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New Laws to Combat Squatting: What Texas Homeowners Need to Know (video)

Texas homeowners are facing significant issues with squatters occupying their properties without permission.

New Laws to Combat Squatting: What Texas Homeowners Need to Know (video)

State lawmakers, led by Senator Paul Bettencourt, are reconsidering property laws to address this problem. The proposed changes aim to close legal loopholes and provide better protection for homeowners.

Defining Squatting in Texas

Senator Paul Bettencourt highlights a major issue: Texas law currently lacks a clear definition of what constitutes a squatter.

Essentially, a squatter is someone who occupies a property without the owner’s consent, often attempting to take possession of it through adverse possession.

This situation leaves many homeowners feeling helpless, especially when law enforcement labels it as a civil matter rather than a criminal one.

Testimonies and Horrifying Accounts

During a recent hearing, various testimonies revealed the severity of the squatting issue. Homeowners shared horror stories about individuals, including drug addicts, taking over their properties.

The absence of immediate legal recourse exacerbates the problem. For instance, if law enforcement does not catch the squatters in the act of burglary, they often cannot intervene, leaving homeowners to deal with the intruders on their own.

Proposed Legal Changes

Senator Bettencourt and his colleagues are advocating for several changes in the law:

  1. Clear Definition and Classification: Redefining squatting as burglary to ensure immediate legal action can be taken against squatters.
  2. Rocket Docket for Evictions: Establishing a fast-track eviction process for Justices of the Peace to handle squatting cases promptly.
  3. Enhanced Tools for Law Enforcement: Providing law enforcement with the necessary tools and authority to evict squatters based on property ownership records such as tax records and utility bills.

Lawmakers’ Actions and Responses

State lawmakers, including Senator Bettencourt, have been proactive in addressing the issue.

During the hearing, a subcommittee led by Senator West and Senator Hall questioned local authorities about their handling of squatting cases. They discovered that some officials failed to take action due to technicalities in how the incidents were reported.

The proposed changes aim to eliminate these loopholes and ensure that law enforcement can act swiftly.

The Role of Local Governments and Law Enforcement

Local government officials and law enforcement officers have recognized the problem’s magnitude.

For example, Council Member Flickinger reported numerous cases of homes turning into drug dens due to squatters.

Constables in Harris County also identified hundreds of squatting incidents within their precincts. These findings underscore the urgent need for legislative reform to protect homeowners and communities.

Interim Measures and Future Prospects

While significant legislative changes may not occur until 2025, lawmakers are already taking steps to address the issue.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has assigned an interim charge to the local government committee to explore solutions.

This proactive approach aims to develop effective strategies and tools to combat squatting and provide relief to affected homeowners.

Conclusion

The squatting issue in Texas demands immediate attention and action. Senator Paul Bettencourt and his colleagues are working diligently to close legal loopholes and provide better protection for homeowners.

By redefining squatting as burglary, establishing a fast-track eviction process, and enhancing law enforcement tools, they aim to restore homeowners’ rights and prevent future squatting incidents.

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