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Hey Neighbor: 'Mansion Squatting' on the Rise

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted September 24, 2010


If you’re bored this weekend and have nothing to do there is always “mansion squatting”.

As it turns out, it is way better than living in a van down by the river.

On top of that, you may even run into a movie star or two…..

 From MSNBC by Bill Briggs entitled: Squatters moving into upscale neighborhoods

“On the big screen, actor Randy Quaid may be best known for his mooching, move-in-and-never-leave character “Cousin Eddie” from National Lampoon’s “Vacation” films. Last weekend, he allegedly followed his own Hollywood script.

Quaid and his wife, Evi, were arrested Saturday after they were found living in a guest house on a million-dollar, Montecito, Calif., property Quaid once owned. While Quaid claims his name remains on the deed, the actor and his wife were jailed until they were able to post $10,000 bail.

Quaid is hardly alone in his distinctly post-bubble legal trouble. Such high-end “mansion squatting” has become an increasingly visible irritant in or near Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles and probably elsewhere, industry experts say.

And the trend appears to be growing, as the housing bust means thousands of mansions around the country are languishing on the market, often under the control of banks that have foreclosed on them.

“It’s immoral but I do understand, logically, how people get this idea in their heads,” said Tara-Nicholle Nelson, a former Bay Area broker agent and now a consumer educator for the real estate website “I also think this happens a lot more than we know.”

Upscale squatters have been nabbed in at least three other cities:

  • In Sugar Grove, Ill., a suburb west of Chicago, cops arrested 42-year-old Steven Hawthorne in April 2009 after he moved his furniture and big-screen TV into a vacant, $700,000 foreclosed home. He introduced himself to neighbors as the new owner and stayed for about eight months. Hawthorne, who also managed to have the power, gas and water turned on at the dwelling, was eventually charged by authorities with two felonies, including theft of government property (the utilities).
  • In Malibu, Calif., Wells Fargo executive Cheronda Guyton occasionally occupied a $14.9 million beach house to host swanky social gatherings, according to newspaper reports. One catch: the property’s former owners had lost the home to foreclosure after they were victimized by Bernie Madoff – and the estate was claimed by their bank – that’s right, Wells Fargo. When residents within the gated community glimpsed the parties, they got Guyton’s name from security guards and turned her in. Wells Fargo fired Guyton in September 2009.
  • In the Seattle suburbs, a small group – nicknamed the “Mansion Squatters” – has taken a more creative approach. In June, one of its members, Jill E. Lane, 30, moved into a foreclosed and vacant 8,000-square-foot-home in Kirkland, Wash. valued at $3.3 million. She posted a note on the front door that read: “Privately owned property. Not for sale.”

Lane told the Seattle Times that her squatting was part of a protest movement: “Banks do whatever they want and nobody holds them accountable. 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.”

It looks like it’s anarchy out there…

Have a great weekend.

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