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Flash handled the squatters

There’s a problem that’s becoming a bigger and bigger issue for anyone who owns a home. The problem is squatters.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “squatting” is when a person – or even a group of people – figure out that a house is not being occupied. Maybe the owner is trying to sell it, or in some cases, the owner lives there but is just away from home on a vacation.

When the squatter determines that no one is home, they just go in – usually by breaking in – and take up residence. They just act like its their house.

This is happening all across the country. And the infuriating this is that in most cases, the police can’t just go and remove them. It becomes a civil matter, which means the homeowner has to spend money on lawyers and court filings, as well as paying for some other place to live in the meantime. And all the while, the squatter is living in the home without paying anything.

My guest today is Flash. He didn’t expect it, but he was faced with a squatter problem. But he decided to handle this case on his own.

Disclaimer – the process that Flash used may not work for everyone. It might not work in your case. It also might be dangerous. For advice on how to deal with squatters, consult your attorney.

Some of the squatter's stuff
Some of the squatter’s stuff

 

Flash
Flash

If you’d like to contact Flash by email: info@theuha.org

Petition to make squatting a crime:
https://www.change.org/p/change-squatter-laws-help-make-squatting-illegal

United Handyman Association website
HTTPS://Unitedhandymanassociation.org

Instagram:
@flashshelton
@squatterremover

YouTube channel:
https://youtube.com/@handymanassoc.

Full show notes and pictures for this episode are here:
https://WhatWasThatLike.com/140

Graphics for this episode by Bob Bretz. Transcription was done by James Lai.

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Episode transcript (download transcript PDF):

There’s a problem that’s becoming a bigger and bigger issue for anyone who owns a home. The problem is squatters.

 

If you’re not familiar with the term, “squatting” is when a person – or even a group of people – figure out that a house is not being occupied. Maybe the owner is trying to sell it, or in some cases, the owner lives there but is just away from home on a vacation.

 

When the squatter determines that no one is home, they just go in – usually by breaking in – and take up residence. They just act like it’s their house.

 

 

News reporter

Mom and grandma say they are living a nightmare after pulling their life savings together and buying a home. They say squatters moved in and they can’t get them out.

 

Mom

My mom and I decided to buy a house together about two months ago because both of our rents were going to go up dramatically about $500 a piece.

 

Grandma

We scrimped and scraped – the two of us – to get this and we were so excited.

 

News reporter

This four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,700 square-foot home was supposed to be a dream home for Jen Larson, her mom and three kids, but it’s turned out to be nothing short of a nightmare.

 

Mom

We gave the seller 7 days to move out because they said they needed the money from the sale of the house to move everything out of the house, so we’re like, “Okay, we can give you 7 days.” We agreed to that. It was all in the closing documents and everything.

 

News reporter

The women say that, during those 7 days, someone else moved in and has been living there ever since. The women have never been able to occupy the home they now own.

 

Grandma

I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. It’s been really stressful.

 

Mom

Me and my kids are going to be homeless and have to figure it out, I guess. Meanwhile, this woman’s living in our home that we paid for and she’s been living there for free. We haven’t received a dime from anybody.

 

 

Scott

That story is just one example – this is happening all across the country. And the infuriating thing is that in most cases, the police can’t just go and remove them. It becomes a civil matter, which means the homeowner has to spend money on lawyers and court filings, as well as paying for some other place to live in the meantime. And all the while, the squatter is living in the home without paying anything.

 

My guest today is Flash. He didn’t expect it, but he was faced with a squatter problem. But he decided to handle this case on his own.

 

And he has a big disclaimer up front – he doesn’t recommend this process for everyone:

 

Flash

This worked for me. It’s not going to work for everyone and I’d definitely suggest that you know your limitations and you go into something like this fully prepared. Don’t use what I did as an example of what you should do.

 

 

Scott

How long had your parents owned this home?

 

Flash

I think around 20 – maybe 25 years.

 

Scott

Oh, so a long time then?

 

Flash

Definitely, yes.

 

Scott

Okay. What kind of residence is this?

 

Flash

It’s a 2-story single-family home in a small town in Northern California.

 

Scott

How would you describe the neighborhood?

 

Flash

The neighborhood itself is pretty. It is a beach community, but it does appear to be a little run down and, maybe, just not well kept up.

 

Scott

In general, what were the circumstances that led to the home being empty?

 

Flash

My dad was diagnosed with cancer and I moved my parents in with me while he was receiving treatments. He eventually passed away. My family and I decided that my mom couldn’t stay in that community so far away from family by herself, so we moved her out of the house and moved her in with me and began prepping the house to sell. Yeah, we were just trying to sell the house so that she could move on and we could find her a place closer to family.

 

Scott

So it was completely empty then.

 

Flash

It was completely empty. During that time when my father was battling cancer, there was a water leak that destroyed the inside of the house and all of her furniture and all these things were destroyed. We had to go in and gut the house prior and completely replace the drywall flooring. The interior of this house was absolutely brand new. There was nothing. In the video, you can see from the outside that the house had been vacant and the outside was not kept up, but the inside of the house was brand new.

 

Scott

Did you debate renting it out versus selling it? How did you come to that decision?

 

Flash

She needed more money than just rent for her to be able to move on. It would’ve been different if she had her own place and established – she would’ve been renting. She still had a mortgage to pay, so renting the house out wasn’t really an option. We hired a realtor. He came in with all these promises and, “Oh, it’s going to sell within a month.” But then, it just dragged on, and nothing happened. There were no showings. We couldn’t find listings. We went through our contract with him, and in the process of switching out to a different realtor was when all of this stuff happened.

