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Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Return of the Squatters

I posted part one of this real-life drama (such as it is) last week. Here’s the rest of the story …

It turns out that there was a teeny, tiny problem with the eviction of the squatters.

They only kicked out one of them.

The squatters had mentioned a name that had appeared on the property history, and at first, my friend did not recognize the name. The squatters claimed to have been sold the property in a tax sale. I started to wonder if the squatters were the victims of a scam. At length, my friend remembered the name from an investor they were working with.

Well, they used her name, which they probably got from the property history. Wish that info was not so public.

We wish you could move back in!!

The county has all property information readily available online, so I was able to look at all recent transactions, plus their tax history.

And guess what? All their taxes were paid. I looked at all recent tax sales for the county; that property address was not listed.

We switched to the phone at this point, and during that conversation I learned that the investor they were working with had been handling the tax payments. I guess that was part of the investment. The last transaction on the house was a quit claim deed, and my friend explained that she had to track that woman down–who no longer worked for the investor–to get her to file the quit-claim so my friend’s deed-in-lieu could go through.

So my theory that the squatters were the innocent victims of a scam was out the window.

In the meantime, we had other lingering questions:

Question: was that woman there alone? There were two of them.

Friend replied that she was alone.

There was a guy involved too. Getting description …

I passed along the description.

There was some confusing comings and goings. My friend wanted me to find out what they were doing, so I sent her this:

… I was concerned when they only removed the woman from the house. I have not gone around the house to look at what they’re doing but when I got home there was a car parked in front of the driveway with the tailgate opened.

Due to the position of the garage I have to be very overt if I want to check out exactly what they’re doing.

It’s actually perfectly positioned for nefarious activities.

I said this because the house has a courtyard entry and is faced away from the rest of the neighborhood. All you can see from our house is a side window, and a bathroom door. To continue:

They backed up their car all the way up to the garage so nobody can look at the license plate.

The window units made my husband and my sister wonder if they were brewing drugs in there.

I admit that our imaginations have run rampant!

Now as we were going through this, several people told us that squatters usually don’t want to cause trouble and the neighborhood usually has nothing to fear from them. However, it is very disconcerting to live next door to people when you know they broke at least one law in order to live there. And that law was breaking & entering! And then right away, they were breaking the HOA covenants by installing window units. So yes, fodder for the imagination, indeed.

They keep the slats (of the blinds) positioned in the bedroom so they can see out. And there’s a light on in there. Possibly they left the lights on when they left.

Wednesday:

From my husband: If she was arrested it was not for long because the squatter is back at the house.

They notified the bank. Again. A few days later, on Saturday:

Hi again. We have not seen the squatters for days, but they did leave their AC units behind. My husband wonders if they intend to come back. Did the banks change the locks?

My friend had no way of finding out until Monday. However:

Sunday:

The squatters are still there. The guy from the bank came by and said that someone was definitely still in the house. The key that the bank has does not open the doors. He said he was walking around the house to try the back door and he saw someone looking through the curtains. The guy from the bank came by to talk to my husband. That’s how we know this.

Monday:

We were able to verify what the guy from the bank saw. There was a light on in the bathroom and later it was off.

From my husband: Someone from the bank was to inspect the property and was unable to because the residence was believed to be occupied. I confirmed to him that the squatters had not vacated the property.

After this point, the bank was telling my friends that they would have to file a formal eviction notice in order to get them to vacate the property. They also only gave my friends 10 days to get them out of the house or they would cancel the pending deed-in-lieu.

I know a good real estate lawyer if you need one.

I sent my friend the lawyer’s contact info. I have sent this guy a lot of business. But it turned out that my friend didn’t need them. Another friend told them a shortcut and the next plan was that a property preservation company was going to work together with the police to get the squatters out and secure the house.

The plywood guy and locksmith are here.

She was waiting for the police at a nearby park, but she showed up shortly afterward. Together we watched as the police and the property preservation agents secured the property. No one was coming out of the house, so the police kicked in one of the AC units, and the property preservation agent–who was armed–went into the house. They had a dog. They established that there was no one in the house.

