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Reclaiming Home Turf: How One Handyman Flipped the Script on Squatters

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Since 2010, in my role as Principal of a Real Estate company, I have encountered a handful of situations dealing with squatters in both some of my own properties and those of our landlords, for whom we manage rentals. The legal framework surrounding squatting in South Africa often does not favour landlords. While I won't delve into the depths of my personal struggles, I did come across an insightful article from Fox Business that might be of interest to many. Below, I share a story from Pennsylvania, USA, that showcases one man's unique approach to a squatters' issue.

Please note: As Rental Prop under the House of Realtors (Pty) Ltd. group, our Directors, staff or any representative does not endorse or suggest any unlawful actions concerning evictions or the removal of squatters in South Africa. It is imperative to seek legal counsel and ensure that legal protocols are strictly followed should you face illegal occupation issues.

Handyman Innovatively Reclaims Mother's Property from Squatters

Flash Shelton, a handyman from Pennsylvania, discovered an ingenious method to reclaim his mother's home from unwelcome squatters. Rather than opting for direct confrontation, Shelton decided to use the squatter laws in his favor.

Delving into the intricacies of squatter rights over a weekend, Shelton unveiled a strategy. "I realized that in the absence of civil action, squatters essentially had no rights. By replacing them and becoming the squatter myself, I could leverage those rights," commented Shelton during his appearance on "Varney & Co."

The issue arose after Shelton's father passed away. While the family aimed to sell the house, they discovered it was overrun by squatters – individuals inhabiting a property without legal right.

To Shelton's dismay, local law enforcement seemed powerless. They highlighted the presence of furniture as an indicator of a squatter situation and proclaimed their hands were tied. Undeterred, Shelton conceived a plan. To bolster his position, he had his mother draft and notarize a lease agreement.

Detailing his actions, Shelton shared, "I drove to the property early in the morning. As the sun rose, three cars exited the property. Seizing the moment, I entered, installed security cameras, and staked my claim."

When the original squatters returned, they were met with Shelton's resolve. Armed with his lease and the added security, he informed them of the situation and gave them a brief window to retrieve their belongings.

Squatting is a mounting concern in numerous U.S. cities. Policies sometimes inadvertently favor squatters, causing challenges for property owners. Mitch Roschelle of Madison Ventures+ voiced his concerns, highlighting cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, where squatting issues are intensifying due to existing legal frameworks.

Through his experience, Shelton identified a loophole: "The laws might restrict me from evicting them, but as a tenant, I discovered I had more rights than them." His mission has since evolved. Not only did he resolve his squatting predicament, but Shelton now guides others facing similar challenges and passionately advocates for legal reforms against squatting.

He concludes, "Changing squatter laws is my primary goal. By doing this, I believe I can assist everyone."

Original article courtesy of Fox Business.

It's always essential to adapt strategies to one's local context and legal framework. While Shelton's approach was successful in his case, each situation is unique and requires its due diligence.

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