Imagine someone breaking into your home, and never leaving. It's happened hundreds of times right in the valley. We're talking about squatters, moving in and making themselves at home, in your house. But do you know what to do when it happens to you? Contact 13 looks at what you need to know.
"We felt hopeless. We didn't know what to do, says Homeowner, Jaimee Oliver.
It was a stressful experience for her. Squatters broke into her home last year.
"It was only a month. It felt like eternity," says Jaimee.
It was supposed to be rented out, just like a rental property we toured, that was recently damaged by squatters. Jaimee says they broke-in half-a-dozen times.
"We got in, we changed the locks. They changed the locks again. We got back in. They broke a window. We got back in. They changed the locks again, and broke another window," says Jaimee.
They destroyed the air conditioner, and took the washer, dryer and the refrigerator.
"It cost us about $6,000 in property damage. That's not including rental loss... We got to a point where I'm like, what are we going to do?" says Jaimee.
The answer is, call police. Hopefully they can arrest your squatters for breaking-in. Then you'll need to post a notice that you're Retaking Possession of the property, and file a statement in Justice Court.
"Posting that and filing something at the courthouse is basically your record to show if this person tries to re-enter, they could be in criminal violation," says Directing Attonrey, Lauren Pena, with Civil Law Self Help Center.
She says, if police can't make an arrest, you'll need to serve the squatter with a Notice of Surrender.
"The squatter has the opportunity to answer and if they raise legal defense, it will go to court. If not, it doesn't go to court and the judge may give you an order for removal," says Lauren.
Then the squatters have 24-hours to move out. Fortunately for Jaimee, her squatters didn't put up a legal fight. She was able to get rid of them, with help from property manager Black & Cherry Real Estate. Broker and Owner, Ashley Hawks, says her company is spending thousands in the fight against squatters.
"We have had to come up with some crafty, sort of innovative measures, says Ashley.
She admits there's no foolproof plan for getting rid of squatters, but your odds are better with a property manager's help.
"We have experience in it. We know the proper laws. We know the proper processes, procedures. We do have the Metro unit on speed dial, says Ashley.
As for Jaimee, she's had enough of dealing with squatters.
"We eventually sold the house. It got to be too much," says Jaimee.