State Rep. Kurt Heise currently is working on legislative reform and regional coordination efforts to combat illegal home squatting, according to a news release from Heise's office.
Heise, R-Plymouth Township, is chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee in the State House and is developing legislation with the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Association of Counties, courts, financial institutions and law enforcement to address the issue as the housing market deals with high volumes of vacancies and foreclosures, the news release indicated.
"Squatting" is where individuals illegally gain entry to a vacant or foreclosed home and begin living in the dwelling.
"We must make squatting less attractive, and to expedite the process in removing squatters from homes through new legislation and reform," Heise said in the news release. "This problem is not isolated to a particular city or county, and is often done with pro-squatting advisers who actually train squatters on the current law."
Heise argues in the news release that homeowners and lenders suffer from squatting because it slows down the sale process and communities suffer because the homes can become areas of blight.
Squatters also can bring illegal activity into a neighborhood, the news release indicated.
Heise stressed that his proposed legislation will not impact people who are having trouble paying a mortgage on their home.
"I know there are hard-working families who are having a tough time paying their bills, and may get behind on their mortgage," he said in the news release.
"These reforms are not about them; we are talking about people illegally entering and living in homes that they don't own. That's not fair to the rest of us who are working to honor our commitments.
"We've found that squatting isn't just about a few individuals finding their way into abandoned houses," Heise said in the news release. "This is becoming a problem across the region, and the entire state. Legislatively, we want to make squatting unattractive to individuals, and to create penalties for anyone assisting them. We must make the penalties stiff, and the eviction process swift and streamlined."
Heise expects to introduce anti-squatting legislation in March.