9 Investigates squatters living in soon-to-be foreclosed apartment units



ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates found one local condo complex is getting overrun with squatters living in units that are going through foreclosure.

WFTV's Mario Boone asked why the complex is seeing a spike in crime and what's being done to fix the problems there.

The Plaza at Millenium condos in west Orange County used to be a desirable place to live, according to the community’s HOA president, Jose Contreras.

"A wonderful place," Contreras told Boone.

But he said that’s not the case now, not with evictions like one last week becoming more common at the complex.

Contreras told Boone he fears the Plaza might become the next crime-infested condo community plagued with abandoned units just like the troubled Tymberskan apartment complex. And that’s largely because of one growing problem: Dozens of squatters have taken over many foreclosed units.

“Damage to the property. Damage to the gate. Damage to the pool,” Contreras said. “Damage to everything.”

Boone spent hours going through property records and found at least 43 condos - or one in five at the Plaza - are currently in foreclosure.

“Oh, my God!” Contreras said after hearing the numbers.

Contreras said squatters armed with fake lease documents and stolen electrical service are behind a recent wave of shootings, drug dealing and thefts in the community.

Boone checked with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and found that since Jan. 1 there have been 121 calls for service to 911 from the complex. That works out to more than one emergency call every other day.

“This is a problem,” Contreras told him.

Contreras, a 10-year Plaza resident, said he blames the banks for leaving the properties unsecured and allowing squatters to move in.

“The bank won't take responsibility,” he said. “The bank doesn't care."

Contreras said the HOA spends $10,000 a month just on the water bill, not to mention other amenities that legal residents help pay for, which squatters get for free.

Eyewitness News was there recently when Contreras evicted one unit of suspected squatters. It’s a process that can cost thousands and take years.

9 Investigates reached out to some of the banks that have taken over the units at the Plaza at Millenium condos, but no one  called back to discuss the problems.