HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Neighbors want officials to kick out squatters living in an abandoned home on their street, but the Harris County Sheriff's Office said there is nothing they can do.
Residents who live next door on Oak Ledge Drive in northwest Harris County told ABC13 they have not seen the homeowners in years. Recently, people have been seen living in the neglected house, which has been left in deplorable condition.
"The house is hazardous," Lenora, a neighbor, said. "It has mold. There is no back wall because it has all fallen down. I feel like I have to be on my toes all the time, because there's someone who doesn't need to be over there."
Action 13 was there as a woman climbed through the window. Eyewitness News spoke to the accused squatters, who claimed their front door was broken, which is why they climbed through the window. A man also told ABC13's Brooke Taylor he knew the homeowner and was a family member.
However, Action 13 tracked down the homeowner, who did not want to go on camera, and said he does not know the people and didn't know anyone was living in his home until his neighbors called. The homeowner said he now lives in Dayton and has not lived there in seven years.
Hours after contacting the sheriff's office, deputies swarmed the home with their guns drawn and ended up making contact with the squatters. However, they left and the squatters went back inside.
According to the HCSO, because the owner has not lived there in years, they cannot charge and arrest the people with criminal trespass. A spokesperson said the homeowner would need to have signage stating it is private property.
Now, the case is considered a civil matter, and the owner will have to go through the court system to evict them. Officials with the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office told ABC13 the eviction process could take months.
Neighbors not only feel unsafe but fed up with how the property has been kept.
"Oh, my gosh, there are feral animals," Lenora said. "We have seen cats bring in rats over the fence."
Another neighbor said her family member parked their car in front of their home, and the window was shattered and a phone and purse were taken.
ABC13 reached out to the county attorney to find out whether the home can be deemed hazardous and knocked down. We're still waiting to hear back.
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