 

Scott

And this is all complicated by the fact that you’re not local to that house, right? That made everything more difficult.

 

Flash

Yeah. I’m 10-12 hours away.

 

Scott

You were contacted through the realtor by a potential buyer. What happened there?

 

Flash

I received a call from an individual who claimed to be a prison guard for a local prison, and she had fallen under hard times. She noticed that the house on the outside needed some work, so she thought she could reach out and wanted to rent the house, occupy the house, but expressed that she didn’t have any money to pay rent and that her credit wasn’t really good because she was having some problems. Honestly, it was not something we really could entertain. There was a brief moment where it was like, “Okay, well, we’re paying for this house and we’re sitting on it, and it’s not moving for a year.” We were kind of at a point where we’re just paying for a mortgage, so there was a brief moment where it was like, “Okay, should we do this?” But then it was like, “Well, what would be the point if we’re still paying the mortgage because she’s not paying rent?”

 

Scott

Right. There’s a little bit of logic behind that because, maybe, if she does some work and it looks nicer, maybe that would increase the chances of it selling sooner. Of course. You have no idea how good she is at that work either or if she even knows how to do anything.

 

Flash

Yeah. I mean, nothing felt good about it. In hindsight, having a squatter at that point with literally a legal lease that said that she could live there and pay no money would be crazy.

 

Scott

So you told her, “Sorry. No deal.” Then what happened?

 

Flash

Yes. I told her, “I’m sorry. I can’t help you here.” I explained the situation. Maybe a week later, I found out that there was a U-Haul truck or a moving truck or something that backed into the driveway. I immediately reached out to her and I asked her flat out, “Are you, like, moving into my house?” And she said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I think the movers got the wrong address and they accidentally brought furniture to your house. I was talking about possibly moving there, so I’m sure there was a miscommunication and maybe my daughter sent them or I don’t know.” So she assured me that it would be taken care of. She said, “If they left it, I might need a couple of days to get them back there to pick it up.”

 

In my mind, I was thinking that I’ve got either a truck still sitting in my driveway or I have a whole bunch of furniture that was delivered and taken out of the truck. I was thinking to myself, “Okay, so maybe they put it in the garage.” In my brain, there was no point for them to fill up my house with all of their furniture. It just didn’t even cross my mind that could happen. I was thinking that the house is secure. The last time I was there, I had turned off the breakers. I had made sure that the house was all secure. The furthest thing from my mind was that they actually moved into the house, so I was thinking it’s an accident somehow. I was trying to believe her. So I was not expecting it.

 

Scott

You mentioned the garage, but they wouldn’t have even had access to the garage. I mean, it must have been locked too.

 

Flash

Yeah. But my mind just went, “Maybe it’s there.” I just couldn’t imagine it being accidentally delivered and unloaded by movers into the driveway because you would right away think, “Okay, I can’t get the door unlocked or whatever.” And because she reached out to the realtor, I thought, “Well, maybe they gave them access.” I mean, I’m so far away and I don’t know any of these people. It kind of just put me in the dark, and my mom wasn’t in a mental state to be able to handle all of this.

 

Scott

Did you tell her any of this had happened?

 

Flash

I did not. I think I briefly told her that someone had wanted to rent a house. I gave her the name and asked her if she knew who it was. She didn’t really recollect the name, so I kept her in the dark.

 

Scott

Did you have people locally who were kind of your eyes and ears? How did you find out what was going on?

 

Flash

I never lived in the town. They bought this house after I was an adult, so I had only spent some holidays there. So, I didn’t know anyone there. I relied on one of my sisters who actually did live there and lived in the house, but no longer living in the area. She still had friends that lived on the backside of the house, so she relayed the messages to me. She was the one that told me that she got a call and her question was, “Did you rent out mom’s house?” That’s what got me thinking “Renter? Well, wait a minute.” It was her question. “Did you rent out mom’s house?” So that right away got me thinking “renter”, and then that’s why I reached out to this lady.

 

Scott

How many people do you think were staying there?

 

Flash

Well, there were three cars in the driveway when I pulled in. I had been told that there were several people – men and women. I didn’t really count them, but it was probably 8 people. I estimated that there were, like, 8-10 people that were going in and out of there. How many of them were staying there on a regular basis or sleeping there? I have no idea. But at that point, I didn’t care if they were a visitor or if they were walking in to borrow a cup of milk. I mean, it didn’t matter to me.

 

Scott

So what’s your first step? How do you resolve this?

 

Flash

Well, my first step was to just trust that everything was gone. I didn’t bother following up with who called to say, “Oh, did you purposely get your ‘accidental furniture’ out of my mom’s property?” I just went on with my life dealing with my mom, dealing with the realtor, signing new contracts, and just moving on. It wasn’t until maybe a couple of months went by that I reached out to the realtor and asked like, “What’s going on? Are we going through the same thing again? This house isn’t being shown. What’s the deal? I don’t get it. Houses are being sold every day, but you can’t give me any info on this house?” That’s when they started coming up with what appeared to be excuses at that time. When they said, “Well, we’ve tried to show the house but, every time we go there, there’s people there and there’s furniture in the house now.” Then, the bells went off. I was like, “Furniture?!”

 

Scott

And this was two months later. I didn’t realize that much time had passed. So they settled in. They had their housewarming party already and everything.

