Squatters Forced an Elderly Woman in Houston to Tear Her Home Down

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: May 16, 2024

A nightmare situation in Houston has caused an elderly woman to tear her house down due to damage caused by squatters.

The home, located in the Murrayhill area, was destroyed beyond recognition after trespassers took up residence.

Elderly Woman Currently Living in a Retirement Home

The house in question has been sitting empty since the owner, an elderly woman who has lived in Houston for her entire life, moved into an assisted living community.

A woman wearing a blue surgical mask and eye glasses stands with her arm around an elderly woman with white hair and purple shirt

Source: Georg Arthur Pflueger/Unsplash

The empty house soon attracted the attention of vagrants in the area, who promptly took up illegal residency in the home.

Local Realtor Helped Mitigate the Situation

When the elderly woman and her family realized that the squatters had left the home filled with trash and human waste, the situation was dire, as a house can quickly become condemned when left in such a state.

A white house in terrible condition with boards on the window and overgrown trees in the front yard

Source: @KHOU/X

A local realtor and a friend of the family, George Huntoon, was able to help the situation and remove the squatters from the premises.

The Family Chose to Tear the House Down After Seeing the Damage

Once the trespassers were removed from the home, the family could enter and inspect the damage.

A large empty lot surrounded by a wooden fence

Source: Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash

When they realized the home was trashed beyond recognition, they had no choice but to tear it down, thus all the precious memories inside were lost. The lot currently sits empty while the homeowner and her family decide what to do with the property.

Squatting Has Become a Pervasive Issue

The housing crisis and unprecedented levels of homelessness in the U.S. have caused issues with squatters to explode around the country.

A small gray house in disrepair

Source: Lisa5201/Getty Images

Squatters’ rights are available to varying degrees in each state. However, the pervasive abuse of the laws has allowed vagrants and homeless individuals to abuse and destroy private property with impunity.

Some States Have Fought Against Squatters Using New Laws

In March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed bill HB 621 into law. The bill condones the frequently abused “squatting scam” in the state.

Ron DeSantis in a black suit and red tie standing on a stage addressing a crowd through a microphone

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The law now allows any homeowner to fill out a form at a local Sherrif department to have a squatter on their land removed immediately. Before this law, the state had a lengthy eviction process and rights for individuals who had properly paid rent for several years.


Squatting Has Exploded in Texas

Many people have blamed the explosion of housing costs in Austin and Houston on the influx of tech workers from California. 

A small white house with a green door and two windows. The boards on the outside of the house are in poor repair and the lawn is mostly brown

Source: Destiny Wiens/Unsplash

Either way, the drastic price increase has displaced thousands of residents in the state. Unfortunately, many have turned to illegal squatting to ensure a roof over their heads, inundating the police and sheriff departments in the state.


Few Instances Where Squatters May Be in the Right

The idea of squatters’ rights was first introduced as a way for paying tenants to gain leverage over abusive landlords. If a homeowner fails to supply power, heat, or timely maintenance, a renter may withhold payment until the issue is resolved.

A two story white house on a large lot filled with green grass and large trees. The roof on the house has caved in and a tree is obstructing the front door

Source: Roger Starns Sr/Unsplash

However, in most states, squatters’ rights only apply after a person has lived in a property for several years without any other payment delinquency.


Texas Has Strict Laws on the Matter

In the Lone Star State, a renter must live in a home in good standing for a minimum of 10 years to apply for squatters’ rights or use the law in a legal dispute.

A two story wooden house with a large green porch on both levels has an American flag waving from the roof

Source: Benjiman R/Unsplash

Otherwise, the individual on the property is a trespasser, and the homeowner has legal rights to evict or forcibly remove them.


Texas Governor Has Strong Opinions on the Matter

Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement last month that squatting should be considered an illegal act and should be punished as such.

Greg Abbott talking and pointing his finger up.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

The Republican official gas suggested that homeowners take advantage of the stand-your-ground defense available in the state.


Experts Warn That Renters May Face Increased Prosecution

Experts and renters’ rights advocates say that a rightful home resident may feel discriminated against if they need to use squatters’ rights for a legitimate purpose.

House keys in the lock of a door.

Source: PhotoMIX Company/Pexels

Anyone who has rightfully rented a home for a significant amount of time would likely have the correct documentation to take matters to court.


What’s Next for Home Owners?

Thankfully, destruction of property and vandalism are commonly covered under home insurance. However, the elderly woman who was forced to raze her home to the ground likely faces undue emotional distress because of the incident.

A home with a for sale sign out front seen in the daytime.

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Experts say a house can attract squatters and trespassers when left unattended for a long time. To avoid this issue, avoid boarding the windows up or allowing the house to look vacant. Always keep a light or a TV on to make the house appear occupied.