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Some homeowners left waiting in limbo as several states work out anti-squatting stances

How property owners are dealing with squatters
How property owners are dealing with squatters 03:35

New anti-squatter laws go into effect a week from Monday in both Florida and Tennessee, which will make it six states that have passed similar laws this year. But some U.S. homeowners aren't waiting for new laws to help them confront the problem.

When Jean, an 81-year-old grandmother in Idaho, inherited a plot of commercial land in Los Angeles, she thought her financial worries were over — until squatters claimed the property. Jean says at least 20 people in a dozen RVs took control and barred her from her own land. At the same time, she says she has continued paying property taxes and liability insurance.

Jean says she's spent her savings of about $100,000 to cover legal fees, taxes and lost rent. Although she found a buyer willing to take the property with the squatters, she says she had to drop her asking price by $800,000.

Squatters' rights go back to the British legal system, where the idea was to ensure abandoned or unused property could be put to good use by people who needed it. But the good intentions of centuries-old law have created some modern-day nightmares.

At another Los Angeles property that's been vacant for four years, squatters moved in after the owner died during the COVID-19 pandemic and no one in his family claimed it. The home has since fallen into disrepair and is riddled with broken windows, trash and graffiti.

Terri Cortez lives next door and says, "It's been a horrible nightmare." She wants the city to tear it down.

"I think the neighbors and I are very scared sometimes of what kind of people come up and people sometimes come in," Cortez said.

Since law enforcement can't do much and court battles can take years, other people are stepping in with different approaches.

Lando Thomas and Kimrey Kotchick run a company called "Squatter Squad." They break the locks squatters install and put up cameras to monitor them around the clock.

But they say even that isn't always enough to drive squatters away. In one incident, they were called in by a homeowner whose Airbnb guest overstayed his reservation and refused to leave.

Squatting has become a problem for landlords far beyond Southern California. One survey shows cities and counties in Georgia, Texas and Florida have more squatters than any other metropolitan area, according to the National Rental Home Council.

This story is Part 1 of a "CBS Evening News" report on squatting. Part 2 airs Tuesday, June 25, and will focus on solutions to the problem.

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