 

Flash

I’ve moved and it’s taken me forever. I mean, I have lived here in the house I’m in now since August and I still have some boxes, so I don’t know how quickly that goes. Then, part of me thought maybe it was them. I didn’t know. They said that the back door was broken in. Either way, no matter who it was, there was somebody in the house.

 

Scott

Did you try calling that lady again, saying, “Hey, we talked a couple of months ago. Is this you still in my house?”

 

Flash

I eventually called her and I left her a message, something to the effect that, “If your furniture is in the house, if you moved into the house, you better get out.”

 

Scott

Looking back on it now, do you think that may have been a mistake because it kind of tipped her off that you were on to her now?

 

Flash

No, I mean, at that point, I was still thinking that I have the right to call the police and that the police have the right to go and take them out. So, I don’t think that was any deterrent whatsoever for the end result. If anything, it might have helped. They needed to know that just because I’m far away, I have eyes and ears there even though I personally don’t.

 

Scott

They must have been thinking that, after a couple of months, maybe they’re just free and clear and, like, you’re not even aware of anything.

 

Flash

Yeah. So one of the things that my mom brought up, actually– they talk about corruption in certain areas with law enforcement. I guess there’s something about when a house is abandoned for so long. If somebody can somehow manage to take over the property and pay the property taxes and do something, they can actually take over the property. There have been things that have kind of led to that direction and that seemed to be a plan. Maybe they found out about it through the realtor because– we had, like, someone going there once in a while in mowing the property, but things were not looking good on the outside. So, from anyone looking outside in, it’s an abandoned property. My dad’s cancer and his passing took priority. So this house was not on the radar for a while.

 

Scott

Talk about when you contacted law enforcement.

 

Flash

The first time was in the evening. I was told that there were lights on in the house. I called the sheriff’s department and I told them that a neighbor told me that someone broke in the back door of my mom’s house, and they said, “Okay, does your mom live there?” I said, “No. We’ve moved her out of the house. The house is vacant.” And they said, “Okay, so there’s nothing in there?” I said, “No, there’s no furniture in there. The house is completely empty, but I’ve gotten word that somebody broke in the back door and lights are on in the house.” So they’re like, “Okay, we’ll send a deputy over there and we’ll call you from the premises.” So I was waiting by the phone probably from 10.00-10.30 at night and nothing. I called back probably around 11 PM and I was like, “What’s going on? Did the deputy go out there?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah, let’s see if we can contact him.” And then nothing. I never heard back. It was as if I didn’t call at all. So the following day, I made another call. This time, they send him out there and they somehow put me through to him while he’s on the premises. He was talking to me while walking around the house and he said, “I thought you said that this house was vacant.” I said, “Yeah, it is.” He said, “Well, there’s people in here and there are furniture and items in the house.” I was like, “Well, okay. Is the back door broken in?” He said, “Yeah. It looks like the back door’s broken in.” I said, “Okay. Well, they broke into the house. Can you get them out of the house?”

 

Scott

Seems like an easy solution.

 

Flash

Yeah, it’s an easy solution. I’m like, “Look. You see evidence of a break-in. My mom’s not in the house. Whoever’s in that house doesn’t belong in that house. Take them out of the house. Arrest them. Sell their furniture, whatever.” And he said, “Well, it doesn’t work like that, sir. Since you told me that it was vacant, and it’s not, I can’t do anything about this. All I can tell you is that whoever’s in there appears to be living there and you need to take civil action. This is a civil matter. This is out of my hands.”

 

Scott

Not the answer you wanted to hear.

 

Flash

Not at all. Not at all.

 

Scott

So really, now, you’re probably thinking of hiring a lawyer if you’re going to go through that process.

 

Flash

My natural instinct is always, like, looking up laws and finding new polls. I help business owners and things through my association, and part of that is with laws and how they can conduct work and things like that. So I’ve learned a lot more about squatters than I ever knew. But even at that point, I had already heard nightmares about it when somebody was in the house. As soon as he mentioned civil action, I thought civil action takes time. Nothing through the courts acts fast. So, in my mind, I’ve got to figure out what to do on my own because there’s no way– I mean, I love my mom, but she needs to get her own place, and I’m thinking it’s time and there’s no way I have this much time. So I just started looking at alternatives.

 

One of the things that I know now is that the biggest mistake that I did make was telling the officer that the house was vacant. If I had not told him that and I said nothing about no furniture, nothing about an empty house, then he would have at least been able to go in, find out who it is, and at least get me some information. The whole civil thing started with the fact that, if it’s vacant on my end and I’m thinking it’s vacant, then everything in that house belongs to them. So giving that information to law enforcement is what caused this. But to go back to what you asked, at no point did I think, “Oh, civil action…” because I just feel like I can just do this myself. I just needed to see how and what the legalities were, and speak with some attorneys and law enforcement people that I know. When I came up with how I perceived the laws and came up with my plan, I had to run them by a couple of attorneys and law enforcement friends to see where I stand and if my way of thinking is correct.

 

Scott

So what was the first step you’re going to do? You’re going to go the DIY route. First, you had to create a document that says you live there.

 

Flash

My initial thought was if they can take a home, I can take a home. The whole premise of this was if they have rights, if squatters have so many more rights than the homeowner, then I needed to just become the squatter. I have no idea if they have come up with a fake lease at this point. I don’t know if they were in cahoots with the realtor. I don’t know. I don’t even know at this point if it’s the same people I had talked to. This is, like, a while down the road, so I have no idea that we’re still dealing with them.

