ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – There have been several recent reports in Abilene regarding squatters, and some residents have wondered if this situation has gotten worse in the Key City. KTAB/KRBC spoke with a local Justice of the Peace to gain insight on this issue. 

The Claystone Apartments, a northside Abilene home, and now, local business owner Josh Rader’s property are just a few of the recent locations for squatters. 

Rader is speaking out about his recent experience with squatters on his property. 

“Legitimately, within a two-day span it just popped up. It was a barbecue grill, two tents, and some laid out tarps,” says Rader. 

Judge Mike McAuliffe, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1, Place 1 deals with evictions, and he says there is no way to measure if there have been more cases recently because there are several different people that handle these cases. However, he believes there is a reason why people have been noticing more incidents recently – and that reason has to do with the weather. 

“It’ll be warm one day and down to the 40’s the next,” says Judge McAuliffe. “That’s pretty chilly. I think it’s just opportunity somebody may see a vacant house and think, ‘Well, I can get it there tonight and try to get some semblance of warmth.'” 

Judge McAuliffe also gave insight about getting squatters off of a landlord’s property, which is more complicated than one might think. Typically, a landlord must provide a 3-day notice before filing an eviction at the Justice of the Peace office. However, when dealing with squatters, the owner does not have to wait 3 days. 

There is another part of this process, though, that may be shocking. 

“They still have a right to appeal it, so that’s another 5 days,” says Judge McAuliffe. 

Since there is nothing on the eviction that shows the occupant is a squatter, the court has to determine that through evidence. Judge McAuliffe says some tenants can be living somewhere illegally without be considered a squatter, and that is why an occupant being a squatter is determined in court. 

“That’s where I say we go with what the law says, and we aren’t an advocate for either party,” McAuliffe explains. 

Some property owners and business owners, like Rader, say it could be a concern for their business. 

“Having that type of presence is never really good for business,” says Rader. 

However, Rader says he trusts the city to keep it under control.