguably even more so in the real estate world. The chasm between the upper and middle classes continues to widen, despite the rhetoric of our splendid elected officials politicking over scotch and Cohiba's (the Cuban ones) in the nation's capital. Foreclosures are up and so is the spin regarding the value of Philadelphia real estate. There's no doubt overall it's undervalued relative to other major cities. But let's face it. Some of these small-time builders, are better at bull than building, getting over on a bunch of hard-working first-time home buyers. No real legal recourse against these "developers" either unless you want to spend the next 50 years chasing your judgment around the Caribbean.
Speaking of legal recourse, what's the deal with people pretending they have an interest in somebody else's property and the legal system virtually endorsing this behavior? On the fraud continuum, you've got good deed forgers on the one end, literally stealing real estate, and on the other, delusional renters who think installing a towel bar entitles them to a chunk of grandma's equity. Somewhere in between I guess, there are the adverse possessors, the patient thieves. When I first heard about adverse possession as a confused 1L, I literally thought it was a joke (what my professor thought of my exam probably). What kind of system rewards theft? I know, I know. Each case is different, two sides to every story...I'm not so sure about that here though. Nice try.
So I was working from home on President's Day, relegated to my occasional home office, the floor of my bedroom. There was a mommy group downstairs. Needless to say, I wasn't invited (fortunately). As I often do, I had CNN going on the background. I don't like to miss anything, which is unlikely when you're tuned in to the same story for 8 hour intervals. Right. Their real estate guru came on and started rattling off stats about squatting in the states. Apparently, with the increase of foreclosures and massive inventories of transitional property, the squatters have wised up. If I'm going to sleep in someone else's bed, let me make it a queen, right? Oftentimes the utilities are still on in these places. Who knows? There might even be a few chilled Corona's in the fridge - drink like the developers in Ochos Rios. Notwithstanding the ingenuity of all you tenacious litigators out there, these people should be arrested and spend some time in more appropriate living quarters - prison. Go ahead. Call me a sophist. Naturally, those accommodations are in much shorter supply, which gives these squatters carte blanche to live the good life for God knows how long.
Of course the first place I go when I want empirical data is Wikipedia. One day I'm convinced we'll be citing it right alongside Purdons and Bender. Actually I think some already are without proper attribution. Anyway, the survey says: "Squatting is the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use. Squatting is significantly more common in urban areas than rural areas, especially when urban decay occurs. According to author Robert Neuwirth, there may be as many as one billion squatters globally, or about one of every seven people." Granted those figures might be off by a few hundred million one way or the other. Even so, that's ridiculous! I'm all for due process and catching the terrorists. But let's get real.
So the next time you're meandering around Rittenhouse Square, just remember that one in seven of the people you see, including Ken and Barbie driving by in their red SL convertible (top down in February), just might be living rent free and with a clean conscience to boot. Amazing! Or you can think of me upstairs, squatting on my own bedroom floor.