Where was Flash Shelton when I needed him? Had his services been available in 2012, I would have sought his help.
Shelton, founder of the United Handyman Association, took matters into his own hands when squatters moved into his mother’s California home. Now, he’s helping others in the same situation.
In March, Shelton explained to Fox News that after his father died, his mother decided to rent her house. When she declined a group of prospective renters, they broke into the house and moved in anyway.
The authorities said they couldn’t do anything. So Shelton let himself in — and stayed.
So annoyed did the squatters become that they quickly moved out. Shelton got his mom’s home back.
This week, he told Fox News that he is now offering his services to other homeowners dealing with squatters. “I can’t go in and remove them, but I can go in and move in with them,” he said.
His message to the uninvited inhabitants? “I don’t know what you’re doing, but this is my home now.”
Shelton said he even installs Ring cameras in every room in the house. “People kind of want to get away as fast as possible,” he said.
I applaud Shelton, as I know his story well in my own way.
The nightmare cost me thousands of dollars in legal fees and lost revenue. I spent countless nights worrying. My squatter was a professional. Many are.
The squatter claimed to be a downtrodden, newly single mom needing a place to live. Her job checked out, as did her personal references. We signed a lease, and she paid me the necessary deposit and first month’s rent. The home was located in New Jersey. I was living in Connecticut at the time, a few hours away.
Should homeowners have more power to get rid of squatters?
It wasn’t long after she moved in that I stopped receiving rent. When I contacted her about it, she offered me one excuse after another. Eventually, time would pass, and I’d get a check for the amount she owed.
It got to the point, however, where no rent was forthcoming at all. Concerned, I was compelled to inform her that I would be arriving for a visit. She acknowledged this but was nowhere to be found when I arrived after the two-and-a-half-hour drive.
Instead, I found the locks changed. I couldn’t get into my own home.
I had rented the home fully furnished, but, looking through the windows, I could see that there was almost no furniture left. She had been selling my own furnishings to pay me rent.
When I contacted the police, they told me that this wasn’t unusual but that they could do nothing to help. Their hands were tied. What they could do was direct me to a good attorney.
New Jersey has very stringent laws protecting squatters. It took me over six months to finally get the squatter out of my house, and still she was granted a temporary stay by a judge at the last minute.
During that time, I was forced to pay to fill the oil tank in the house to keep her warm.
And all this because I thought I was doing the right thing by sheltering this woman and her family at a difficult time. That mindset is what many of them depend on. Live and learn. I will never rent again.
This is why I say that Flash Shelton is a hero for his ingenuity and gutsiness in taking care of his mother’s squatter situation.
The people who moved into those four walls without permission had no right to be there. Common sense says so even when the law does not.
That home meant something to the Shelton family. It meant something totally different to the squatters — easy pickings. To them, it was an opportunity worth taking because the law was on their side.
My guess, however, is that Shelton was able to pull his plan off because he did not own the home. Had he owned the home instead of his mom, he might have found himself in a bunch of hot water and possibly jail. That is how this game is played. It’s mind-boggling.
We live in a time when those who break the law are protected by the law and those who abide by the law are not. Hard-working Americans are constantly footing the bill for those who play the system. How is that even a little bit OK?
Squatters should have zero rights. And police should be able to toss them out on their ears once legal ownership is verified. It shouldn’t take months of legal proceedings, punishing the landlord for the squatter’s purposeful victimization.
It is all very backward and nearly devastating for some landlords. It also costs insurance companies millions of dollars each year.
According to Porch, “there are currently several million properties with squatters in the U.S.” In certain situations, if the squatter lives there long enough, he can legally claim possession of the property.
That is why actively removing squatters is imperative. The process of doing so is complex and enormously stressful. It also ends up costing landlords a pretty penny.
Throughout the process, the squatters assume no loss or penalties. In the end, they can just go their merry way, only to do it again to another unsuspecting landlord.
And if you happen to be called as a reference for a squatter and you give an honest but bad evaluation, you could be sued. So many landlords don’t, allowing the cycle to continue and the squatters’ con game to go on.
Flash Shelton deserves a medal. So long as our justice system continues to work against the very people it was meant to protect, individual determination is imperative in these situations.
Welcome to today’s America, where crime is rewarded and the honest man is punished. How unfair.