After squatters brazenly occupied his mother’s home, a determined handyman, Flash Shelton, decided to delve deep into the intricacies of the law. His weekend of legal research bore fruit, equipping him to devise a clever solution to remove the miscreants from the property.
“I dissected the laws over a weekend. I basically figured out that until there’s civil action, the squatters didn’t have any rights. So if I could switch places with them, become the squatter myself, I would assume those squatter rights,” Shelton said on Fox News’ “Varney & Co.”
Shelton’s squatter saga began with the death of his father. The family, while grieving for the old man, decided to sell the house, only to discover that squatters had claimed it as their own.
Squatters are individuals who live in a property that they neither own nor pay rent for. Somewhat bafflingly to many observers, these individuals are often protected by state laws, which provide the squatters with legal entitlements to the property which is not theirs.
When Shelton reached out to the local law enforcement, their response was disheartening.
“I called local law enforcement, and as soon as they saw that there was furniture in the house, they said that I had a squatter situation and they had basically no jurisdiction and they couldn’t do anything,” he said.
Undeterred, Shelton hatched a plan to reclaim his home using the very squatter rights that seemed to be working against him. He also had his mother draft and notarize a lease for added security.
“I packed up my jeep, drove up there and paced out the joint around 4 a.m. I waited. About 8:00, 8:30 in the morning, three cars pulled out of the driveway and I made entrance to the house. I put up cameras, waited for them to come back,” he said.
“They didn’t have a lease, so that never came into play. But when they came back, I just laid it out for them, told them that it was all locked up, cameras, and the only way they would get back in the house is if they broke in on camera, and I would prosecute. I told them they had a day to get their stuff out or the furniture was not theirs anymore.”
The squatter issue isn’t isolated to Shelton’s experience. Across the U.S., cities are grappling with a rising tide of squatting, often exacerbated by progressive policies that seem to favor squatters and tenants over the rightful landlords. Mitch Roschelle, managing director at Madison Ventures+, highlighted the severity of the issue in cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
“The laws are written to protect the tenant, not the landlord,” Roschelle told Fox News Digital in June.
“The local laws that protect tenants at the expense of landlords have fueled this phenomenon because we’ve basically said forever it’s the landlord’s fault, not the tenant’s fault if the tenant can’t pay rent.”
He didn’t mince words when he cautioned landlords, “The law is not on your side.”
Shelton, too, felt the weight of these skewed laws.
“The law would prevent me from physically removing them,” he said.
“However, being that I wasn’t the homeowner, I had more rights. As a tenant, I would actually have more rights than them.”
He was prepared to go to great lengths if the squatters persisted. He mentioned that he would have relied on his lease and aimed to “make it miserable” for them, ensuring they’d leave of their own accord.
Having navigated this ordeal, Shelton has now taken it upon himself to assist others in similar predicaments. He’s also advocating for a change in the squatter laws.
“I do Zoom consultations. I ask people to make a donation to the cause. And when I can physically go out and help them, then yes, it is. It is something I am doing to help people now, as many as I personally possibly can,” he told host Stuart Varney.
“More importantly to that is I’m trying to change the laws. That’s my number one focus. So in helping others right now, since, you know, I feel bad, I can’t help everyone, but if we can change the squatter laws, I feel like that’s the way I can help everyone.”
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