Chairman Bettencourt and Local Government Committee Heard Squatting Horror Stories

Austin, TX – Wednesday, May 15th, the Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by Senator Paul Bettencourt held a hearing to discuss securing Texas against “Squatters”. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick assigned this interim charge before the committee ahead of the 2025 legislative session. During the hearing, the Senate heard invited and public testimonials from victims of squatters and listened to proposed solutions.

“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,” said Senator Bettencourt.

David Howard, Executive Director of The National Rental Home Council stated they surveyed their members in both Atlanta and Dallas/Ft. Worth. Their survey concluded around 1,200 squatting cases in Atlanta and 475 cases in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for example. COH Councilman Fred Flickinger testified that there are many squatters and informer over 65 property tax deferred payment homes in his district. Cpt. Jim Sharmon, Harris County Constable Pct. 4, stated there are 100’s of cases a year in just 1 of the 8 Harris County Constable Precincts. “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.

“We, the families who are raising the next American generation, need protection,” said Yudith Mendez during her testimony, as she blamed San Antonio Police Department for not offering more support and coming to her and her husband’s defense when trying to get their home back from squatters. “It’s extremely alarming this happened to them,” said Harris County Constable Cpt. Daniel Garza.

Tracy Jaso of the Texas Apartment Association and a Property Manager for complexes in San Antonio told her horror story of being confronted by a squatter when she was doing a routine inspection of her empty units. This squatter later came back brandishing a weapon and finally the San Antonio Police Department arrested him. “I’ve only been here for about 20 minutes, and I’m outraged,” said Sen. Lois Kolkhorst said at the hearing.

Squatters also turned Terri Boyette’s, Mesquite, Texas home into a “drug den” and sold her possessions at a yard sale while she was caring for her sick mother in another state. 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.

After Ms. Boyette’s testimony, Senator West promptly took Ms. Boyette during the hearing, 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 that call 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.