JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Holes in the walls, ripped-out cabinets, dish-washing machine damage and even a stolen washer and dryer.
Co-owners Patti Peeples and Dawn Tiura told News4JAX on Tuesday they are dealing with the outcomes of having their Hogan’s Creek home occupied illegally for more than 40 days.
“We called our attorney to see what our rights were. And he indicated that this had progressed now to grand theft and a criminal matter,” Peeples said.
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The owners said they believe the squatting began in March, a short time after a tenant moved out.
“I had sent a handyman over here to repair some minor items. And when he went up to the house, he saw that there was a pitbull’s mother with 10 to 14 small puppies on the sunroom porch. And at that point, I came over to investigate what was going on,” Peeples said.
That is when Peeples realized someone was living in the home. Two women in the home claimed they had a lease.
According to the police report, one of the women said they found the property on Zillow and signed a rental lease. On Tuesday morning the squatters were finally evicted from the home.
Now the owners are filing criminal charges.
″This has been a 40-plus day process that we have been unable to take repossession of a home that we own by squatters who broke in and inhabited our home and then destroyed it,” Peeples said.
News4JAX spoke to an attorney who is not associated with this case about the situation.
Curtis Fallgatter said the squatters committed a number of crimes.
“One, of course, is the malicious mischief,” he said. “Anything that involves damage more than $1,000 is a felony below that it’s a misdemeanor, but based on what you’re telling me, it sounds like there’s more than $1,000 worth of damage, that’s a felony, you got video proof of it.”
Fallgatter said the other crime is an “act of theft.”
“They actually stole the housing accommodations of that property that is specifically prohibited under the theft statute under Florida law,” he said.
Fallgatter said situations like this are rare.
Peeples and Tiura said they estimate about $15,000 to $20,000 worth of damages.