05/31/2012 10:03 am ET

Clarence Boykin Jr., Accused Palmer Woods Squatter, Faces Charges After Neighbors Attempts To Drive Him Away

What would you do to get rid of a squatter in your town?

Residents of the Palmer Woods neighborhood of Detroit did quite a lot to try to get rid of alleged squatter Clarence Boykin Jr., who’s now facing jail time after moving in to a home that sold for $480,000 nine years ago, according to The Detroit News. When Boykin showed up in a moving van after the previous owner walked away from his mortgage, neighbors were so suspicious that they arranged to have the utilities cut off.

Boykin's attempting to stay in the home by filing for adverse possession -- a legal loophole that squatters around the country have been claiming entitles them to take ownership of abandoned homes if they maintain the homes and keep up with the taxes. But many misinterpret the law; it only applies to squatters who have had access to the abandoned property over a period of years, an attorney told the Associated Press.

Millions of homes have been abandoned nationwide due to foreclosure or mortgage issues. Recently, squatters are believed to be responsible for instances of crime, vandalism and a fire in Oakland, California that nearly destroyed an entire duplex, the Oakland Tribune reports.

In addition to being a hotbed for crime and vandalism, empty homes can also drive down property values. To cope with the problem, towns across the country are increasing penalities on blight ordinances. Banks have received 3,600 fines for their handling of abandoned homes in New York City alone, the New York Daily News reports.

In Detroit, Bank of America decided last year to demolish 100 homes it owns rather than pay the cost of maintaining them, an action similar to a proposal recently approved by the city of Birmingham, Alabama that will tear down 230 abandoned homes, FOX 6 reports.