Houston/ Real Estate & Development
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Published on April 17, 2024
Houston and Harris County Grapple with Rise in Squatting Incidents, Prompting Calls for Legal ClaritySource: Google Street View

Houston, we have a problem: squatters are claiming vacant homes as their own, highlighting the urgent need for homeownership documentation clarity in Harris County. A family recently took over a rental home in a quiet Texas cul-de-sac, to the dismay of longstanding residents Jim and Lark Johnson. "When they show up and immediately rip down the sign of the leasing company or owner company, it's like, that raises a concern," Jim Johnson told ABC13 in a recent interview. Different from a homeowner's nightmare, a similar situation led to constable intervention in Southeast Houston, as deputies were called to evict unwanted occupants from a deceased owner's home.

According to FOX 26, Jennifer Hebert was shocked to discover her late mother's home had been taken over by strangers. "The Constable's office showed up at my door," Hebert said. "I didn't know anything about it." In both cases, the squatters had managed to quickly make themselves at home. Still, area residents are feeling unease as fast as these unwanted neighbors settle in. The problem is not isolated; Constable Jerry Garcia reported to FOX 26 that this is a growing issue, with several similar cases persisting in the county.

A shared concern among affected communities is the potential for crime. The Johnsons and other neighbors have been vigilant, actively monitoring and reporting suspicious activities to authorities. Lark Johnson expressed her frustration, saying, "What's been frustrating is that I have a 12-year-old and that I don't even let her walk to her best friend's house without watching her," highlighting the unease that has befallen the once-peaceful cul-de-sac.

Legal avenues to remedy these invasions of property are time-consuming and intricate. The squatters in the Johnsons' neighborhood presented what seemed to be a legitimate contract, making it challenging for law enforcement to take immediate action. The home's management company has since filed eviction papers, but as ABC13 has reported, sometimes it can take up to a year for the process to entirely pass through the court system. Similarly, authorities needed several months to legally evict the squatters from the property in Southeast Houston once they managed to locate the necessary documentation.

Both FOX 26 and ABC13 underline the importance of preventive measures like posting "no trespassing" signs and ensuring properties have proper ownership documents in place. In response to the outbreak of such incidents, Council Member Flickinger is planning to establish Wills Clinics to help Harris County residents secure their properties legally. Affected homeowners and those witnessing squatting activities are urged to report to the respective district offices for assistance.

Houston-Real Estate & Development