A Houston public school teacher and her family have been evicted from a luxury home they’ve been squatting in for months after using a bogus lease to stay on the premises.
Amberlyn Prather had been ordered by a judge last month to vacate the home she and her family had moved into after illegally moving into the property, which was up for sale and vacant, in January by posting a contract of manufactured lease, according to ABC13 .
“It’s insane,” estate agent Shanequa Garrett, the property’s licensed seller, told the outlet in May after courts ruled the family had squatted in the suburban home and needed to be expelled.
Prather, a fourth-grade teacher with the Houston Independent School District, spent more than two weeks at the property before Garrett could return to work on June 15, when they were officially fired – despite being ordered to leave at the beginning of the month.
“Finally they came out,” Garrett told the outlet. “Now it’s about keeping squatters out completely. We don’t want another situation like this.
Garrett cracked down on how the family gained access to the house when they carried out an inspection.
“They could climb over a trash can and climb onto the roof,” Garrett told the outlet. “From that window (which was loose) they can just open it from the outside and jump in. Because we kept having the house re-keyed, and they kept coming in.”
The Houston realtor was forced to appear in court several times to expose the squatters and the constable’s offices told him the issue was a civil matter, not a criminal one throughout the ordeal.
Most squatting cases are investigated civilly – with civil courts able to evict squatters quickly – but those who are well informed can easily play the system in their favor.
After painstakingly pleading in court for months, the judge ruled that they should never have been in the house and that the rental agreement they provided as evidence that they were renting the house 20 miles away of downtown Houston was wrong.
Homes that will remain vacant for long periods of time should not display any no trespassing signs, along with other protective measures such as installing security cameras inside and outside the property and changing locks, a legal expert told ABC13.
“If you have a professional squatter who knows the system, they can go through this process,” Paul Pilibosian, a Houston attorney specializing in real estate law, told the outlet in May.
Squatters in Texas have the option of moving into a home in a number of ways, including simply taking it over and taking care of the property.
In a similar event in March, a Houston woman claimed her home had been taken over by a crouching family of five, who had changed the locks and drawn up a fake lease.
The squatters were living on airbeds and had landlord Linda Giang change the locks twice after she discovered them living on her property.
“They broke into my house. They commit trespassing,” Giang said. “This should be criminal trespass. They violate my privacy. It’s my property.
New York Post