High-end house squatting on the rise: the tackiest of luxury trends

High-end house squatting on the rise: the tackiest of luxury trends
High-end house squatting on the rise: the tackiest of luxury trends

Ever notice how the most downmarket of American phenomena can be positioned as a chi-chi trend by simply saying it in French -- even faux French? When Target became trendy, it also became Tarzhay. A bite-sized appetizer sounds kind of lame, but call it an amuse-bouche and signal that you're a foodie of the highest caliber (that, or you watch a lot of Top Chef). Cabinet? Never that -- armoire sounds so much more chic.

By that rationale, it might be time to trade out the term "squatting" for its French equivalent, accroupissement, meaning to squat or live illegally in property you don't own -- without the owner's permission!

Squatting in luxury homes is rapidly becoming a high-class problem. With so many multi-million dollar homes being lost to foreclosure and sitting vacant for months on end, the prospect of these swanky abodes sitting empty is just too much for many a scheming would-be squatter to resist.

Last spring, Chicagoland witnessed a case of high-class squatting when a man was charged with moving into a $700,000 "stately home" overlooking a suburban lake after its owners lost the home to foreclosure. His brazen accroupissement included not only introducing himself to the neighbors as the new owner and moving in his own furniture and flat-screen TV, but also illegally hacking into the public utilities, repeatedly. His next digs were a decidedly less luxe room in the county clink, after being charged with theft and criminal damage to state-supported property -- two felonies.

Upping the ante, an even bolder crew branded the "Mansion Squatters" has moved on into several multi-million dollar foreclosures in Kirkland and Bellevue, Wash., two tony Seattle suburbs. The Mansion Squatters' modus operandi (to throw some Latin into the mix) is to move in, change the locks and actually post a note on the door purporting to "claim" ownership of the home under a confusing morass of fabricated documents and faux-legal arguments.