Squatter complicates move-in for students

By Max Radwin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 15, 2013

Moving into a house on campus can be a stressful process. But it’s even worse when you discover someone is already living there and refuses to leave.

The tenants of an Elm Street house operated by Investor’s Property Management delayed moving in due to a “squatter” that refused to vacate the unit. The man living in the house had sublet the residence through the prior tenants without the approval of IPM.

Details of the debacle weren’t available earlier this semester due to ongoing litigation. But now, the inconvenienced students and IPM officials are talking about the mishap.

On Aug. 27, IPM notified the six University students who were set to move into the house for a lease starting this fall that someone was still living in the house, and that their move-in date, scheduled for Aug. 29, would be delayed.

But Engineering senior Jaclyn Reimann, one of the incoming tenants, is doubtful that IPM became aware of the situation that close to the move-in date.

“They had to have known,” Reimann said. “That’s when you go and clean the houses and get everybody out.”

The following day, IPM and the squatter attended a court hearing, during which a judge informed representatives of the company that although the man was not paying rent, the city could not legally force him to leave, because he had received occupancy from the company’s previous, lawful tenants, IPM property manager John Wade said.

“In the court’s eyes, they still saw him as a legal occupant,” Wade said.

According to Michigan law, tenants must be provided with a 30-day eviction notice if they stay past the natural end of the lease. Since the house’s occupier was protected by the rule, it forced Reimann and the new tenants to wait.

IPM pushed back this year's tenants' move-in date to as late as Sept. 19th, and offered to put the six tenants in hotels near Plymouth road and Briarwood Mall in the meantime.

Because it wasn’t clear if they’d be compensated for the hotel stay, the tenants decided to stay with friends or live at home instead. Two of the tenants did not have cars to commute to and from campus, so the hotel option wasn’t practical.

A secondary hearing was held Sept. 4. The squatter, who attended with his social worker and stepfather, found other living arrangements and agreed to leave the Elm Street house that day. Within the week, IPM had cleaned the property and given the new tenants their keys.

Reimann said IPM is waiving rent for her and her roommates during the timespan in which they weren’t able to move in. She said they’re also looking to get compensation for commuting to and from campus. Wade didn’t detail how the tenants would be compensated.

Gayle Rosen, housing attorney at the University’s Student Legal Services, said in an e-mail interview that subleasing problems are frequent, but rarely involve a subtenant staying too long or refusing to vacate the unit.

Rosen added that she more commonly sees instances of building damage and nonpayment of rent, but noted that these cases usually occur in the spring and summer, when more students are subletting.

Wade, the IPM property manager, warned students to think twice before they sublet their homes.

“I think it certainly proves that it makes a lot of sense to go through the proper channels, to check with their landlord, to make sure they're following proper procedures,” Wade said. “This points in the direction of, well, how much economic relief are you getting (from subleasing) versus what are some of the other risks that you may be undertaking?”

Editor's note: Daily Staff Reporter Kaitlin Zurdosky was one of the incoming tenants in the house. She was not interviewed for this article, per Daily policy.