A homeowner has revealed that a family of five has moved into her vacant rental property and changed the locks.
Linda Jiang called the police when she discovered people had moved into her home in Houston, Texas, but getting them out wasn’t so easy.
In March, Jiang and her husband had put their property up for rent when they received a letter from their homeowners association.
The letter asked them to do some lawn work, so she drove landscapers to the house to see what was needed.
When she arrived, Jiang opened the door and was horrified to find a family of five sleeping on air mattresses. They had been living there for almost a month.
A woman inside told Jiang that she was renting the property and even emailed her a copy of the rental agreement.
When asked how she moved in, she said a supposed realtor put her up in the house.
But Jiang had no idea who the woman was and refused to give in without a fight.
“They broke into my house. They are trespassing,” Jiang told the ABC affiliate KTRK after the discovery.
“This should be a criminal offense. You are violating my privacy. This is my property.”
The so-called tenant also spoke to the media after the discovery, claiming she paid a real estate agent $6,000 to move out of California and start a new life.
Police were called to the property and surveillance footage showed them chatting with the family, but no arrests were made, the outlet reported at the time.
Authorities told Jiang that this was a civil dispute.
When Jiang visited their property afterward, the family had changed the locks.
“If someone steals your vehicle, the police will come and catch them and say, ‘You’re the thief. We’re putting you in jail,'” Jiang said.
“Why can’t they do the same for the house?”
Days later, the family disappeared after a disturbing criminal record came to light.
“I thought we had to go through the eviction process. Now they are gone, completely disappeared,” Jiang told reporters.
The woman was involved in several civil and criminal cases in surrounding counties and there were three eviction filings under her name, public records show.
Legal experts say there has been a large influx of squatters producing fake documents to extend a free stay in someone else’s apartment.
“We’re seeing an increase,” said eviction attorney Brian Cweren.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I can’t say I’ve seen as much as I have in previous years.”
Given the situation, Jiang said they would take the property off the rental market, set up a security system and consider selling it.
“It was very frustrating to have to deal with this, but now I’m glad it’s gone and I hope the legislators do something and change the law and protect homeowners and not the squatters,” Jiang said.
Another resident came home from a long vacation to find two squatters who had stolen everything but her bed.