Squatters getting tips on occupying vacant homes right off the Internet

PORTLAND -- A Washington man who just closed on a home in northeast Portland has retained an attorney to begin the process of evicting squatters that moved into the home and changed the locks.

Rod Nylund, who bought the home as an investment property, said he has tried to reason with the couple in the home on at least two occasions, with no success.

"They claim they had been watching it and the home was vacant so they need a place to stay," Nylund.

FOX 12 in Portland was able to briefly speak with the woman who has been living in the home without permission. She said she and her husband and young daughter had been homeless, and claimed the property as "adverse possessors."

The term is used when trespassers claim legal ownership of a abandoned property by physically occupying it and improving it.

But Seatttle attorney Evan Loeffler said the only time 'adverse possession' would apply here in Washington state is if the squatter had been living in and maintaining the home for a decade.

"It’s not surprising to me that people publish stuff on the Internet. It’s surprising to me that people are reading that and assuming it’s true.  The notion that you can just break into a house and pay a cable bill or two and somehow establish a right of ownership -- that is false,” said Loeffler.

Bruce Orr, a real estate attorney with Wyse Kadish, said the family is squatting on the property in spite of its claims, and that Nylund could have them forcibly removed by the sheriff's department, although it would have to be done through the courts.

"You're looking at 14 to 30 days, maybe 45 to 60 days, depending on the circumstances," said Orr.

Pete Cansler, a realtor who worked on the sale of the home, said squatters seem to be becoming more aggressive, settling in properties that, in some cases, haven't been vacant for very long.

"I had one that I've lost to foreclosure because we had squatters. The tenants or squatters wouldn't leave, and the owners didn't have the money to evict them," said Cansler.

Cansler's partner, Kim Spiess, discovered a local website seemingly dedicated to helping squatters occupy vacant properties. It includes instructions about how to find the homes, and how to establish a façade of rightful ownership, suggesting squatters set up utilities in their names and try to blend into the neighborhood.

While Nylund is exploring his legal options, he is also responsible for the monthly mortgage payment on the property.

FOX 12 (KPTV) in Portland contributed to this report.