I spent my Sunday dealing with squatters with a toddler. Lol

18 Replies

How was my Sunday you ask??

I currently have a flip or rent property in Philly (whichever comes first)

My agent goes by this morning and lockbox is gone. He calls me and asks if I’ve been down there since I am from NYC (I’m in town 3x a week). My mind starts to go on a million I am thinking maybe a squatter, maybe an agent left the lockbox inside when they were showing the house. I was with family so my agent says he will call all agents he’s dealt with and find out and when it gets darker he’s going to check the house to see if lights are on. It’s about 6pm when he calls and says lights are on in the house and when I knocked someone opened the door and said they rented it. Rented it from who?? How?? My agent isn’t aware and I am not aware of this. My husband (whose my partner) calls his two cousins and makes his way down to Philly...2 hours later he’s on FaceTime with me and there’s a family of 3 with a babyboy about 4 years old living in our flip, sleeping on the furniture that’s being used for staging, they moved in yesterday!!!! My husband went down with all documents needed to prove we own it and his 2 cousins just in case.

They call the cops before attempting to get in the house and give a heads up of what is about to happened. Once inside the 2 girls start giving this sob story about being scammed by an agent who rented the house here and show a receipt ( hand written note) trying to prove their bogus story. My husband and his cousins are not hearing it, while I am on FaceTime with him yelling as well. I was beyond livid,cops finally come, we both prove we own the house. They head in and it legit took an hour to get these ppl out , while they are crying saying they’ve been scammed, if we can allow them to stay until morning.

Finally after giving names and ids (they didn’t get arrested because of that silly receipt they had) down comes the baby boy about 4 years old woken up from his sleep on my carpet with Sleepy eyes looking all confused and my heart broke. I don’t understand why people would risk their freedom and safety, doing things like this with a kid. It saddens me especially when we just celebrated thanksgiving 2017, it broke my heart (having one myself)

Anyways the house was not trashed and locks have been changed. I was so stressed but something told me a kid was inside even before the guys got in.

In this game you have to take the good with the bad. I can’t dwell on this considering some have had way worse issues. I stayed on budget with this house, it’s on the market, return is good either way. Telling myself this allowed my husband and I to stay calm. This is how I spent my Sunday.

Happy thanksgiving weekend.

Just be glad they didn't require an eviction. In FL, yes an eviction could be required. Same thing happened to a PM I know. He went to meet new tenants with keys and someone had move in a week earlier! They were scammed...had paid rent and moved in entire family including furniture. 

This is happening a lot in Philly.  You are lucky they left.  The fact that they did means they probably were the victims and not the scammer.  Usually you get stuck paying cash for keys.  The Philadelphia Police can legally do nothing.  Once they show the fake lease, it's a civil matter and not a criminal matter.  The scammers know this and will usually bring up the idea of cash for keys.  I haven't heard of a single person getting arrested for it yet.  Something has to change or this will continue.

They probably were scammed. Sounds like it, anyway. I have read a lot of people getting scammed like this from CL ads. Those lock boxes are so simple to break to get the combination. All you need is a soda can. I think I would have paid for a hotel for them for one night since there was a baby involved, let them get a goods night rest before figuring out their next move. But yes, it's very good that you got them out. Here in my state, you have to go through regular evictions. 

The biggest problem dealing with squatters is when you involve the police, or the squatters involve the police.

Always best to move quickly and take direct action before they can make a case. The secret is getting them physically out of the property and change the locks before the authorities show up. At that point they have less leverage.

@John Thedford

Boy am I glad I didn’t require one. It’s crazy how these things happen and our system is so screwed up we don’t even have leverage once a lease is showed.

She had a hand written note stating she paid $420 with no address or name on it. I believe they were in fact the scammers and do this all the time.

@Kevin Delaney

A few buddies of mine who also invest in Philly have this happen to them in every other flip they have and they do pay them to leave. That’s insaneeeeee!!!

My husband refused to pay them considering how rude she was coming off. He was nice enough not to pick their things up and place them outside.

What broke his heart was the baby but we are parents and it’s more upsetting to see people risk their child’s life. He told her she should be ashamed of herself. The whole situation was shady, she kept changing her story every time she repeated it.


@Elaine Fawcett

That’s insane in your state.... it’s crazy how they can get off. I don’t believe she was the victim, the way she kept changing her story we all believe they do this as a profession.

I will no longer have a lockbox on the property and the realtor has to go every time with the other agent to show the house.

@Thomas S.

Noted. Thank you! We had called the cops to alert them of what was about to happen and then once they opened the door we called again.

It was horrible but I’m glad the house was not trashed. They looked like professionals in this and the sad part is the kid.

Lesson learned about the lockbox and getting a security system we can take to all properties after it’s sold or rented.

@April Molina

I would be thanking your lucky stars that the police intervened !!

Most of the time even in landlord friendly states such as Texas the will consider it a civil matter and you would be forced to file an eviction

How did they get the combo to obtain access ?

