“It’s not safe for us. It’s not safe for our kids. It just doesn’t feel very good,” said Dulcie Jones, who is part of a group called Squatter Busting Squad.
Fed up with a squatting situation, Jones started a Facebook group with her friends Kristal Smith and Jasmine Villa of Spanaway.
They say the Facebook group had 600 members the first night and has since grown to 1,500 people.
Villa says it started when some random strangers came and claimed a home that wasn’t theirs, not taking care of the home or the neighborhood.
Once the squatters moved into the third home in the neighborhood, they got involved.
“They just appeared out of nowhere one day,” Smith said.
“With twenty vehicles,” Jones added.
And that’s when the stealing started.
“You know, people are knocking down wood planks in the backyard fences so that they can go over and take the other neighbors’ furniture out of their backyard,” Smith said.
After the stealing came the stink, with piles of trash and the sun beating down on it everyday.
“It was really bad,” Villa said.
“We have rats now,” Smith added.
Neighbors said this continued, day after day, for months.
The group learned that some of the homes were owned by a company called American Homes for Rent out of Las Vegas.
After contacting American Homes for Rent, the group was told that they don’t have enough manpower to address the situation and watch over all their properties.
Additionally, once squatters move in, it can take up to 90 days to legally remove them.
Fearing there was little they could do for their situation, the group began to confront the people they believed to be squatters.
A closer look into their videos shows the group entering homes with little notice. The group will also often call law enforcement for help.
“They did not play around,” Villa said. “There were at least eight squad cars that were just lined up blocking the whole street. Our whole community was out there.”
Sergeant Darren Moss with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said he understands the frustrations of the squatter busters, but doesn’t condone or support their particular brand of confrontations.
“My concern is they keep doing actions like this again,” Moss said. “Somebody’s going to get hurt. Either it’s one of them or someone they’re harassing, or we’re getting involved and have to arrest somebody.”
However, after the confrontation, the people in the home packed up and moved out.
The group says they have removed squatters from more than 10 homes in the region.
“When you go and take action and organize a group to pound on their door and kick the door down, now I have something actionable against you,” Moss said.
“Technically, it’s not their house,” Smith said.
Jesse Jones called American Homes for Rent, the company cleaned up the home and installed a security camera at one of the homes.
In a statement to Jesse Jones, American Homes for Rent said, “We at American Homes 4 Rent take fraudulent activity very seriously and are working with local law enforcement to do everything legally within our power to resolve these issues. We are constantly partnering with authorities to find strategies to prevent fraudulent activity and to act quickly when it occurs. While we appreciate the group’s desire to help with removing illegal occupants, we must follow legal requirements to ensure the safety and security of the neighborhoods where our homes are located. We are hopeful that local legislative authorities will assist us by eliminating barriers to quickly and efficiently remove people who are illegally occupying our homes.”
The group said they aren’t backing down, but they said they’ll think twice before opening the door from protector to vigilante.
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