The cop was rather annoyed and demanded to know why we said there was someone in the house. My husband told them that as far as we knew, they were there.

The PP agents spent some time afterward securing the house. They left the blinds open on the window that faced our house, because they knew we were vigilant. They also left a light on, and put a lockbox on the front door. I am sure there are other countermeasures in the house that I don’t know about.

Although the squatters were gone, they left a house full of furniture. The PP agent also said that the garage had a lot of furniture as well. Which all–I guess–would be sold along with the house. As far as I know, it is all still there.

Lately, there’s been some people by to clean things up. They left a mess for trash collection. No one has attempted to move in again. We’re still waiting and hoping that we get actual neighbors there some day.

Guest Post – Katherine Givens, Historical Romance Author

I’m a sucker for a sweet historical romance, and I also have been toying with the idea of accepting author guests again, so when Katherine Givens approached me about doing a guest post, I didn’t say no. I did warn her that the remnants of my audience consists of a few awesome folk who have morphed into true friends who have stuck with me through thick and thin. Unsurprisingly, this appealed to her.

Her book, In Her Dreams, looks very fun, and I will probably read it soon.

I love this from her bio:

Katherine Givens is a museum employee with a secret. Few know the truth of her greatest passion, but those closest to her know she loves to write historical romances… Alright, maybe more than a few people know she is a writer. Anyone who will listen to her can glean this from a conversation.

I can totally relate! Here she is.

~*~

Katherine GivensNot all ideas come with ease. Sometimes a manuscript is started, but later abandoned when your inner editor deems the story a failure. Other times your muse turns her back, her ray’s of creativity no longer shining upon your face. Frustration builds and builds, which only adds to the hindrance.

The accepted phrase for this artistic disease is “writer’s block.” It is the author’s plague. A story’s greatest enemy. Breaching the wall writer’s block builds is often difficult. There are tactics to move past it, but these don’t always remedy the situation. In several articles I’ve read, one should listen to music, write in new surroundings, or just walk away from the manuscript.

Sometimes this advice works, other times it fails. Miserably. The frustration continues, and the muse keeps her back turned. But once writer’s block is conquered, a treasure trove might await. This was my experience before In Her Dreams came to fruition.1013-in-her-dreams_1400

One day about a year ago, I was in a rut. A writing rut. I bounced ideas around in my head, but I shot each one down. Only one image stuck in my head during those days, popping up like unwanted weeds. Emerald eyes with amber drops floating in the lonely pools.

The concept was very vague, but my ability to conjure up ideas was as arid as the Sahara. So, I sat before my laptop with my iPod blaring. I started with those haunting emerald eyes, and the opening scene of In Her Dreams fell into place. Rain had come to the Sahara.

With every clack of my laptop’s keys, a sentence was strung. With every sentence, a story formed. Three weeks later, In Her Dreams was finished. Writing the story was one of the most amusing and enjoyable experiences of my life. The witty lines of the characters. The devotion of two sisters towards one another, no matter the draws of jealousy and sadness. The underlying message regarding dreams, and how love conquers all. All this came with ease once my writer’s block was conquered.

A couple months passed before my manuscript was sold to Harlequin Australia’s imprint Escape Publishing. The process of preparing In Her Dreams for publication was the highlight of my summer. If I was down for any number of personal reasons, all I had to do was think on my little gem. My dash of good fortune.

Even though I sold the manuscript some time ago, the magic has yet to wear off. In fact, with the continuous growth of my writing, the spell I am under continues to thicken. And my horrid cases of writer’s block are lessening.

http://katherinegivens1.wordpress.com/.
She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Ever have an idea like Katherine’s that just seems to persist?

The Squatters Next Door

The house next door has been abandoned for a long time. The original homeowners were friends of ours, but they left the house when an investor wanted to purchase their house. Trouble was, the investor tried to pressure the lender into agreeing to a shortsale, and the lender didn’t budge. So the house has sat empty for the last three years.

A few times, my husband mowed their lawn, but when we moved to a lawn service we did not want to pay for that. The homeowner sent someone out to mow every now and then, as did the investor, who had taken over the property tax payments (if not the mortgage). So when another person came out to mow, we thought nothing of it.

