You’ve saved up for years to buy a house, you find the home of your dreams, buy it and get ready to move in only to find out that there’s a squatter living in it. It happened to Zael Zura and his fiancee Veronica Botts when they bought their dream home and discovered on move-in day that alleged serial squatter, James McClung, was living there posing as a renter. Notice I said “serial squatter” because this vagrant has pulled this scam several times before and is probably pulling it even as we speak. The home that he targeted was a recently renovated bank-owned home in Shoreline, Washington. Zura and Botts put an offer on that home on the day Zura proposed to Botts. They discovered the vagrant 10 days before closing, when Zura drove by the house, that was supposed to be vacant, and found strangers living in their enchanted newlywed cottage. This was the same day as their engagement party too. What a way to ruin a celebration.
The KOMO-TV reported described the conversation that occurred during the initial confrontation. “I thought, what are they doing here, what are they stealing, and why are they here?” Zura said. “I asked (one of them) who she was and she said, ‘Oh, I’m the new tenant.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t believe we’ve rented to you, so who are you?'” Realizing that this conversation was going nowhere, Zura called the police after finding the Realtor’s lockbox had been cut and the locks on the door had been changed and a deed had been posted to the outside.
The deed, filed in Snohomish County, was James McClung’s attempts to pretend to lay claim to the home, which county records clearly shows is owned by a bank. The deed was notarized by Jill Lane. The Kirkland police opened an investigation on McClung and Lane. Lane is also believed to be squatting in a $3.2 million bank-owned mansion in Seattle. During their investigation, they discovered McClung’s name popping up on several forged documents trying to stake claim on several bank-owned homes in Kirkland, Bellevue and Edmonds.
Naturally McClung insists he did nothing wrong, saying that the bank’s interest in the property is invalid due to illegal foreclosure practices so he has a legal claim to it. Whatever. He also went on to say that, “The machine that I’m fighting is the bankers. I’m just one of the little guys who’s fighting that,” McClung added. I think it sounds like another case of “sticking it to the man.”
In the meantime, the people who did everything right, Botts and Zura, are the real victims here, not the bank. They gave notice on their rented home after they entered into contract with the bank, but the closing has been delayed because of McClung’s antics. Maybe they can stay in another property owned by the bank, if McClung’s gang hasn’t claimed all of them by “sticking it to the man.”
“He’s ruined it,” Botts said. “He’s taken it away from us. We can’t have this house anymore, because he’s trying to make a buck off of something he doesn’t own.”
If you ask me, if McClung likes squatting in homes he doesn’t own, they should give him a free room in a big house. Actually, The Big House, aka prison.
If you want to avoid situations like this, give notice to your landlord to move out one month after the closing date. Sure it may cost more, but I know at least two people that wouldn’t have minded paying extra, Zura and Botts. I bet they’re glad they did a drive-by before they closed on the property. If you’re buying, you should monitor your new home during the closing period and do a walkaround the day of closing to make sure nothing looks out of the normal.