A real estate investor who was recently the victim of squatters is using his experience to help other landlords avoid court through a little-known Florida statute.
“I’m more than happy to be the harbinger for other people to be able to find solutions to this kind of terrible, terrible situation that people get into,” Sam told Fox News. “If I can help even one person, then it’s worth it for me.”
After recruiting a local news station to cover his situation in February, Sam received a tip that he could avoid the court system to evict the illegal occupants by using a Florida statute that allows police to remove them if he signs an affidavit claiming they are squatters. After the method remedied his situation, Sam has been spreading the word to help other Florida landlords.
FLORIDA LANDLORD SHARES SECRET TO BOOTING OUT SQUATTERS WITHOUT GOING TO COURT:
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“Had ‘Help Me Howard’ not come through and I didn’t find this statute, I would probably still be dealing with the court system today,” Sam said, referring to a WSVN 7 News program that extensively covered his story.
Sam requested his last name to be withheld for privacy concerns following being alarmed by people showing up at his door for advice after seeing his story on local reports.
Sam’s rental house was under contract for sale, but was vacant while he awaited permits to replace the roof. When visiting the house, he started to investigate after noticing the locks were upside down.
“Obviously, they were changed, all the locks that we put on are put on properly,” he said. “So right away I realized that, okay, somebody has broken into this home and is probably hanging out there, so I called the police.”
Sam entered the home through the backdoor, noticing the squatters were not present, and took out all of their belongings and changed the locks.
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However, once the squatters returned home, Sam said they confronted him both verbally and physically.
“They started pushing us around, me and my workers and screaming, yelling,” he said. “I have no idea who these people are, and I realize that obviously these people must be squatting.”
Once the police arrived, one of the squatters produced a false lease from his pocket.
“She knew what to say to the officers,” Sam said. “The fact that she was carrying her lease with her meant to me that she already knew what was going to happen and knew that this was my ticket.”
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it worked. Sam was told he had to turn the utilities on for the squatters and hand over the keys to his house until the issue was resolved in court.
Desperate, Sam paid an initial $1,000 retainer for a lawyer and contacted “Help Me Howard,” a local tv show that helps viewers solve their legal problems. Once the first episode aired, Sam received a call from a police sergeant.
“He says, ‘I heard you’re having a problem, tell me what’s going on,'” Sam said. “So I told him and I said, you know, I’ve hired an attorney already and he said, ‘stop.'”
The police officer told Sam that under a little-known Florida statutesquatters can be removed with a signed affidavit as long as the squatter is a transient trespasser and not a former renter.
“I was shocked,” Sam said.
“All you have to do is sign this affidavit that you’re the owner and this person is just a transient trespasser and we have the authority and the police department has the authority to take them out,” Sam recalled the sergeant saying.
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Sam noted that he had to close his legal case, losing the amount he paid for his retainer, and had to ensure that the police closed their case before the affidavit method could work.
The plan worked and police helped Sam secure the home.
“She was cursing me out the entire time,” he said. “As they passed us, they would scream and curse and she said, ‘I’m going to find you’ and other horrible things.”
During the course of the situation, “Help Me Howard” and Sam discovered that one of the squatters, Shaneria Josey, had faced nine evictions.
Sam contacted her previous landlord, who said Josey poured concrete down his property’s pipes after he was evicted but before he was out of the house. The damage cost the landlord $150,000.
For Sam, he said the debacle made him lose his seller. It also cost him about $15,000 due to damages on the walls from the squatters’ dogs and plumbing issues from grease being poured down drains.
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“I ended up putting the house back into contract and I actually increased the asking price of the house by $15,000, and I got it,” he said. “So I ended up recouping all the money that I had lost.”
Sam, an Orthodox Jew, also told Fox News that while praying when the situation began, he pledged to himself to donate 10% of his profits from selling the home to charity. He said he donated that amount to his synagogue and other charities almost immediately after the money came in.
Since the second “Help Me Howard” episode aired, showing Josey getting booted from the property, Sam said he has received many requests from other landlords going through their own squatter problems for assistance.
“I try to help,” Sam said. “I try to tell everybody pretty much, ‘Hey, this is what I did, it’s really that simple, and you just have to make sure you get your police department to service it.”
Sam said he had a hard time finding lawyers who knew about the statute and that one lawyer he initially asked to help with the eviction contacted him to learn about how the statute worked after his story aired. Sam speculated that some real estate attorneys are unaware of the statute because it’s not relevant to their business by being an option that can be used without the assistance of an attorney.
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Sam told Fox News that he plans to continue spreading the word.
“I hope that this will help make landlords and investors more aware of this statute and hopefully encourage new legislation in other states and municipalities,” he said.
Click here to learn more about how Sam successfully removed squatters from his property.