A Houston public school teacher and her family have been evicted from a luxury home they were squatting in for months after using a fake lease to remain on the premises.
Amberlyn Prather had been ordered by a judge last month to vacate the home she and her family were shacking up in after illegally taking residence in the property, which was listed for sale and vacant, in January by flaunting a fabricated lease agreement, according to ABC13.
“It’s insane,” realtor Shanequa Garrett, the authorized seller of the property, told the outlet in May after the courts ruled the family had been squatting in the suburban home and needed to be evicted.
Prather, a fourth-grade teacher in the Houston Independent School District, squeeze in over two more weeks at the property before Garrett could get back to work on June 15, when they were officially removed — despite being ordered to leave at the beginning of the month.
“Finally, they’re out,” Garrett told the outlet. “Now it’s to keep the squatters out completely. We don’t want another situation like this.”
Garrett cracked down on how the family gained access to the home when she conducted an inspection.
“They could climb on a trash can and climb on the roof,” Garrett told the outlet. “From this window (which was loose), they can just open it from the outside and jump in. Because we kept getting the house rekeyed, and they kept getting in.”
The Houston realtor was forced to make several court appearances to expose the squatters and was told by the constable’s offices that the issue was a civil matter and not criminal throughout the ordeal.
Most squatting cases are investigated as a civil matter — with civil courts able to evict the squatters quickly — but those who are knowledgeable can easily play the system in their favor.
After painstakingly making her argument in court for months, the judge ruled they should never have been in the house and the lease agreement they provided as evidence they were renting the home located 20 miles outside the center of Houston was fake.
Homes that will be left vacant for extended periods should post no trespassing signs, along with other safeguards like installing security cameras inside and outside the property and changing the locks, a legal expert told ABC13.
“If you’ve got a professional squatter who knows the system, they can string that process along,” Paul Pilibosian, a Houston attorney specializing in real estate law, told the outlet in May.
Squatters in Texas have the ability to move into a home through several avenues, including simply taking it over and taking care of the property.
In a similar occurrence in March, a Houston woman claimed her home was taken over by a squatting family of five, who changed the locks and also drafted a fake lease.
The squatters were living on air mattresses and had changed the locks on owner Linda Giang twice after she discovered them living on her property.
“They broke into my house. They’re trespassing,” said Giang. “That should be a criminal trespass. They’re violating my privacy. This is my property.”
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