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Imagine someone illegally living in a vacant house in your neighborhood. Worse yet, what if the squatter trashed the house, ripped out the copper pipes, left rotted food in the refrigerator, made holes in the walls, and broke the toilet into pieces?

According to “Serial squatter trashes Chicago-area homes with few consequences,” an article at https://wgntv.com/2018/08/06/serial-squatter-trashes-chicago-area-homes-with-few-consequences/, “Through open records requests, WGN Investigates discovered squatting is a common occurrence, especially in places like Lansing, Calumet City, and Dolton. In Calumet City, there have already been 20 documented cases of squatting this year.”

High-end property is not immune to squatters. A woman recently lived in a vacant, foreclosed $1.5 million home in Wicker Park for two years before she was finally removed by court order. The newly built home had five bedrooms, five baths, an in-home theater, a sauna, and a rooftop deck. In 2011, the builder lost the property in foreclosure. In 2013, MB Financial finally managed to get the squatter out of the residence.

How do the squatters find these empty houses? Sometimes, the squatter simply sees a realtor’s For Sale sign on the lawn. Then the squatter just moves into the property. In other cases, the squatter pays one month’s rent, moves in, and waits to be evicted. It can take months to formally evict the squatter. Meanwhile, the squatter has the opportunity to trash the place.

In the article at https://wgntv.com/2018/08/06/serial-squatter-trashes-chicago-area-homes-with-few-consequences/, Tromaine Langham, a former landlord, described the damage a squatter had done to his property: “The conditions when I got there were just deplorable,” Langham remembers. “I walked in and there was broken glass, broken windows, closet doors, bedroom doors smashed. Maggots were just all over the kitchen and in the stove area. I had to totally gut (it) and get that replaced.” All in all, he said, it was $52,000 worth of damage.

Squatters seem to feel no remorse for the damage they have done. A squatter in Dolton posted videos and photos to her Facebook page, bragging about her “new homes.” She also left a framed selfie in the bedroom of one of the homes she had trashed. A few weeks after she was formally evicted, she came back to the house, kicked in the door, and broke all the windows.

By Karen Centowski

To see a Channel 23 ABC News video called Woman catches squatters moving into her home—You Tube, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deIjxerh3s4.