June 08, 2022
A Chicago woman is furious after an alleged squatter with a fraudulent lease moved into her newly-renovated home — and police told her they can’t do much anything to make the intruder leave.
Homeowner Danielle Cruz told WLS-TV recently that she and her husband bought the Chatham, Illinois, home with the intention of fixing it up and selling it. But before they had the chance, a stranger entered in and took up occupancy.
Cruz said she first became aware of the intrusion when a contractor the couple had hired to make some final fixes called to tell them that all the locks had changed — and that someone was living inside.
“We honestly thought he was joking because we knew the house was vacant. My husband just repaired the house completely with his own money,” she recalled. But when they went to check the place out, they discovered that the contractor was telling the truth: There was a young woman living in the home with all of her belongings.
The homeowners immediately called the police. But much to their shock and disappointment, officers said that not much could be done on their end.
Cruz said the woman told police “she saw an ad for the home online, signed a month-to-month lease with a so-called landlord, and paid $8,000 up front,” the outlet reported. But Cruz claimed she had never met the woman and certainly did not lease the property to her.
Nevertheless, because officers were not authorized to determine whether or not the lease was fake, the matter would need to be resolved in court.
“They said unfortunately they couldn’t prove she was trespassing. We have to go to court and follow the eviction process,” Cruz told the local outlet. Adding to their complications is the current backlog of cases in Cook County’s eviction courts.
Chicago real estate attorney Mo Dadkhah told WLS the whole process could take anywhere from six to 18 months. He added that, unfortunately, the problem is not a new one, and it’s happening more and more.
“I definitely feel violated,” Cruz said. ‘We may not live here, but it’s still our property. You know, I own this house, and it feels like if anyone can just break into your house and kind of take over. That’s a scary feeling.”
“Well it’s disgusting. It’s stealing and it’s not right,” said Chiron Baux, who lives in the area.
Another neighbor, Quintara Smith, added: “No one wants to come back and [find] someone is living in a property. It’s frightening. I mean, that can happen to anybody.”
Dadkhah said the Cruzes could either wait it out in the court system and hope for a positive result, or pursue another speedy, but unfortunate, option: cash for key.
“Although it’s a difficult pill to swallow to give money to somebody who is unlawfully in your property and refusing to leave, you have to think that $1,000 or $2,000, or whatever that number is that makes them leave, is less expensive in the long run,” he said.
Cruz told WLS she’d be willing to negotiate with unwelcome tenant, but the woman hasn’t agreed to speak.
Cruz said: “You know, we’re trying to live the American dream. They say own property, you know, we are trying to provide for our family. And then this happens, and it almost makes you never want to own anything. It’s not worth it.”