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Pembroke Pines Taking Aim At Squatters

PEMBROKE PINES (CBS4) - Commissioners in Pembroke Pines took the first step Wednesday towards cracking down on squatters.

Commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance that would make property owners responsible for getting water or sewer accounts for their rental houses.

Vice-Mayor Carl Schecter believes that will help prevent squatters from moving into a home and getting utilities illegally.

"This is something that we have to do," Schecter told commissioners.

Schecter said he's received complaints from residents in his district, on the city's east side, of squatters living in vacant homes.

Nalua Cuenca lives in the Pines Village community. She said she hasn't seen clear evidence of squatters here, but she said that's part of the problem; squatters don't announce themselves.

Cuenca has an intimate knowledge of the issue. She works for a property preservation company that cleans up and manages vacant homes and occasionally encounters squatters.

"I think it would be a good idea," she told CBS4's Carey Codd. "These homes are staying vacant for so long that it's giving these squatters the opportunity to go into these properties and make it their home for whatever time it is."

We've seen problems with squatters pop up all over South Florida. The most infamous, Andre "Loki Boy" Barbosa, who was accused of squatting in a Boca Raton mansion. He got the boot.

In Coral Gables, city leaders studied the problem after squatters were suspected of living in a spacious gated home in the city. The residents said they were living in the home legally.

In Pembroke Pines, some have their doubts about the efficacy of the proposed ordinance. Barbara Parlavecchio-Ortis, a realtor and wife of the Pembroke Pines mayor, doubts whether making the property owner get the water and sewer account will solve the problem.

"Even if the water bill is in the owner's name it's not gonna stop somebody in the middle of the night from going into that home," she said.

Parlavecchio-Ortis thinks a better solution might be to remove the water meter from the home altogether when the home is vacant so the squatter can't get an illegal hookup.

City commissioners will have a workshop to study this issue and will hold a second and final vote sometime in the future.


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