 

So, I just had to think about that process, like, okay, I want to take squatter rights but, at the same time, I need to be prepared. I couldn’t put myself in a position where it’s me against them. Both of us don’t have any legal grounds whatsoever and it’s just me saying this and them saying that. So my thought went right to, “Okay, so whether I use it or not, I need to make it to where, when I get there, I can show everything that says that I belong there.” I did explain to my mom, “I’m going to have you write up a lease. We’re going to do a lease and we’re going to get it notarized. Then, the other step is “I want you to put my name on the utility bills,” so that I can go up there with ammunition. Whether I have to use it or I don’t have to use it– if I’m in an argument with them and law enforcement is called, I want to be able to show something that gives me the right to either have them arrested for breaking in or something that allows me to stay in the house. So that’s what I did.

 

Scott

And even if they had a fake lease, they’re not going to have a utility bill with their name on it like you would. So, yeah, that’s all the better. So now you made the trip.

 

Flash

I got in the Jeep. I packed up my dog because she goes on all my drives with me and she’s a little Boston Terrier. She wasn’t going to be any backup or anything like that. She was going to keep me company. I do have a license to carry and I did bring a firearm. I only brought that just in case. It wasn’t something that I intended on using. Matter of fact, they had no idea that I even had a gun with me. It never even came to that point. I packed up and I just kind of planned it to where I would drive all night and get there early in the morning.

 

I got there. I pulled in around 4 AM. It was still dark. I just parked down the street. My initial plan was that I needed to switch places with them. I needed to squat the squatters. I needed to just sit there down the street and sit in my Jeep. I saw cars in the driveway and I waited. I dozed off. I slept for a couple of hours, I think. People started pulling out of the driveway around 8.00-8.30 in the morning.

 

Scott

This almost makes me think of, like, a chess game. You’re waiting for them to make the wrong move and leave the house. For them, that was their mistake that day. Of course, they didn’t know it.

 

Flash

That’s the beauty of this whole system. One of the things that I found is that what gives squatter rights is litigation. That’s what most people do. That’s the first thing they do. They go and hire an attorney and go and file a paper, and that’s what gives them rights. Once they start that litigation, squatters have rights. So right now, at this point, I was thinking that they have no rights. If I go and I start litigation on this day, then on this day forward, they have rights and I have to fight them with money, attorneys, court, and time. But if I switch places with them and I get them to walk outside and leave – I can go inside and they’re outside – then I’m the one that assumes those squatter rights. That’s what’s going on in my head.

 

Scott

So you approached the house, but you still didn’t know that everyone was gone though.

 

Flash

Yeah, I didn’t know. I mean, there could have been somebody sleeping. There was no way for me to know if everyone had left or not. I figured that the best situation or the best timing was right when the cars were gone. Then I walked the property, I looked in the windows to make sure that if there was someone there that was up and moving around that I might be able to see. I did look at the back door. When I finally decided to enter the house, I thought, “Well, why don’t I try with my key?” because they broke the back door in. The back door’s still broken in, so I was just thinking, “Well, they clearly didn’t have a key, so they clearly weren’t given access by the realtor at this point.” So I turned my camera on, put the key in the lock and it worked, and I walked in.

 

Scott

You recorded a video as you walked in the front door. You created a video. Was that just for documentation for legal protection? Why were you recording that?

 

Flash

Well, I’ve done a YouTube channel for years and my YouTube channel is about home stuff. So I just thought kind of double– 1) I’m going to make a video of it.

 

Scott

This is great content. You’re right.

 

Flash

Yeah. And 2) I need proof of everything. I need proof that I didn’t touch anything. I need proof of my interaction with them. I need to cover my butt – that’s what I’m thinking.

 

Scott

So when you walked in, what did you see?

 

Flash

I saw AirPods on the table. I saw boxes that were open and dishes and clothes there. It was clear that somebody was living there – not really moved in and settled like it’s forever, but it looked like they were on vacation, maybe, living out of a suitcase or living out of boxes.

 

Scott

Since the last time you saw this house, it was empty – completely remodeled on the inside, but totally empty – and for you to walk in, it’s like you’re walking into almost like somebody else’s house, right? Is that how it felt?

 

Flash

Absolutely. The adrenaline was very intense and overwhelming at the same time because this is a house where I spent some holidays with my family and this is all I remembered after my dad’s passing. So I think it was just amplified. Everything that you possibly see just doesn’t make sense because it’s just not supposed to be there.

 

Scott

So you made a trip to Home Depot. What was your plan at this point?

 

Flash

In my prep prior, it was that I needed to not only get them out but I needed to be able to keep them or anyone else out. I needed to be able to secure the back door. I needed to be able to change locks if I needed to. I needed to put in an alarm system and cameras because one of the things that I figured out about squatter laws is that the only chance you stand with squatters or people moving into your house and becoming squatters is catching them in the act. So it’s a big thing about having a camera or an alarm system and being able to say, “They’re breaking into my house right now. They just broke into my house.” So whether you’re on vacation or wherever, if you don’t catch them, then they can say they’ve been there for a month.

 

Scott

Right. You’ve got cameras with timestamps, dates, and everything – what better evidence is there?

 

Flash

Yes. I have cameras at my house. I installed many cameras for customers, so I was really familiar with them. My biggest challenge was, in order for me to be able to monitor cameras, I needed wifi. I just went to the next-door neighbor, explained the situation, and I said, “I’m installing cameras and the camera will not only help us keep people from breaking in this house, but the cameras will also show the front. I can even angle it to where we can monitor your property as well.” And without any question at all, they offered to share wifi.

