Residents of a neighborhood in Winter Park, Florida, say squatters have created a “nightmare” situation and have not been evicted citing how the police department is “handcuffed” from doing anything.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Winter Park resident Justin Mielcarek told WFTV 9.
The news outlet visited Fifeshire Drive in the town, and said residents were eager to speak out about the squatting issues, including one home that has been sparking tension since June when squatters reportedly moved in.
Mielcarek and other neighbors said they started noticing full trash bins, shades that covered all the windows, and a car in the driveway at the home back in June, despite the home’s owner living abroad.
The neighbors recounted their suspicions were piqued and called the property management to inquire about their new neighbors, but the property company had no records of any tenants.
Police were called, who reportedly raided the property, and left the alleged squatters fleeing over fences, jumping out of windows and even landing in a pool, WFTV reported.
“K9 units, helicopters. Gentlemen running, police officers chasing after them,” one neighbor, who only identified by her first name Leslie, said.
The home has since reportedly been the site of 14 police calls as neighbors report cars visiting the home at all hours of the night, lights shining from the house into neighboring homes, and speeding on the residential roads.
Police, according to residents, are patrolling the area more closely in response to the alleged squatters.
Neighbors say that police have been held off from making any arrests due to the alleged squatters producing phony lease records.
The actual homeowner, according to the outlet, filed a lawsuit to evict the people from the people, but neighbors blame her for the squatting activity.
“I think we need to figure out something,” Mielcarek said. “The cops are handcuffed because they can’t do anything … and the court process takes however long it takes. You wish it was a little bit of a faster process.”
They say the homeowner has refused to sell the property to willing buyers, while the property has lagged on up-keep.
“We have three rental properties on the street alone, and it’s very evident which they are because they’re not kept up,” neighbor Christine Armstrong said.
Armstrong said the squatters even nearly hit one of her kids on the street.
“On one occasion, a few days ago, [one of the occupants] almost hit one of my children,” Armstrong said.
A lawyer representing the homeowner to evict the alleged squatters said a judge signed a final judgment against the squatters last week.
The lawyer will be able to apply for a writ of possession once the judgment officially appears on the court docket.
The people inside the home, however, claim they are victims of a scam, telling the outlet that their cousin invited them to the home and they paid him rent. The cousin has since disappeared, they said.
Squatting incidents in Florida and other areas across the country has become a more pressing issue since the pandemic, with similar incidents where squatters produce false documentation to take over a home.
One woman in Bonita Springs was arrested last week for allegedly illegally moving into a multi-million dollar beach home with her dog, and was caught by police wearing the true homeowner’s clothing at the time of her arrest, according to a report.
Law enforcement in Fort Lauderdale removed 10 squatters from a million-dollar property that was left riddled with bugs and damage earlier this summer.
While other law enforcement near Port Orange, Florida, in June dismantled structures on an island known for its drug use that was overtaken by squatters.