Squatters tend to go for abandoned homes and buildings -- but
the crawl space under a 73-year-old woman's house?
Velma Kellen, of Yelm, Wash., said that she was curious as to why she would always find her backyard gate open after she closed it and why she smelled pot wafting through her house from time to time. It was when Kellen (pictured below) called a repairman to fix her furnace that she got an explanation.
The repairman went into the crawl space underneath Kellen's house to check its heating ducts, and found several beer bottles and a liquor bottle -- apparent evidence that someone had been living down there, KATU-TV
in Portland, Ore., reported.
The reason Kellen's heat wasn't working? The squatter or squatters had cut into a duct and redirected it
so that heat would fill the crawl space instead of her home.
In recalling her conversation with the repairman, Kellen told KATU: "He says, 'Well, I've got good news and bad news. I've got your ducts fixed, but somebody's been living under your house.' "
"I was just amazed when he came in and told me," Kellen continued. "I couldn't believe it. I thought, golly sakes."
See the video on KATU-TV.
It's not clear how long someone might have been living under Kellen's house, and no arrests have been reported.
Obviously, it's not lawful for someone to take up residence under an occupied house -- but squatting in an unoccupied house can be a different story.
In states such as New York, a squatter who moves into an abandoned building and performs the functions of an owner -- including maintenance work, receiving mail at the address, informs neighbors that he or she is the owner -- can legally own the property after living there for 10 years
without being evicted. Squatters can also obtain a "deed of adverse possession
," which legally allows them to take ownership of property that has been abandoned.
But how do you get squatters evicted from a property? Well, it's tedious, to say the least. Property owners have to prove in court that they have the legal right to ownership of the property, and they have to prove that they intend to use the property for a certain purpose. That can be difficult to do if considerable time has passed with no official occupancy of the home. Such was the case for a Colorado couple who found a family living in their home
when they returned months after leaving. The case was caught up in court wrangling, and the couple was forced to live in a relative's basement during the court battle.
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