ANTIOCH -- The city is making it more difficult to turn on water service as part of its fight against squatters in foreclosed and short-sale homes.
Antioch will now require a new tenant or a listing agent representing a property to complete a water service application in which the property owner must certify -- either in person or with a notarized signature -- that he is authorized to have water service. The deposit amount of $90 will remain the same.
The stricter requirements are meant to crack down on undetectable fraudulent documents, which some are submitting to start water service at homes they are not supposed to be in.
"It gives us more information to verify when we check on a vacant house, andsomething doesn't seem quite right," said Ryan Graham, the city's deputy director of community development.
The new rules, which took effect Aug. 13, also provide a single point of contact in case there are property concerns.
As properties continue to sit vacant in the Delta area, some people are establishing residency in them. Some squatters stay in relative secrecy, while others who cause a neighborhood nuisance attract the ire of neighbors.
Local Realtor Melissa Case is among those who have urged the city to crack down on squatting in recent months.
"I love it. I'm sure there are probably some ways still around it, but it's a start," Case said. "I'm glad to see the city is stepping up on it; I had some doubts
Previously, Antioch had required agents to send requests only on company letterhead or business card, if in person.
Graham said the city found some people were looking up properties in the county assessor's office and making fake leases.
"This is one more way to weed those out," Graham said.
With the water shut off, homes fall under the category of uninhabitable, according to the city's housing code.
According to state law, once tenancy is established after 30 days, occupants are afforded certain protections, and landlords must follow the state's eviction process.
In East Contra Costa County, Pittsburg requires renters to come in with property owners or present a notarized rental agreement to turn on water, along with a $250 deposit.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.