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ABC13's years of Houston-area squatter stories leads to first steps in Austin to bolster laws

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ABC13's years of Houston-area squatter stories leads to first steps in Austin to bolster laws


HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The sound of construction equipment at a house on the 6300 block of Costa Mesa is music to the ears of long-time neighbor Jethro Cooper.

The southwest Houston house sat empty for years, and a mix of teenagers after school, squatters, and a fire left the home as a community eyesore.

“Thank you for your effort in trying to bring it to their attention,” Cooper told ABC13 on Tuesday, about two weeks after Eyewitness News first noted problems with the house. “Now, since you brought it to their attention, they’re doing something about it.”

SEE MORE: Houston homes taken over by squatters leave owners, neighbors frustrated by legalities

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However, Cooper knows one repair project on this house is insufficient to solve the more significant problem of homes in bad shape or occupied by squatters proliferating neighborhoods.

“We need help,” he said, noting that efforts to get the house torn down have gone nowhere, and chasing out drug users and others who may squat in the house offered temporary relief.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, promised, “We’re going to put this all together and fix it.”

Bettencourt is leading the Texas Senate’s initiative to improve the state’s squatter laws.

Generally speaking, squatter situations in Texas are considered civil matters, and it is challenging to get squatters out of a home without going through the tedious eviction process. In addition, Texas has strong property rights laws, so demolishing abandoned or dilapidated homes is also a prolonged problem.

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Bettencourt said he has seen reports of these issues across the state, including the cases ABC13 highlighted over the past year.

“I’ve seen horror stories about squatting – some of your good work – all across the state. So, we’re bringing everyone in to talk about what we can do to stop squatting,” he said.

On Wednesday, Bettencourt is holding a hearing in Austin with an eye on passing bills next year to make it easier to push out squatters by increasing criminal penalties and giving law enforcement more tools.

“It’s just part of the times, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. It shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s illegal, and we’re going to make it a lot more illegal once we get bills passed in the next legislative session,” he said.

“I think anything to help the person who is the victim is needed,” Riana Sherman, one of the squatting victims ABC13 first profiled in 2023, said. “When our situation happened, we called this person, we called that person for help, and nobody was able to help because the person who was squatting had a lease that was not a real lease.”

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Sherman and her family were under contract to buy a house in Houston’s Meyerland area but had to pull out because squatters moved in and stayed.

She said her children were traumatized, and she lost thousands of dollars in the process.

“Am I hopeful? I always try to see the good in situations. I always like to be hopeful,” Sherman said, reacting to the possibility of new laws passing.

The Texas Legislature will convene next January. ABC13 will keep you updated on whether the state’s squatter laws will be refreshed to address the problem plaguing homeowners.

For news updates, follow Miya Shay on Facebook, X and Instagram.

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Woman claims trespassers moved into her Meyerland rental home and changed her locks

The Meyerland homeowner reached out to ABC13 extremely frustrated, saying a family of five is refusing to leave her rental home after changing its locks.

Copyright © 2024 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.





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Austin, TX

A Texas trip for Timbers as they face Austin FC midweek | PTFC

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A Texas trip for Timbers as they face Austin FC midweek | PTFC


In Portland’s 16th match of the season, they take on Austin in a Western Conference showdown. Head coach Josh Wolff has Austin comfortably in the Western Conference top-5 and their recent form has been an intriguing development after starting the 2024 campaign winless in their first five game (0-2-3). Since then, they have turned it around, catapulting up the standings and amassing a 6-2-3 record over that span.

Designated Player Sebastian Driussi continues to lead the ATX attack and has recorded six goal involvements thus far in 2024 (5g, 1a). Forwards Jader Obrian (3g, 2a) and Diego Rubio (3g) have complemented Driussi and defensive midfielder Daniel Pereira has kept their transition play under control as he leads the team in interceptions per 90 minutes (1.4). Austin’s backline has been putting in work, reflected in their recent form. Centerbacks Matt Hedges and Brendan Hines-Ike have been exceptional, with Hedges leading the team in clearances per game (5.4) and Hines-Ike showing his offensive prowess in their last match, scoring the game-tying goal for the Texan club. Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver currently leads the league in saves per game (4.5) and goals prevented (6.1).

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Austin, TX

Get real-time Texas primary runoff election results for key Austin area races

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Get real-time Texas primary runoff election results for key Austin area races


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The holdover races from the March 5 election will finally be decided on Tuesday, and we will have real-time results.

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Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for Texas’ runoff election, which includes races in which one candidate did not receive at least half of the vote. Only a small number of races are being voted on, but they’re important ones.

Wondering what the results are right away? Keep checking this page for up-to-date results as polls close.

2024 Texas runoff election updates: What to know as voting begins in the Austin area

Real-time election results for Travis, Bastrop, Hays and Williamson counties

More: How the Texas House speakership is on the line in a GOP primary runoff election Tuesday

What’s on the ballot for the May 28 runoff election?

Travis County

  • Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals District, Place 2 (Democratic runoff)
  • United States Representative, District 35 (Republican runoff)
    • Michael Rodriguez
    • Steven Wright

Bastrop County

  • Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals District, Place 2 (Democratic runoff)
  • County Commissioner, Precinct No. 1 (Republican runoff)
    • Dominica McGinnis
    • Butch Carmack
  • Justice of the Peace, Precinct No. 2 – Unexpired Term (Republican runoff)
    • Ty McDonald
    • Zachary Carter

Hays County

  • United States Representative, District 35 (Republican runoff)
    • Michael Rodriguez
    • Steven Wright

Williamson County

  • Member, State Board of Education, District 10 (Republican runoff)
  • United States Representative, District 31 (Democratic runoff)
    • Stuart Whitlow
    • Brian Walbridge
  • Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals District, Place 2 (Democratic runoff)

More: Texas Republicans open their convention as they seek to motivate base ahead of election



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Austin, TX

One person killed, another critically injured in crash

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One person killed, another critically injured in crash


SALADO, Texas (KWTX) – Texas DPS Troopers responded to a report of a major crash involving a pickup truck and a truck tractor semi-trailer on Friday, May 24.

Troopers say a Ford F-250 pickup truck, operated by a unnamed 27-year-old male out of Austin, Texas, was traveling southbound on Interstate 35 near the 284-mile marker in Salado.

According to the lead Trooper investigating the crash, an unoccupied Kenworth truck tractor semi-trailer was legally parked on the improved shoulder due to mechanical failure. 

The Ford failed to drive in a single lane and collided with the Kenworth.

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A rear seat passenger identified as 24-year-old Byron Lopez Lima, of Austin, Texas, was pronounced deceased on scene by Justice of the Peace Coleman.

A 20-year-old front seat passenger was transported to Baylor Scott and White in critical condition.

The crash report is active and open.



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