PORTLAND — Oregon residents who live rent free on boats are facing eviction next year when they'll have to move at least five miles every 30 days under new state regulations.
The "aquatic squatters" say they are being targeted by the new rules, which become effective in January.
"We're such a small population," said Johnny Brett, 35, who has lived in his 26-foot boat on the Willamette River for the past four years. "More people live in a doorway on one street downtown than here. How can we be that big of a problem?"
A tough economy and a chance to live rent-free have resulted in a recent spike of boat dwellers who call various inlets and docks on the Willamette and Columbia rivers home.
The increase has prompted complaints from residents of riverside homes, said Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Deputy Josh Atkins, a river patrol unit member. Most of the complaints do not involve allegations of criminal behavior. Atkins said callers are unhappy with the presence of crafts anchored long term.
The new rules will give authorities a tool to shoo the squatters along, he said.
"Many of those I've contacted are very friendly, and I feel sympathetic toward them," he said. "But neither do we like getting these complaints."
Under the new rules, aquatic squatters who don't relocate face civil penalties of as much as $1,000 per day. Under the current rules, they must move every 14 days, but there's no rule on how far they must travel.
The five-mile rule would cause severe hardship for people who have jobs or need access to services and shopping, Brett said.
The complaints led to Multnomah County officials to contact the state after learning they had no jurisdiction over boaters in state waterways.