‘Squatter Hunter’ Says Squatters As Bad As Terrorists, “Criminalize Them”

A handyman-turned-squatter hunter said squatting laws need to be reclassified as an invasion or “terrorist act” as unwanted residents continue to wreak havoc on Atlanta-area houses, turning homes into drug and prostitution dens. 

“If we were to criminalize it, that would enable us to send in the National Guard to sweep that whole neighborhood and get those 1,200 houses clear,” Flash Shelton, founder of the United Handyman Association and SquatterHunters.com, told Fox News.

“That’s what needs to be done,” he added. “If we don’t stop it, it’s going to get worse.”

Atlanta is facing a squatting crisis worse than any other metro area in the country, with around 1,200 homes being taken over, according to the National Rental Home Council trade group. Homeowners have few options to reclaim their property from unwanted residents as local law enforcement are bound by tenant rights laws. Pursuing a civil case can take many months.

“My advice to the Atlanta property owners would be the same as they would to any property owner,” Shelton said. “First of all, know your laws, know your rights and think safely. This is your house, I understand that, but this is property, and it’s not worth your life.”

He said homeowners can get arrested trying to evict squatters due to the complexity of squatters’ rights laws. He advises people to always first call local law enforcement.

“As soon as law enforcement says there’s nothing we can do, then I would say reach out to me or someone like me because there are alternatives besides spending a year in civil court,” Shelton said.

The California handyman had his first experience removing squatters last year when two women took over his mother’s home in Simi Valley. She’d put up the property for sale following Shelton’s father’s death.

Handyman Flash Shelton captured video of alleged squatters in the driveway of his mother’s home. ( United Handyman Association “Handyman Answers”/YouTube)

After local law enforcement couldn’t help, Shelton spent days dissecting laws around squatters’ rights. He managed to get rid of the women within a day by drafting a lease agreement with his mother designating him the legal resident of the home, then took over the house when the women stepped out one day and barred them from re-entering.

Now he uses his experience to provide squatter removal services for others and has successfully helped several landlords in California reclaim their homes.

“I think it’s just something that is coming to light … and I believe that it’s going to get worse,” Shelton told Fox News. “Squatters’ rights were never intended to allow the takeover of residential maintained properties. So until we make it criminal, it’s just going to keep happening, and people are going to be afraid to rent out or buy.”

In October, a 4,000 square foot, five-bedroom Atlanta home was taken over by squatters who ran an illegal strip club inside on weekends and kept horses on the property, neighbors told WSB-TV. Ultimately, the FBI arrested four people residing in the trashed house.

Another Atlanta resident discovered squatters had broken into her property that she was selling. She said there was prostitution, drug use and $30,000 worth of damage done to her home.

“There’s violence and weapons and not to mention the fact that these houses are turning into drug houses,” Shelton said. “They are bringing that element into these neighborhoods that may not know how to adapt or handle a situation like that.”

“There are safety risks for children, for elderly, for anybody,” he added.

The handyman said the scale of the Atlanta crisis makes it unique.

“Typically, when someone reaches out to me, it’s an individual, one house here or one house there,” he said. “This is like a whole town being overrun.”

But Shelton said if Atlanta homeowners call him for help, he’ll handle it the same way he does in all his squatter cases.

“I would meet with the local law enforcement, talk to them about the situation, about what I’m going to do, show them the lease,” he said. “And I would ask them to do the one thing that they’re allowed to do when it comes to squatters … to be on the premises to maintain safety.”

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