Squatter scams on the rise in Chicago

Local real estate agents are expressing growing concerns regarding a rise in fraudulent activity involving squatters and scammers targeting vacant properties across the Chicago area. These individuals are reportedly taking over vacant homes, posing as tenants, and occupying the properties for extended periods, often leading to lengthy legal proceedings for eviction.

“They flipped over the sign. The Coldwell Banker sign, it says ‘sold.’ And then they changed the locks. They installed a Ring doorbell,” stated real estate agent Airian McDuffy, describing her recent experience with a vacant home she was attempting to sell in Longwood Manor. Upon arrival, Ms. McDuffy encountered a family claiming ownership and refusing to leave the premises.

Similar narratives are increasingly reported, with property owners facing significant delays and hurdles in recovering their possessions. In the aforementioned incident, the legal owner, Mr. Bill Adrianos, recounts being initially denied assistance by law enforcement due to conflicting claims regarding the legitimacy of the occupants’ presence.

“The police, they refused to do anything about it,” Adrianos said. “They refused to do anything because they say the people say they have a lease. They rented from the landlord. We can’t do anything about it,” explained Mr. Adrianos. While the situation was eventually resolved peacefully, concerns regarding the ease with which individuals gain access to vacant properties and the subsequent complexities of eviction highlight a growing issue.

Real estate professionals like Jamere Walton emphasize the importance of thorough verification measures for potential tenants. Mr. Walton recommends “cross-referencing names on lease agreements with public records such as the Cook County property tax and Recorder of Deeds databases” as essential precautions against fraudulent activity.

Furthermore, proactive measures like installing security systems and promptly reporting unauthorized entry are crucial in deterring squatters and mitigating potential losses. As Ms. McDuffy concludes, “So I want to draw attention to this so that way we can do something to start putting in proper procedures.”