 

Scott

So you’re there hooking up the cameras. Did you have any kind of plan for when any of these people came back home? Or were you kind of hooking the cameras up, looking out the window, and seeing if anybody showed up? Or how did that work?

 

Flash

Well, I was hoping that I would be all done prior to anyone coming. I would be in the house and I’d just be opening the door and, like, “How can I help you?” So, in my mind, I was thinking, “Well, that’s going to be it. I’m going to just surprise them.” What ended up happening was I was installing the final camera and I wasn’t prepared. I was on a ladder and I had my back to the street.

 

Scott

Oh, so you were outside?

 

Flash

I was outside. I heard a car pull up behind me in the driveway just right away. I grabbed my iPhone and I just held it down at my waist. I turned the camera on. I walked down the ladder and I turned around to them with my phone camera to them so that I could catch the interaction. It was good that I was out there and I wasn’t in the back of the house, I guess. But yeah, I wasn’t fully prepared for that.

 

Scott

And you obviously recorded that conversation. Let’s take a listen to how that went.

 

 

Marla

Hi. Are you Flash?

 

Flash

Yeah.

 

Marla

I’m Marla.

 

Flash

Hey.

 

Marla

I’m really sorry about all this. I really am. It’s a nightmare beyond– I mean the–

 

Flash

The stuff is in the house. You told me that it was accidentally delivered and it was in the garage.

 

Marla

No, I didn’t say it was in the garage. Oh no. I never said that.

 

Flash

But anyway, it clearly has been in the house for a long time. I’ve had realtors over here telling me they can’t do anything because of all this stuff. So, basically, I’m up here. I’m leaving. It all has to be out before I leave. I’ve got guys scheduled to come to take the stuff out later today. So either you take it out or I have to take it out and put it out on the driveway until it gets picked up. But I can’t leave with anything or whatever’s left in there. I’m putting cameras up and a security system. I have to deal with this house. It’s been way too long and I need to do something. I need to get rid of it.

 

Marla

Lost my crew somewhere. I’m trying to load them down, but we’re going to take it out of here load by load.

 

Flash

Okay. Well, at this point I have no choice. I just need it out–

 

Marla

I understand. I would’ve–

 

Flash

I mean, I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff when I pulled in here yesterday. I mean, I didn’t expect all this. This has just been a nightmare all along.

 

Marla

Yeah, I’m sorry to have added to that. I really am.

 

Flash

I wish we could have worked something out, but I just couldn’t do anything with no money.

 

Marla

I hear that.

 

Flash

All right. But at this point, clearly, I didn’t call the police and press charges or anything like that. I just want it done. Then, you and I need to talk about the financial inconvenience that this has caused because I haven’t been able to do anything with this house for months because, every time they come over here, they tell me that there are people here and there is furniture in the house.

 

Marla

Who’s telling you that there are people here?

 

Flash

The realtors. Neighbors told me that they see people coming in and the lights on. Someone went in and turned the power on because their power was off to the house. Neighbors have been telling me that there’s been a lady and other people – like young and old, and some a mixture between females and males – coming into the house at night and the lights were on at night. There are neighbors. Those are the ones that have been calling.

 

Marla

Well, that would not be us. That would never be us. Yeah. Move stuff in.

 

Flash

I mean, there’s, like, earbuds sitting on the table and stuff on the couch and there’s stuff, oh, they went off.

 

(Crosstalk)

 

Marla

All of those boxes have been gone through and moved.

 

Female 1

You don’t know what’s missing.

 

Marla

Yeah, that’s my fault. That is – all of it. I should have paid attention. That’s beside the point. Need to get it done and taken care of because– just to make the right.

 

Flash

So just do what you can to get it out. Like I said, I mean, I have to start putting stuff in the driveway so that I can lock it up because, once I leave, you’re not going to be able to get back in. So I’m trying to give you–

 

Marla

It hasn’t– none of us–

 

Flash

No no no. I’m saying to get your stuff out. Even if you don’t have something to haul it with right now, get it out of here so that I can secure the house up. That’s all. That’s what I’m asking. Because I don’t want to be the one telling you tomorrow, “I’m sorry. I’ve got to lock it up in legal.” I don’t have flexibility here. So that’s why I’m telling you to just do everything you can to just get it out of here. You can send somebody here and worry about getting a truck at Home Depot for $17 or whatever. You know what I mean?

 

Marla

Yeah.

 

Flash

That’s why I’m just telling you. I don’t want to have this conversation tomorrow and be like, “I’m sorry. I have to hit the road.” Because at that point, I just have to secure the house and I just have to go. So yeah, just do what you need to do. I’m going to be doing stuff and just come and go. Do what you need.

 

Scott

When people hear that conversation, I think their first reaction is going to be, “Man, you were way too polite.” Yeah. You were so civil to them. That was your plan from the start, right?

 

Flash

It was. First of all, I had plenty of time to be angry. I had plenty of time to hit and kick the heavy bag and get my frustration out. It was very difficult because here I am feeling like you disrespected me, my family, and the passing of my dad. You totally took advantage of every aspect of it. Financially, my mom’s been paying for your utilities. So, prior, it was all part of my plan. I had to maintain control and I had to keep it from escalating because, if we get into an argument, there’s no good can come from it. Even if I was to say to her, “What are you talking about? I saw you leave this morning.” Even if I said that, all she’s going to do is clam up. She’s going to argue with me. She may even call law enforcement herself.

 

Scott

We heard in the conversation that you gave her a deadline. What was the activity like for the rest of the day?

