PORTLAND – Hundreds of homeowners have been complaining about squatters living in abandoned homes in their neighborhoods.
So what can be done to keep trespassers out? Legal experts say it can take months or even years to kick squatters out for good.
The problem is so widespread that the City of Portland has created a special task force to work on it.
Realtor Gary Horton just listed a home in Northeast Portland that’s supposed to be vacant. But a recent visit revealed someone was living there.
“They actually turned the power on in their name," Horton said.
Police said Dennison Williams and several of his friends had been living in the home that Gloria Canson lost to the bank nearly a year ago.
At a different home several blocks away, neighbor Tunya Scarborough said she noticed the home appeared to be in shambles, but thought the people living there were just bad tenants.
Brandon McClure and his girlfriend, Dana were also accused of squatting. Police said they were living in an old Army bus in the backyard of an empty home.
The couple told KGW they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong because no one was living at the property when they decided to make it their new home.
Area residents also complain that the squatters hurt the community by bringing down home values.
"There’s lots of traffic coming in and out with people at all times of the hours,” said officer Dennis Mako. “We get lots of neighbor complaints so it just brings down the quality of life of the other neighbors."
“Lots of times they bring crime with them, theft or just vandalism," said Martin Padilla with the Portland Police Neighborhood Response Team.
Portland's new task force has cleaned up 30 homes already, but still has a list of nearly 50 more to take on.
(KGW consumer reporter Ed Teachout contributed to this report.)