Standing up to squatter removal services and illegal evictions

Photo credit: Channel 7 News

Jessica Coleman is a mother of five and was a former resident of Detroit’s northeast side, until just days before Christmas, when she was threatened by a squatter removal service company, hired by her new landlord.

But Jessica and her family weren’t squatters. She had a month-to-month lease and paid rent to her previous landlord until they sold the property. Under the law, as “holdover tenants” of the new landlord’s, Jessica and her family can’t be evicted without proper notice and a court hearing.

Unaware of this law and feeling intimidated after the squatter removal service company threatened jail, Jessica was left with no choice but to leave the property.

DJC Staff Attorney and housing justice activist Joe McGuire was previously representing Jessica and providing her with legal counsel. 

In an interview with Channel 7 News, Joe shared: “It’s pretty shocking, the lengths to which some landlords go to avoid the normal court process. To use the techniques that were used in this case is very abhorrent and illegal.”

Detroiters have been fighting displacement for decades due to illegal tax foreclosures and evictions. As the narrative of the city’s revitalization has been touted in the media, thousands of Detroit residents continue to face housing insecurity.

Our vision of a truly just Detroit is defined by affordable and dignified housing. Housing that is stable: free of land speculation and volatile market pricing. Housing that is safe: free of the involvement of police and privately hired contractors in badges and bulletproof vests, evicting people from their homes and providing them with no alternative options.

In 2021, we filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Police Department to bring an end to police involvement in evictions. Last year, as part of a strong coalition, we passed Right to Counsel–ensuring all Detroiters have the right to legal representation if they do face eviction.

Joe encouraged landlords against contracting squatter removal services altogether, especially “when there is a danger to do real harm to human beings and families in this community.”

DJC is part of a growing movement of community organizations–like Detroit Eviction Defense, The Coalition For Property Tax Justice, Detroit Tenants Association, and more–who are fighting to make housing justice a reality. Together, we’ll bring an end to displacement and transform Detroit into a just city that puts its people, like the Coleman family, first.

Listen to Joe McGuire’s feature with Channel 7 News in full and follow DJC on social media to receive the latest updates on our fight.