 

Flash

Prior to her coming to the house, I had set up a plan and a deadline for things to be happening. She had a deadline to get it all out, but she had to start it. I happened to see, across the street, a couple of big guys maybe in their twenties. I approached them and I just said, “Hey, do you guys need any furniture?” And the guy was like, “Yeah, what do you have?” I said, “Well, I have a house full of furniture across the street. At 5 PM, if they’re not moving everything out and you don’t see a bunch of stuff in the driveway, come over there. If you help me get it outside, you can have anything you want.” They’re like, “Oh, awesome.” I was like, “There are tables and chairs. You name it.” You can just go to town. They were ready to jump at that.

 

So after having that set up, when I was talking to her, I was able to tell her, “Here’s the plan. Either you get it out or I’m going to get it taken.” It was either going to be my stuff or the neighbor’s stuff at that point. I wanted her to totally believe that cameras are up, alarm systems set up, and there is no entrance when I leave. There is no getting back in the house. “I haven’t pressed charges so far, but if I get evidence of you breaking back into this house, even if you’re trying to get what you think is your property, I’m still going to have that evidence of you breaking into my house and you have no proof that it’s your property.”

 

So I said, “I’m giving you the best, sweetest deal I can possibly offer you. Get it out on the driveway even if you have to just drag it out on the driveway.” I even mentioned, “For $20 or something like that, go get a truck at Home Depot. Put it out here and figure out what to do with your stuff after. But you have today. That’s it.”

 

Scott

That’s the best thing she could have hoped for because she’s not going to get arrested. She gets to keep all her stuff as long as she can get it taken away and she had free rent for a few months.

 

Flash

Yeah. Exactly. I did mention to her that we needed to discuss the financial aspect and I did lead her to believe that I would be going after her financially afterward. People have asked if I ever did and I didn’t.

 

Scott

She has no money anyway, so it would’ve cost you money to find out, “Okay, I’m not getting anything anyway.”

 

Flash

Yeah, I mean that’s something I would’ve had to do litigation because I don’t think I could find the loophole to go take the money from her myself.

 

Scott

So you were there all day or most of the day and saw her. Did she have anybody helping her carry the stuff out?

 

Flash

Shortly after, she said she was trying to get her crew or she was trying to locate her crew. Within an hour or two, cars that were previously there pulled up and there were several men and women. She had plenty of help. I was there. I sat in the Jeep and I watched. I took pictures and I took video watching them. I had Ring cameras that were videoing everything. I wasn’t going to help them, so I didn’t touch any of their stuff. I just let them move it out and I just supervised. They had several carloads to get it out and they were working all day. At some point, probably around 6 PM or so, I left and had dinner. I have family that’s, like, 30 minutes away. But at this point, I could watch the cameras. I was watching through the evening and I could watch it through the cameras.

 

Scott

Better than anything on TV – right?

 

Flash

Yeah. So I ended up not going back there that night and I just let them do their thing. Every once in a while, I’d look at the cameras. The next morning, I looked at the cameras and the last load they pulled out of that driveway was at 2 AM.

 

Scott

Long day for them.

 

Flash

Yeah.

 

Scott

So the next morning you went back and did a final inspection. What did you find when you came back?

 

Flash

When I went back, the house was empty. They actually did a pretty good job. Everything was out. At that point, as far as I was concerned, I was feeling pretty good. I was successful. Police weren’t called. My plan– everything happened perfectly and exactly the way I had planned it. So I was feeling pretty good for the drive home. Before I left the property, I met with the realtor. We walked the property, made sure that everything was going to be fine, and made sure we were going to be able to take care of things to sell the house.

 

On my way out of town, I actually drove to the sheriff’s station. Then, I went in and I was like, “I want to talk to the sheriff.” Well, I’m just normally calling deputies “sheriff” because they’re just all sheriffs to me. So in my mind, I was thinking, “I’m just going to speak with a deputy.” They’re like, “Oh, sure, yeah. Just come right in.” Walked me back and I was in the office with the actual sheriff. I was like, “Awesome.” So I went in, sat down, and I just laid it out for him from the beginning. I just explained to him, like, everything that happened. Then, I told him, “This is what I did. I just want you to be aware.” I laid it out for him and all he could do was turn to me and just shook my hand and said, “Wow, that’s pretty impressive.”

 

Scott

Maybe he was going to offer you a job.

 

Flash

Both the realtor and the sheriff both said, “You can make a lot of money in this town because towns like this get a lot of squatters because most of the owners of these properties – they’re vacation homes for them. So they go up to see these homes, they’re fishing in the river, they’re hanging out at the beach, and vacation homes become squatter homes a lot. They were like, “Yeah, you could probably make a ton of money getting squatters out in this town.” At the time, I was like, “Yeah, no, that’s okay. It was fun once.” Little did I know what would come of it later but, at the time, it was just like, “Yeah, I’m good.”

 

Scott

But I can imagine, when you compare the cost of someone having to go through the civil litigation process, whatever you would charge them for you to go in and remove the squatters is a bargain compared to that.

 

Flash

Yeah, I mean, the time by itself – depending on what your property was. Was it a rental property? Are you losing rent? Your legal fees – I would imagine you’re going to rack up 20 grand attorney fees very quickly. Then, the time involved. I would say that the process, even in the best states, is, like, 6 months. So when you add up 6 months of rent that you’re losing plus attorney fees, plus court costs– I mean, I’ve heard stories of people that have been already up in the 40-50 grand range, and they’re still dealing with them. So there’s going to be a cost involved.

