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Texas Senate Committee Discusses Measures to Combat Squatting

The Senate Committee on Local Government, chaired by Senator Paul Bettencourt, convened to address the issue of squatting in Texas. The hearing, prompted by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's interim charge, featured testimonials from victims and proposed solutions to protect property owners ahead of the 2025 legislative session.

Senator Bettencourt emphasized the urgency of addressing squatting, stating, “I invited the public from all over the state to tell their horror squatter stories and proposed solutions. This should not be happening in Texas. We are going to make it easy for homeowners and business owners to 'Come and Take it Back' from squatters."

David Howard, Executive Director of The National Rental Home Council, shared survey results indicating 1,200 squatting cases in Atlanta and 475 in Dallas/Ft. Worth. COH Councilman Fred Flickinger highlighted the prevalence of squatters in properties with deferred property tax payments in his district. Cpt. Jim Sharmon from Harris County Constable Pct. 4 noted hundreds of cases in his precinct, suggesting thousands statewide. “This means there are possibly thousands of squatting cases in Harris County and up to ten thousand in the State of Texas in my estimate,” said Senator Bettencourt.

Victims shared their distressing experiences. Yudith Mendez recounted her struggle with squatters and the lack of support from San Antonio Police. "We, the families who are raising the next American generation, need protection," said Mendez. Harris County Constable Cpt. Daniel Garza responded, "It's extremely alarming this happened to them."

Tracy Jaso of the Texas Apartment Association described a frightening encounter with an armed squatter in San Antonio. "I've only been here for about 20 minutes, and I'm outraged," said Sen. Lois Kolkhorst at the hearing.

Terri Boyette from Mesquite detailed how squatters turned her home into a drug den and sold her possessions while she was out of state caring for her sick mother. Boyette was asked if this was her boyfriend occupying the home, to which she responded, "Look, I may not be in my prime, but I don't have to date crackheads yet." Even after multiple encounters, the Mesquite Police Department refused to arrest the squatter. Following Ms. Boyette's testimony, Senator West promptly took her, alongside Senator Hall, to his office to call the Mesquite City Manager and Chief of Police. Ms. Boyette made her first call to 311, which the department claims to have no record of, and made several 911 calls, which the department did receive per a statement received by the committee.

“Miss Boyette testified there was a burglary. This 'crackhead' then entered the property and sold her belongings from the front yard for 'drug money,' then JP Margaret O'Brien refused to evict the squatter over the holidays citing lack of concern on where he would go! Really? We are going to increase criminal penalties, give law enforcement the tools they need, and set up 'rocket dockets' for Justices of the Peace to evict squatters," concluded Senator Bettencourt.

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