A handyman turned the tables on suspected squatters who took over his mother’s Northern California home.
“If they could take a house, then I could take a house,” Flash Shelton of the United Handyman Association said in a YouTube video. “They’re the squatter, and they have rights. Well, then, if I become the squatter on the squatter, then I should have rights, right?”
Shelton‘s video detailing his quest to reclaim the California home has garnered more than two million views on YouTube.
Shelton said his father recently passed away, and his mother couldn’t live in the house on her own. So they put it up for rent.
A woman who identified herself as a prison guard asked to rent the house, according to Shelton, but she didn’t have any money or credit, so he said no. Then he learned a truckload of furniture and other belongings had been delivered to the home.
“She said that it was delivered by accident and she was getting rid of it,” Shelton said.
Instead, the handyman started hearing from realtors that the house was full of furniture and people. Neighbors said the lights were on at night. Shelton called the police, but like many Americans facing squatters, the answer he got was unhelpful.
“They basically said, ‘You know, I’m sorry, but we can’t enter the house, and it looks like they’re living there. So you need to go through the courts,'” Shelton recalled law enforcement telling him.
Homeowners across the nation have been embroiled in costly legal battles to try to remove squatters, with no resolution in sight.
“Even though you’re at your house, and you’re paying the mortgage … at some point, squatters feel like they have more rights than you, so they don’t have the incentive to leave until a judge tells them to,” he said. “And that could take months, six months, it could take years. I don’t know. I didn’t want to take that chance.”
So he hatched a plan. Shelton wrote up a lease agreement between himself and his mother designating Shelton as the legal resident of the home.
He loaded some guns and his dog into his Jeep and set off for California, arriving at 4 a.m. to find cars in the driveway. Shelton said he parked down the street and waited until everyone left the house several hours later.
Shelton let himself in using the keys to the house. The video shows a bed and other furniture sitting inside the home as well as boxes of belongings and what appears to be a California Department of Corrections uniform.
Shelton said he started installing security cameras when two women pulled up to the house.
“I’m really sorry about all this,” one of the women can be heard saying in a video Shelton recorded. “It’s a nightmare and beyond.”
Shelton told the woman that if she didn’t have everything out by midnight, he’d have it hauled away. The alleged squatters missed the deadline, but were gone by three, Shelton said.
“I think just the fact that I was there was enough,” he said. “It was actually fun to do it. I won’t lie about that. I’m glad it was successful.”
But Shelton cautioned against following his lead in a second video.
“Not everyone should walk through that door not knowing what you’re gonna find,” he said. “It’s not always going to be peaceful like that.”