@Elaine Fawcett Unfortunately that happens over here in Oregon too. People post ads on CL claiming to be renting out the property and take advantage of renters' excitement of lower deposit/monthly rent. I hosted an open house and someone came by claiming to be in a 5 day conversation with the owner of the property. She was given a lot of false information in order for the potential renter to give up a lot of her real information. It was very clear that she was the one scammed. I'm sure @April Molina and her family could tell if the squatters were actually the scammers or not though. No one would believe that a handwritten note was their actual rental agreement so I am sure they were just trying to get a little money to be evicted or just wanted a place to stay for a couple days. Glad you got them out of there though! Like other people have said, we just have to take the good with the bad when it comes to real estate investing. 

#1 Use a realtor that uses an electronic lockbox if they have those in your area.  That way no one can get in with just a combo.   I see too many people give them out....forget to lock up etc.   Never use a spin box.

#2. Use a realtor that uses an appointment service like CSS.  You get text and email and phone call if you want of who is going in, what time, what company, their contact info.

#3. Get a drop cam....that will send you photos/video when someone is in the house.   You do have to have power and some kind of internet connection.  Maybe piggyback on the house next door for a small fee.

#4.  Find a friendly neighbor.  I normally find the curious guy/gal and give them my card.  #1 I am networking...#2 I'm getting the nosey neighbor to call me when they see someone going in the house.

#5.  I've never tried it, but you perhaps could lock the water meter or the electric meter or set up some kind of alert to show change in use.

#6.  I get calls like this all the time from renters.....and they always want to fight me that it is a SCAM.   I've never done it, but might make sense to put some notices in the house, taped to a window, the door, a flyer outside or something like that that states....THIS HOUSE IS NOT FOR RENT.....it is only for sale.   Don't pay a deposit or rent to anyone trying to rent or lease it to you.  For questions call the OWNER at: xxx.

#7...set up google alert for the address, so sometimes you can see it being advertised... check craigslist and Zillow periodically.

#8 If you think the renter was legit and legitimately scammed, see if you can figure out the numbers, address, payment method, and advertisement.... file criminal charges with the police.  You too were damaged, so they should file on your behalf, even if the renter/tenant wont do it.

#9 check and see if the water and electric provider have some kind of scam lockdown like a credit freeze that would lock the account from being turned on without your permission.

Sorry this has happened to you.  Fairly common scam.

One thing perhaps you can do as well is go when they are not there.  Change the locks.  They must be broken if your key doesn't work....RIGHT.   You can leave any required notice, but that may scare them away.   Then you can deliver the new key in person and outwit them.   I'll just wait here by the door while you get your stuff.  Police are on the way.

Originally posted by @Jacob Wathen :

 The one thing that makes me think they were scammed is that they already had a handwritten note at the ready. Most criminals are dumb enough to think we're dumb enough to believe their stories. The fact they already had a note makes me think they either a) thought someone would come by and they'd be ready, or b) were given the note by a scammer. I tend to default to criminals are dumb and lazy. But either way, the outcome is the same. Get them out ASAP or they will become problems... 

Originally posted by @April Molina :

Go with your gut instinct... it's your best ally in these situations. Only one time I didn't go with my gut and I got in trouble. (Bad credit, I let them get a cosigner that owned property... should have said no like I always do) Good plan, having no lockbox - but that other lockbox posted above sounded secure... I am just happy for you that you got them out or we'd be seeing a different type of post on here :) 

@Darshan Patel    Sometimes it can depend on what language you use with the police officers, the people in the house and the situation and the officers take on the situation.  You might refer to it as trespassing.....  when you're talking to the police saying I need assistance removing criminal trespassers from my house.   You set the scene that it is criminal (and not civil) and that a crime has been committed and that you expect criminal charges to be filed.   That's your take on the situation and there is no evidence to support any other situation.   Maybe you get a rookie, maybe you plant the seed in the mind of the officer that it is criminal.    Best time to make that happen...later at night or weekends...when the rookies work.   If you get a really experienced officer and they don't like doing paperwork or getting confrontational, then they might try to convince you that it is "civil" matter and you need to evict.   You don't want that.   Neither one of you is a judge...and don't know what a judge would decide...so to me it is your position that it is criminal and a judge can decide that later, you just need them out of the house.   I'm guessing most are not bold enough to sit there and try to figure out if they're going to stake their ground on going to jail.

Now if they have been scammed....that might be another story....but you can still try your best with your side of the story.   SCAM typically works like this....you post listing for sale on internet somewhere.  SCAMMER steals the photos, makes their own listing...typically about 1/2 the price of normal rent and with some key words that turn people on...like pets allowed, no pet deposit, maybe no deposit, just 1st month's rent....something like that to make it attractive.  When people call on that ad, they tell them they are out of town, just drive by the house, peek in the windows, if you like it call back, email me your app with all your personal info on it, and Western Union me the 1st month's rent.  We'll mail the keys to you.   Boom they're in and never knew what happened to them until you show up telling them to get out....they're trespassing.

You could also try burglary charge, but if the house was vacant that might be tough.  If you have copper thefts in the area or appliances thefts, you might could convince the police it is burglary, but that's going to be a tougher battle to fight.   Lots of variables depending perhaps how long they've been there, are the utilities on and in who's name?   Do they have a lot of stuff in the house, or bare basics.  Can you trash their stuff in one trip or did they move in with movers and a truck...stuff like that.

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