But the next day, a Budget rental truck showed up. And some alterations were made.

I texted my friend:

Hi. Did your house sell? Someone installed a window a/c unit.

She said no, there should not be anyone there.

Ugh. You have a squatter! Chuck saw at least three window units. I’ll have Chuck take pics.

She thanked me and said her husband will contact the bank. I added that Chuck called the police.

The police came and it was a rather unbelievable visit. The cop actually brought the squatters over to my husband to “meet his new neighbors”, kindly informing the squatters as to the identity of those who ratted on them. The squatters mentioned the name of the woman who had sold them the house and were apparently very convincing. The police left.

This began a fourteen day period during which my husband only left the house once.

Since I know a little something about the mortgage process, I knew any sale would be a matter of public record. I went on the county website and looked up the property information for the street address. The last entry was a “quit claim deed” and the name of the woman on it was the same name given by the squatters. Trouble was, my friends’ names were on the deed, not the names of the squatters. Something was fishy.

Update. If it was a quit claim deed, then it has already gone thru. The cop says the occupants are the owners.

My friend complained that the bank never contacted them.

She contacted me later to say that the bank confirmed that the house had not sold, and that they were, indeed, squatters. They also told my friend that there would have to be a formal eviction to get them out, and that they have rights.

Well, they managed to convince the cops that they are the actual owners. AT&T was here installing the cable and phone.
So you probably better call the cops on your own and let them know that you are the owners. Because they are moving very quickly to establish possession.
This should be grand theft house.

At this point, there was a lot of speculation as to what was going on. I wondered if they were the victims of a scam. Then, she said she called the cops and they were going to meet her at a nearby park to evict them from the house. I texted:

Just curious–have you looked at the property info at the county website and examined all recent transactions?
They said someone named ___ ___ sold them the property on the courthouse steps in some kind of tax sale.

There was a bunch more confusion and speculation. The squatters used just enough of the truth to muddle the matter. I looked up quit claim deeds and saw that they are indeed used for tax sales, but I thought it fishy that there was nothing on the property with their names on it.

Then, my friend texted me to say that the woman was a squatter and that this was their second offense. The cops kicked them out.

Wow. We thought their behavior was awfully suspicious.
Air conditioners in windows. Slats propped up seemingly to keep our house in view. Always backing in.

We thought that was the end of it.

We thought wrong.

To Be Continued …

What do you think? Could you ever do anything so audacious?

Upcoming This Week – Guest Author and Squatters

I am reviving my Sunday updates this week because I actually have something to report.

First will be part one of my squatter story. It turned out to be a story long enough for two posts because it actually is a story with two parts. I have part one ready to go for tomorrow.

Also this week I am tentatively starting to have author guests again. You guys know I enjoy a good historical romance, and her latest novel has a all the hallmarks of a sweet romance. Just for fun, here’s the blurb without the title, and with all names removed. You can probably Google a few sentences if you are interested:

___ ___ is a woman on the verge of spinsterhood — until the prim and proper Duke of ___ steps in. Her family is pleased with the match, but the duke is not the passionate man ___ craves. Her heart belongs to an alluring, golden-haired gentleman, perfect in every way…except one: he doesn’t exist.

[her sister] is everything a proper, well-brought-up woman should be. She knows her place and understands society’s expectations — which include not being jealous of her sister and not coveting her sister’s suitor. But how can she bear the heartache of watching the only man she loves marry not only her sister, but a woman who doesn’t see past his exterior to the man he is beneath?

This post will be on Wednesday.

And for fun, I’ll leave you with a snip from East of Yesterday. Some of you may remember the days before this particular little modern convenience.

One night in mid-June, during a rare spell of dry weather, Mike spied a dim light on Dora’s back porch, and realized she was sitting out there. With a grin, he thought of an excuse to go outside. He went outside and picked up a trash can where paper wrappings had been accumulating—wax paper from the bread and meat, packing paper used by grocers, plus the odd carton and box—and took it outside to the burning can.

