Have you heard of squatters?
Squatters are squatters who stay in the rooms they rent through Airbnb or other means, “squatting like a squatter” and refusing to move even a little bit. Now that Corona is over, squatters are rapidly increasing in all parts of the United States. They are becoming a major social problem.
Mr. A, a Japanese man in his 40s living in Los Angeles, is another victim of squatters. He moved to the U.S. in 2000 after marrying an American woman. He later divorced his wife and now lives in a rented house.
The property where the squatters are living was purchased by Mr. A in 2021 so that he could see his children and relax. Airbnb is the world’s second largest online accommodation booking agency. People from more than 220 countries and regions, including Japan, use Airbnb.
According to Ms. A, a guest moved in through Airbnb in March of this year, and Airbnb’s terms and conditions stated that “Airbnb is responsible for checking the identity of the guest.
Airbnb forbade hosts and guests from communicating directly with each other by phone or email before confirming a reservation.” Probably to prevent the host and guest from signing a contract directly with each other off Airbnb. As the second largest company in the world, I felt confident that they would do a thorough background check on their guests,” said Ms. A.
Mr. A said that he first interviewed the guest when handing over the key, and that he was a small, timid-looking white male. The guest told Mr. A, “I am an engineer and have a solid income.
At this point, one month’s rent had already been paid to us in advance through Airbnb. I handed over the keys to the guest with complete peace of mind.
However, the guest paid only for this one month. After that, no matter how many times we asked them to pay, they never paid the electricity, gas, and water bills, not to mention the rent.
I have repeatedly asked Airbnb’s support center to do something about it, but they never get anywhere. The response always stops at the end of the line and is never directed to a responsible person at the manager level. Moreover, the person who handled the case changed every time, so I had to repeat the explanation from scratch each time.
When Ms. A asked an investigative firm to check the guest’s background, “We found out that he was a professional squatter who not only had a criminal record but had also received two eviction orders from the court in the past.
What are the goals of “professional squatters,” or people who squat for a living? Apparently, the squatters’ goal is not merely to evade rent and other obligations.
According to Fox News, a professional squatter in Pennsylvania illegally occupied two apartments without paying rent. When the original owners forced the occupants to move out, they were beaten with baseball bats. The squatter was finally removed by the police after the court issued an eviction order.
In this incident, too, it was Airbnb that introduced the squatter as a guest. I, in a roundabout way, did not know that Airbnb had caused such an incident until I was involved in the case myself. Again, Airbnb took no action in this incident and the apartment owner filed a claim for damages.”
Upon further investigation, he found that the squatters’ damage was spreading across the United States. The COVID-19 crisis was behind this.
The COVID-19 crisis caused a sharp increase in the number of people who lost their jobs and could no longer pay their rent. The homeless problem became a major social issue. Local administrative authorities, faced with the need to protect the needy, forbade landlords from evicting residents for nonpayment of rent (Eviction). This worked to the squatters’ advantage.”
When Corona ended, Eviction was lifted and more people were evicted for non-payment of rent. However, he said, California has a system in which “renter’s rights” arise when a tenant’s stay exceeds 30 days, and the law does not allow for easy eviction of those who have not paid rent.
In California, landlords cannot shut off electricity, gas, water, or other infrastructure until they receive a formal eviction order from the court, even if rent is unpaid. This is against the law. This is why squatter damage is so common in California. The more powerful the Democratic Party is in the state, the more likely this is to happen. It takes about six months to get an eviction order against a non-paying renter. During this time, squatters are living comfortably by skimming the rent.
Some squatters even use their rooms for prostitution to make a living. When he was forced to call the local police, they replied, “You got hit too? It happens all the time here. We can’t get involved in civil cases.
When I read Airbnb’s terms and conditions, I found that damage to furniture by guests was covered by insurance, but there was no mention of squatters’ damage, and the company’s policy was one of ‘no compensation’.
Mr. A had no choice but to retain a lawyer, but the search for a lawyer was also a difficult process. As mentioned earlier, the ban on eviction was lifted at the end of the COVID-19 crisis, and courts across the U.S. are now flooded with requests for eviction cases. The number of eviction cases is so large that the courts are unable to handle them, and the time required for eviction is becoming even longer.
There are lawyers who specialize in evictions, but they are all extremely busy. When I finally found one, the cost was an astonishingly high $575 per hour. I have to pay this myself until the case is resolved. During this time, the room rent is not coming in. It’s just stressful.”
Friday Digital requested a written response from Airbnb regarding Mr. A’s case, but after repeated requests, they still did not receive a response by the deadline.
We have to question the ability of Airbnb, an international company, to manage a crisis, and to respond to the harm it is causing to its customers.”
This is the dark side of America, the land of the free.
Interview and text by： Manabu Hasegawa PHOTO： Afro (3rd photo)