Squatter or homeowner? Property dispute brewing in Alief

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Squatter or homeowner? That's the question at the center of a property dispute in Alief.

Tom Schrick of California says he owns the house in the 12300 block of Fairpoint. It was his boyhood home and where his mother lived before her death in 2008. However, Wanda Joyce Smith says she's the rightful owner, having been granted a deed from one of Schrick's sisters.

Smith has been living in the home for months and to Schrick that means "they're stealing,"

Schrick's parents built the home in 1972 and lived there up until their deaths. He says his sister walked away from it last year, but he couldn't.

"It was a nice house. It was home," Schrick said.

He got a loan to pay back taxes while at the same time he started getting letters from Smith, asking him to give her the house as a "blessing."

"She wanted me to sign a grant deed giving her the home. I'm sorry. I want the home," said Schrick.

This week he came to town to file for eviction. He also met the woman who calls the home hers.

"You're in my home," confronted Schrick.

"No, no I'm not. It's my home," replied Smith in front of Eyewitness News.

Smith showed Eyewitness News the results of a title search, showing the title in her name. She had a deed signed by Mary Hope Schrick, Tom's sister.

We searched Harris County Clerk records and found a deed granted from Mary Hope Schrick to Smith. We also found one from his sister to him. Two people have a deed to the same house.

Reporter: "How'd you find this home?" asked Eyewitness News.

Smith: "Through Mary."

Reporter: "You know Mary?"

Smith: This is Mary's handwriting. All of this is Mary's handwriting. She gave me all the info on the house."

It's a dispute a court will likely have to decide

"I'm very emotional over this. I don't even know what to do," added Schrick.

Harris County Appraisal District records show Schrick as the owner but a real estate attorney says just because you pay property taxes, doesn't necessarily mean you own the property.
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