Imagine finding out that your new neighbor was living in their home illegally–a squatter who had broken in to a vacant house and set up residence.
That’s exactly what residents near North Vernon Street on Dearborn’s west side are dealing with, and now eviction proceedings are under way to vacate residents who allegedly have no legal right to be there.
Investigation Leads to Eviction Hearing
The issue began when, according to a longtime Dearborn resident of that area, neighbors next to and behind the suspect home began calling the city to complain about weeds, dead grass and garbage in the yard.
The house “used to be pristine, but now looks horrible,” she said.
Residents found that the city’s Residential Services Department and had already been looking into the status of the home, which went into foreclosure and is currently owned by Bank of America.
“The bank is the owner, but (the residents) claim they have a lease,” explained Residential Services Director Nick Siroskey, who said it was unclear whether the lease was fabricated, or simply invalid. “We’re going under the theory that they’re squatters.”
Once Bank of America was made aware of the situation, they unsuccessfully attempted to get the residents to leave. Now, the matter is heading to Dearborn’s for an eviction hearing.
“They have to hold a hearing because squatters have rights, too, even though they may have broken into this home,” Siroskey said.
Isolated Issue, or Sign of the Times?
But neighbors of the area were shocked that this could happen in the first place, and questioned whether it’s a one-time issue, or a sign of bad times in Dearborn.
“It is a concern, either way, since there is more than one house (in bad condition) in a neighborhood that everyone took pride in maintaining,” one neighbor said. “City officials say they are planning for the future ... but there will be no future if Dearborn continues down this path.”
Siroskey said that in his three years with the city’s Residential Services Department, he has only encountered one other incident where a squatter was living in a Dearborn home, in the area of Warren and Lonyo.
“It’s an anomaly,” Siroskey said.
“People don’t typically see this issue and aren’t affected by it until it’s next door to them,” he added. “That’s what happened in this neighborhood, and people tend to react to it.”
But it's happening elsewhere, and according to an article on MSN Real Estate, it can be a sticky problem to resolve because often, squatting cases are not clear-cut.
In an effort to reduce the total number of vacant properties in Detroit, the Wayne County Treasury opted to sell some of the 6,500 properties to renters, squatters, delinquent owners–whomever was living inside. According to the Detroit News, they were able to keep the homes for $500.
“Uncommon or not, one home in a neighborhood can be a misery for all neighbors,” a Dearborn resident added, saying she hopes to make other residents aware that they may want to keep an eye on vacant properties in their neighborhood.
Of those properties, Siroskey said the number is going down–thanks to a strong market, and efforts by the City of Dearborn through the Neighborhood Stabilization program.
“If you look at the stats behind vacant homes in Dearborn, you can see how the number of vacant home cases peaked a couple of years ago and has dramatically dropped,” Siroskey said.
“Our market is very strong right now.”