You come home from vacation or maybe you visit your second home for vacation, and you arrive to find strangers living in your house and they refuse to leave.  They are criminal trespassers to be sure but how do you get them out?  Well, it depends on state law. 

This problem of the homeless becoming illegal squatters has exploded in sanctuary cities like New York as the world pours through our porous southern border.  Do the homeless have the “human right” to move into your house and live there rent free for as long as they like?   In New York, newly arrived members of Venezuelan gangs think so.  And they are here for the long haul plying their trade because they cannot be deported back since Venezuela refuses to accept them. But could this happen in Texas?  (Read more)

In Texas, no one has the “right” to occupy and live in your house, but that does not mean it has not become a significant problem.  The practical application of Texas law seems to treat squatters more like unwanted tenants than the criminal trespassers they are. In May 2024, the Texas Senate Committee on Local Government conducted a hearing on the problems associated with squatters in Texas with an eye toward strengthening Texas law in the 2025 legislative session.  A woman testified that a man had moved into her house while she was on vacation and eleven months later, she still was not back in her house. Current law requires the owner to institute eviction proceedings in the justice of the peace court in which the property is located but, as the Committee heard, there can be significant delays before the owner has an eviction order that can be taken to the county sheriff for a forcible eviction. And calling the local police was of no use; they simply told the homeowner that it was a civil matter, and she should institute court proceedings. Florida, however, has the right idea.  Effective July 2024, Florida law enforcement can immediately arrest and evict squatters and charge them with a felony if they cause more than $1,000.00 in damage to the property. Expect something similar to be enacted in Texas.

The relevant Texas statutes on this issue are, Tex. Prop Code Sections 16.024-26, (dealing with adverse possession claims) and Texas Penal Code Sections 28.03, (criminal mischief) and 30.05 (criminal trespass).   The so-called Texas Castle Doctrine broadly provides that one is not required to retreat from a threat of physical force in the home but can use reciprocal force, (sometimes deadly force) to defend it.  But it is probably unwise to initiate physical force to remove squatters from your home.  However, what if you lured them out, perhaps with the enticing sound of an ice cream truck bell, and then ran in and shut them out effectively squatting in your own house?  And if they attempted to force themselves back in, could you then rely on the castle doctrine to repel them? Just a hypothetical of course but “turnabout is fair play”, after all.

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