He had been startled to discover—although he should not have been—that trash collection did not exist in the early 20s. Glass milk bottles were reused and paper waste was burned. Food waste was the most difficult to dispose of—dogs were recommended. Otherwise, you simply generated as little trash as possible, kept it in cans with tight-fitting lids, and made frequent trips to the dump. Mike was aghast to learn that the local dump was in fact, the local swamp.

And so once a week or so, he burned the paper trash. The neighbors did the same thing. The smoke had an unexpected benefit of keeping mosquitoes at bay.

He glanced over at Dora as she sat on her back porch, a smoky candle burning next to her. He waved. “Evening Mrs. Latham.”

“Good evening,” she said.

Act nonchalant, he told himself. He walked up to the burning can, dumped in the papers,  stuffed them in, struck a match, and lit it. They caught and began to burn rapidly. Dora came up on her side of the fence.

If this brings back memories, then anecdotes are always welcome! I’ll post my own in the comments.

Random Thoughts on Trivial Things

I hate it when I say I’ll do something, and then I forget to do it. A while back, I said I’d post about our experience with squatters living next door, and I never did. So I’ll work on that.

~*~

I have 3 drafts in my Posts folder. One is an unfinished review of the entire Prospero’s Daughter series–which I loved. I started that damned post in 2012. This is inexcusable.

Another is about ditching Gmail–which I never did manage to do, so I never finished it. The third is about stick-to-it-iveness, which I almost finished when it started sounding familiar. I searched my blog and sure enough, I already wrote about the subject once at length. So now I want to retool it as stick-to-it-tivness, part 2.

I’ve been blogging a longtime. Repetitiveness is a constant danger.

~*~

I met six nuns the other night. And the amazing thing is they were all under 30 (or so they looked it), they were all in floor-length habits and veils, and they were all thin and pretty.

Why amazing? When I was a kid, young nuns were scarce, they were usually chubby, and they had ditched their habits.

~*~

I’ve been sewing! My daughter has had a persistent interest in sewing, so I broke down and got us a sewing machine. So far, I’ve been sewing an apron to match one I made for her a few years ago, but I think our next project will be veteran’s vests for my husband and me. We can set all out patches on it, and pin on all the pins and ribbons. Including the ones I got from RomVets.

~*~

I have six email accounts. I really think that’s too many. Here’s what I use them for:

  • Personal Gmail account
  • Old personal account at Yahoo, which now accumulates junk. So much junk it is impractical to use the account for anything else. I need to just delete it.
  • Blogging Gmail account
  • tianevitt.com account
  • work account
  • Outlook.com account, which I tried to move into from my personal Gmail account, but which is just not good enough.

Help!

~*~

Still here? You get a cookie. I did say this would be trivial. Therefore …

~*~

… I shall leave you with a profound thought. According to BrainyQuote, today’s Quote of the Day is “Be intent of the perfection of the present day” said by William Law. Although I am writing this tonight, on Monday, I shall schedule it for tomorrow, which is Tuesday, your today, and which, indeed, will have the fresh potential to be perfect. If you click the link, bear in mind that it will take you to today’s Quote of the Day, which will be my present tomorrow. So scroll down for yesterday’s (today’s) quote and be sure to enjoy today’s (tomorrow’s) quote while you are there.

My Writing Nook … Finally

I now have a writing nook. Check it out:

My Writing Nook

For a long time, the place I wrote was in the marginof the family room. It was considerably distraction-prone by the TV and by life going on in general. And all this time we had this beautiful bay window, which basically served as a mancave.

After reading an article in this month’s RWA magazine about having a writing space, I decided–before I even finished reading the article–that I had to ask my husband for the bay window. He, being the terrific guy he is, promptly cleared out for me. There is still the gun footlocker by the little wooden chair, but I am taking up the whole bay window, so this is enough, I think.

And so I have the recliner, a small table for my lamp and my powerstrip, a small, elegant 1 drawer table (with a drawer that is just large enough for an office tray), an ottoman for the guest chair (and for my computer when I am not using it), and the guest chair.

When I sat down tonight, I felt so refined and posh that I put in a Schubert quintet to listen to as I write. Something I never was able to do in the living room.

Ahh … and now, I think I shall write.