An owner of a four-bedroom home in Torrance, California is dealing with a serious problem - squatters. Neighbors say that the group settled into the empty home a couple of months ago and haven't caused them any issues.
The woman who owns the four-bedroom home, Cindy Oye-Marquez, 61, filed a forcible detainer against the squatters. However, police can’t step in because the dispute with the homeowner is a civil case. Oye-Marquez will need to initiate an eviction case if she wishes to remove the squatters from her property. Neighbors say there are about 3 to 6 people that are currently living in the home.
"My understanding was that once they move something in, the police can't evict them because they've got stuff in the house," one neighbor said.
The neighbors suspect that a scam has lead to shady subletting.
"There's people who drive around and see empty houses. Then they run an ad, somebody answers it, they take the rent and say 'okay, it's yours to rent.'"
Another man says the place has long been a problem in the neighborhood.
"People squatting, that's a whole other ball game. I wish the homeowners would do something about it."
He adds that the squatters are actually nicer to be around than the previous renters.
According to a report by the San Francisco-based tenants rights group Tenants Together, landlords filed 306,537 eviction cases from 2014 through 2016 in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.
In California, squatters can legally claim someone else’s property through a legal procedure known as “adverse possession.” The law, which was enacted in 1872 was originally meant for abandoned rural properties gone fallow. Today, however, squatters can gain possession of a home by paying property taxes on time for five years while also making improvements to the property.
The Daily Breeze reports that potential squatters will frequently search through public records for foreclosures and other distressed properties that have not paid their property taxes.