 

When I did it for my mom, I felt like it was my job to be my mom’s superhero. It was nobody else’s. So if something was going to go wrong, it was going to be me. It was going to happen to me. I wasn’t going to put anyone else in jeopardy. So I went up and I did it all by myself. I didn’t have any backup. Now, I have to have backup – people watching, helping, going in, and clearing the knives out of the kitchen so that I don’t get some crazy person coming out at me or something like that. If you get a squatter, it’s going to cost you one way or another. The one thing that I could offer you is time. I’m going to save you time.

 

Scott

Talking to the sheriff directly, now that he knows from a personal conversation what the situation is with this house – which it’s still obviously going to be for sale – did that make any difference as far as– did you have any more leverage? If you called him and said, “Hey, I think somebody’s in the house again,” what can they do now?

 

Flash

He told me that there was a forum. Now, looking back, I wish I would’ve paid more attention to what this form is because I’ve had several people ask about it, but I didn’t bother with it. We sold the house quickly afterward, so I didn’t need to. But he mentioned that there was a, like, forum that authorizes them to basically arrest anybody on the property. So he assured me that, knowing the situation, if I called on that property and on that address, they would act immediately and they would make sure that this doesn’t happen again. They’re not going to do that for everyone. I think that he was probably, I would imagine, a little embarrassed.

 

Scott

Because of one of his law enforcement– the Prison guard employee was sort of associated with him. Well, at least, when you left, you knew this isn’t going to stretch out and somebody’s going to live here for a few months. As soon as your camera detects motion inside, you can look at it and see somebody’s there and you’re right on top of it. That’s the way to really know about it.

 

Flash

Yeah. That is a key element. My future goal would be the spokesperson for Ring cameras. I think it would be a good mutual benefit to me and them to go on and talk about squatters and how Ring cameras can prevent your squatters and things like that.

 

Scott

We should have had Ring sponsor this episode. That would’ve been a smart thing.

 

Flash

Exactly. One of the deterrents– me being there made a difference. But honestly, I think the presence of cameras made a bigger difference because the fact that I could show them that I just installed these cameras and, now, everything you do on this property is being recorded and there’s an alarm. If you open a window or a door, you try to break in the back door, an alarm is going to go off and cameras have you in their sight. I think that maybe her eyes just opened up a little bit wider when I mentioned that part of it. The cameras are a big thing. If you are going to do this on your own, that should be the very first step. I think that’s a big thing because people act a little bit differently when they know they’re on camera.

 

Scott

So you had mentioned that you’re offering this as a service now. So people that have squatters can contact you and hopefully get that resolved. But your primary occupation is a professional handyman.

 

Flash

Yeah, so I am the founder of the United Handyman Association. I founded the association in 2009 which was the first nationwide handyman trade association. Originally, I started my first handyman business when I was 16 years old. I’ve done every handyman work from a general contractor to doing commercial building. I actually built a couple of prisons, a sheriff’s department, some high-rises, and then eventually went back to my bread and butter, which I enjoyed the most with personal homeowners and just being part of the family as a handyman, being kind of that trust. What I’ve found is that homeowners, if they find a good handyman, they trust them with everything. That part of the business – I ended up going back to full-time, and this was in 2002. People were writing and asking me, feeling like they weren’t being treated properly as handyman. So I thought, let me reach out to a local association because, just like every trade, handyman’s got to have an association, but I found that they didn’t. So I started the process to build one myself. I started offering free memberships across the nation until I finally started offering real paid memberships in 2009.

 

Scott

So if somebody nationwide here in the US needs a handyman, obviously, they can come to you and find someone that’s already gone through all this vetting process.

 

Flash

You’re talking about an industry that’s not regulated, an industry where somebody can be in prison today, be released tomorrow, get free business cards and some vinyl for $20, and put it on their truck, and people just trust them because they have a name on their truck, so they must be legit. Then, now, they’re in your living room and in your kids’ rooms the next day working.

 

Scott

For people that want to use that service, what’s your website or how can people contact you?

 

Flash

Iit’s united handyman association.org. They can reach out there and read all about it. This is kind of just like an online resume for you to check out before you hire them and before you call them.

 

Scott

And I know you’re on Instagram as well, so we’ll have all of this contact information in the show notes for this episode so that people can go there if they want to get in touch with you. Flash, I appreciate you coming on here and telling your story. It’s great to hear a squatter get squatted, and it sounds like you had fun doing this too.

 

Flash

Yeah, it’s fun when things go the way you want them to. It’s pretty fun in general, but this time was a big release. I had lost my dad. Like, just being there and being able to do, for my mom, what I felt like my duty as her son felt so good. So yes, it was fun.

 

Scott

If you’d like to see pictures of Flash, and all of the squatter’s furniture in the driveway the day he was there, that’s all in the show notes at WhatWasThatLike.com/140.

 

Flash has also started a petition to make squatting an actual crime, and you can sign it and help make that happen. The link for that is also in the show notes.

 

The summer of 2023 is here – and it’s gonna be a fun one. I’ve got plans to introduce you to some new storytelling podcasts that I know you’re gonna love. And I’ll be traveling a bit! This month, June, I’ll be in New York City for a few days to meet up with my ad agency, Glassbox Media. And that trip happens to coincide with the Tribeca Film Festival, so I’m hoping to take in a great movie or two.

 

Then, in August, I’ll be in Denver at the Podcast Movement podcasting conference. That’s always a fun time to connect with fellow podcasters and hang out with a bunch of creative people for a few days.

