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Illinois Senate measure allowing police to address squatters advances

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(The Center Square) – The Illinois Senate could consider a bill to address squatters.

That’s when a homeowner comes home from a vacation or other extended period away to find someone else taking over their dwelling.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Cherry Valley, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday the stories continue to stack up about people going on vacation, or going to a long-term care facility, only to come back home to find someone who has taken over their home.

“In many cases seniors who are victimized by this so doing nothing is going to continue or a growing number of victimizing seniors,” Syverson said.

Syverson said his Senate Bill 3658 would give police more authority to remove squatters.

“No person shall have a right or legal standing to occupy or remain on or in any real property, residence, or structure if the person has no written property interest under a written lease or rental agreement with the owner of the property listed in county tax records or the owner’s agent; has no documentation of payment of rent made to the owner of the property or the owner’s agent; or otherwise fails to provide any evidence of an oral or written agreement in which a property interest is claimed,” the measure says.

Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Kenny Winslow testified Tuesday in front of the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee. He said police hands are too often tied when someone alleges there’s a squatter in their home.

“Unless there’s some kind of obvious reason,” Winslow said. “We try to look for forced entry. We try to debunk the story. We try to investigate it till we can. But when it gets to the bottom and we can’t prove it one way or the other the it becomes a landlord/tenant issue and we walk away.”

Opponents of the bill included Sam Tuttle representing Legal Action Chicago. Tuttle said everyone needs housing and there is already an eviction law that can be used if necessary.

“It’s basically if you’re kind of knowingly there unlawfully, you can be dispossessed,” Tuttle argued.

State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, said the measure isn’t ready. Sims said there’s already criminal trespass statutes and Syverson’s bill may be too broad.

“Because as I read the language, I don’t see the solution and the resolution Senator that you are trying to get to right now,” Sims said.

Despite those concerns, the measure advanced out of the Illinois Judiciary Committee unanimously Tuesday and awaits further action.