PHILADELPHIA - They have been called unscrupulous renters, illegal trespassers and criminals.
Philadelphia City Council took on the growing problem of squatters, discussing ways to crack down on those illegally occupying homes they don't own.
"I am not a statistic. I experienced this," Carla Waychoff told City Council on Monday. "I don't have to imagine showing up with a stranger in my house, because I did it."
The issue, according to Councilmen Al Taubenberger and David Oh, is the laws are protecting the people who are illegally occupying homes.
"There is no penalty and in fact they get to live well," said Oh. "They get to live for free they are not responsible for any damage."
One woman we spoke with, who was allegedly squatting in a Northeast Philadelphia home, said she paid money to a landlord to rent the home. But even though she knows it was not a valid lease, she refuses to willingly leave.
"I've paid $2,400 to rent a home for me and my children to be in, not to be called a squatter," she said.
Oh's proposal would require squatters to leave a properties within 48 hours, or face a $300 a day fine and arrest.
"They should be arrested and they should be prosecuted," said Oh.
Both councilmen want tougher laws to give police the ability to swiftly removed squatters from homes they illegally occupy, without going through a lengthy court process.
"If somebody kicks your door in of your home and tries to take procession it should be resolved a quickly as possible," said Taubenberger. "I mean really quickly."
Oh's bill did not make it out of committee Monday. Councilman Al Taubenberger said he is following up with the District Attorney's office to draft legislation to protect homeowners and curb what he says is this growing crime spree in the Philadelphia.
For more news and updates to her investigations, be sure to follow Wendy Saltzman on Facebook.
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