 

And in September, I’ll be at Crime Con in Orlando – and this is a new one for me. If you’re not familiar with it, Crime Con is a conference that’s all about every aspect of true crime. Podcasts, TV shows, movies, books, detectives, it’s all there. I know What Was That Like isn’t strictly a True Crime podcast, but there are definitely some episodes that fall into that category. Should be interesting anyway. My wife’s coming with me on that one – we’re going to Crime Con on Saturday, then on Sunday we’ll be doing roller coasters and Harry Potter rides and all that stuff at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. That’s another first, because we’ve never been to either of the Universal theme parks yet. Which is kind of crazy, since we’re only like a 2 hour drive from Orlando.

 

So if you’re planning to be at either of those conferences, let me know and maybe we can connect!

 

And I wanted to let you know, the fun continues in the podcast listener Facebook group. I’m really enjoying asking questions that really make you think. And we have some great conversations! One of the things I asked recently was, “If you could make yourself twice as attractive, or twice as intelligent, which would you choose?” and we had a great time talking about that. And sometimes the question isn’t necessarily a deep philosophical one. Just recently I asked, if you could have lunch with any living celebrity, who would it be? I posted my answer in there too – think you can guess who I chose? Anyway, we’d love to have you join us over there. And if you use the promo code “podcastilicious” you can join for free! Just kidding, it’s always free. You can get in at WhatWasThatLike.com/facebook.

 

Graphics for this episode were created by Bob Bretz. Full episode transcription was created by James Lai.

 

And now, the Listener Story! Every podcast episode ends with one of these – just a short, interesting story, around 5-10 minutes, that was sent in by a listener. I know you have a story, and we all want to hear it! Just record it on your phone and send it to me at Scott@WhatWasThatLike.com.

 

This week’s story is from my friend John. He’s a podcaster, a pastor, an author, and just a pretty cool guy. You can check out his stuff at PlatformLaunchers.com, and you can download his free tool to help you build, grow and monetize your online platform in 21 days or less.

 

In this story, John talks about working at his favorite summer job.

Stay safe, and I’ll see you in two weeks.

 

(Listener story)

John

Most people get a part-time job to make extra money. For me, I actually lost money by choice. Let me explain. Before I tell you about my part-time job, let me tell you what I do in real life. I’m an author and podcaster. And for the past 25 years, I’ve also been a full-time pastor. I’m at a season of life where I’m feeling a bit sentimental, a bit reflective, and would even say somewhat adventurous. My wife and I, we have four children. Three are in college and one – a daughter – is getting ready to finish high school. She’s a fun kid and I will tell you that our personalities are a lot alike. Most often, she’s completely on board when I suggest we do something fun and out of the norm. I remember that, a few years ago, I had a flight canceled and I suggested that we rent a sports car and drive 15 hours to Wisconsin so I could keep the speaking engagement that I had agreed to do. With no time to prepare, she said yes, and off we went, and the trip was an absolute blast.

 

Well, last summer I suggested a new adventure tour. I suggested that we attempt to get hired as ride operators at our favorite amusement park, Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. My idea was that we would commit one day a week to working there and we’d see if they’d consider training and hiring us. I knew it wasn’t a conventional request, but I also knew they were having a very difficult time finding seasonal staff at that particular moment. So if this idea was ever going to fly, this seemed like the time. Also, I should probably mention that the park is two and a half hours from our home, so this would require a 5-hour round trip every Monday for 13 weeks. Within one second of suggesting this to my daughter, Julia, she said, “Absolutely! I would love to do that.”

 

So we applied online. We drove up to the park for interviews. We got hired. We drove back another day for training and our adventure began. The summer was filled with long drives, great conversations, and all kinds of fun experiences. We both worked in Kiddie land where most of the riders are children under the age of 10, and that’s a very fun age to work with. It’s also a great group to work with because you get to interact with their families as well. We were also blessed with regular visits from friends and family who would purposely visit the park on Mondays when we were there.

 

I’m 46 and my daughter is 17. One of our biggest surprises, as we worked there this past summer, was the age of our coworkers. A few were high school and college age, but many were in their seventies and even their eighties. Several were in their eighties. That surprised me. I asked them why they worked there. Some worked because they desperately needed to supplement their income and so they did that. It was good seasonal employment. Others worked to combat boredom. One coworker, a woman who was in her 80s, said she worked there because she didn’t have a family, and the park guests and the coworkers filled that void.

 

I will admit that the days were long and most of the days were hot because this was in the middle of the summer. Most days were very tiring as well because of all the standing that was involved. Occasionally, not too often, we had to handle difficult guests, but the experience was genuinely fun. When the summer came to an end, I was very sad to say goodbye, and so was Julia. I have no idea if this is an experience, we’ll repeat, but I’m glad we got to do it at least once.

 

Working at the park was fantastic, but the time I was able to spend with my daughter was the best part of all. I’m so glad she agreed to this adventure. On our final day, Nick, who was the man who hired us and he oversaw the rides department, made a point to come and visit us at our stations. He went out of his way to let Julia and I know how much they enjoyed having us on staff, and he hoped that we would apply to work there again in future years. So should we apply to do it one more time? I have no idea if we’ll do it, but I have to say it was an experience we’ll never forget.

 

I just received my tax statement from the park. So, to let you know how this worked out for me financially, it tells me that for those 13 Mondays of employment, I was paid a total of $1,172.99. Now, the expenses I incurred for fuel, tolls, and meals came to $1,300 for a financial loss of $127.01. And to that, I’d say it was totally worth it.