Frustrated neighbors, owner in NW Houston turn to Action 13 about home taken over by squatters

Miya Shay Image
Friday, June 23, 2023
Neighbors frustrated with squatters who settled in home in March
A home in northwest Houston that was put up for sale is the site of an investigation where squatters have settled in.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A house for sale in northwest Houston has apparently turned into a home for squatters and is now part of an ongoing Houston police investigation.

Action 13 was first told about the house on Majestic Oaks two days ago. On Thursday afternoon, Houston police officers were at the home when ABC13 drove up to the neighborhood. We saw police spending more than an hour at the location, talking to the people living at the home.

Long-time neighbor Becky Larabee says she was getting her hopes up when she saw police on site.

"When the police were out here (Thursday), and we saw you're all here to interview, there was jubilation one street over, " she said. "They're going to get them out!"

But, as we have learned in covering the problem with squatting in the Houston area, getting squatters to leave is not a one-and-done situation. Houston police only towed away the trailer out front that was filled with trash. Police say because the trailer had been sitting in front of the house and not moved, it was declared abandoned.

The people at the home, however, were allowed to stay. ABC13 saw at least four people come in and out of the home. There were at least two vehicles and what looked like a boat parked behind a gate.

WATCH: 13 Investigates: How squatters use the system to live in homes for free

Squatters are a growing problem in the community. In the video above we learn more about what rights you have if a squatter has taken over your home.

According to police and real estate records, the current family moved into this house in early March, when it was on the market for sale. The small local company that owns the home called the police right away, and records show officers made at least two visits to the home prior to Thursday.

Neighbors say the squatters waived what looked like a lease to the officers months ago, a now familiar routine Action 13 has seen many times.

"They just kind of showed up, and we're not sure how they got in," Don Larabee, who bikes the neighborhood daily, said. "They come up with a lease they show the police. A fake lease of some kind."

Since then, frustrated neighbors have been at a loss on how to deal with such a situation. They say trash has piled up, and the Larabees are worried about property values.

"We're trying to sell our house, reducing our value, and I believe it caused our first offer to fall through," Becky Larabee said. "So it's having a real negative impact on us."

"How do people do this?" asked a frustrated Pat Downing, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. "I've never known people to do this. I don't even know how to do this. We saw your two successful (squatter) stories, and that's why you were suggested to call."

The neighbors contacted Action 13, and similar to previous squatter stories, the homeowners have to go through the civil eviction process. Filing the paperwork and then going to court is a process that could take months, if not a year.

SEE ALSO: 'Finally they're out': Squatters living in SW Houston home move out after living there for 6 months

When Eyewitness News knocked on the door, nobody wanted to talk, though people peeked through the window a number of times. Later in the afternoon, a man dropped off food to the squatters - the mother sent two teenage children out to pick up the food, watching from inside the house.

"It seems as though the police, the HOA, everybody, their hands are tied. The laws and stuff, they really can't move forward," Don Larabee, who has taken careful account of police calls and case numbers, said.

The ownership group told ABC13 that it, too, is frustrated. Being a small company, it is not familiar with trying to evict squatters, but the company is in the process of consulting with attorneys.

If you have a property that is set to be on the market for rent or sale, experts say you need to post no trespassing signs, install a security camera, and visit the property often to prevent squatters from breaking in.

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