HOUSTON, Texas -- A Texas homeowner is extremely upset because she is locked out of her own home by a group of trespassers.
Linda Giang and her husband own a house in Meyerland, Houston. It is listed for rent for $3,600 a month. However, when our sister station, ABC13, went with Giang to look at the house on Thursday, we could not get in. All the locks in the home had been changed.
"They locked me out of my own property," said a clearly exasperated Giang. "That's crazy!"
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Two weeks ago, the Meyerland HOA sent her a letter saying she needed to clear off the leaves on her driveway. Giang called her lawn company and drove to the house with her mother to check on what needed to be done. When they opened the door and went inside, they were shocked to find people living there.
"I had the keys with me and walked in and discovered a family of five living in there. And she says she has a lease contract and actually emailed me the lease contract," Giang said.
Giang sent the so-called "contract" to ABC13. The contract does not list Giang nor her husband as landlords. Rather, it lists a third person who has no relation to the ownership of the home. The "contract" also has the name of the four people who say they are authorized to live there, including a woman by the name of Tamisha Bey, who is also the name on the email account.
"They broke into my house. They're trespassing. That should be a criminal trespass. They're violating my privacy. This is my property," Giang said.
Giang and her neighbors have called Houston police and the Precinct 5 deputy constable's office. Both agencies told the frustrated neighbors and Giang it is a civil matter.
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On Wednesday, at least four or five people were seen on home security video coming out of the house and speaking with Pct. 5 deputies, who left without issuing tickets nor warnings.
In addition, ABC13 has viewed security video showing locksmiths coming to change the locks on the house last Sunday, again, without authorization by Giang or her husband, whose names are listed in real estate records as the rightful owners of the house.
During our Eyewitness News evening broadcast, a woman came out of the home saying she didn't know "what's going on" and that she and her kids moved in from California to "start a new life."
She also claims she paid $6,000 to rent the property. When asked who she paid that money to, the woman said it was a "realtor."
"I'm not trespassing. I have a lease, and I paid $6,000," she said.
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Attorney Brian Cweren, who specializes in eviction cases, says this is not a civil eviction case, and that patrol officers may be misunderstanding the law. He says there is clear evidence these people broke into the house and have no rental agreement. Therefore, it shouldn't be treated as a civil matter.
"I don't think we need to evict someone who's clearly a trespasser," Cweren said. "If you look at different factors, this person went in by force, there's signs of forced entry, there's no rental history, there's no discussion of rental history between the actual landlord and the person claiming to be a tenant."
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The trespassers are feeling pretty confident. There is a Lexus parked in the garage. Most rooms have air mattresses, and the kitchen has food and drink products.
"If somebody steals your vehicle, then the police would come out and catch them and say, 'You're the thief. We're going to put you in jail.' Why can't they do the same for the house?" Giang, who has filed eviction paperwork, said. However, she is hoping law enforcement re-examines her complaint. "What regulations (are) there to protect homeowners from this kind of thing happening? I never knew this kind of thing could happen!"
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