Homeowner issues dire warning after ‘scarring’ ordeal with squatter: ‘It could be your story tomorrow’

An Oregon woman says their world was turned upside down when squatters showed up at their Maryland rental property and lived rent-free for 8 months as she tried to evict them.

An Oregon woman fought for eight months to evict squatters who took over her Maryland rental property and lived rent-free for months with nothing more than a claim he had a lease.

Carol Park said it’s still hard to even talk about what she went through as she desperately tried to get them out of the home through the legal system while the squatter stayed put.

“Obviously this has been a tremendously scarring experience” Park told Fox News Digital. “Every time I talk about it, it just kind of rips open those wounds again.”

The eight-month ordeal ruined an existing agreement with a legitimate tenant and left her home filled with junk and her bank account sapped after a litany of “horrible expenses,” she told Fox News Digital.

Park told Fox News Digital the process has forced her family to incur a litany of “horrible expenses.”

“We had to pay for the electrician to get the power meter reinstated which was thousands of dollars and now we’re discovering, it’s an old house, that the siding is ripping off underneath where the power meter is and so now we’re going to have to replace a piece of siding and probably have re-do the electrical I don’t know,” Park said. 

“So it’s just every part of this is just stupid and horrible.”

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Maryland squatter

Debris left by squatters inside Carol Park’s Maryland home. (Carol Park)

Park received an unusual phone call from the property manager of her Maryland rental property last July asking if she had asked someone to come over and mow the lawn.

Park, who was building a sheep farm with her husband Sean since he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2017, told the property manager that she had made no such request and soon realized that she was one of many victims of nationwide squatting problem that has intensified over the last several years.

The property manager went to the home accompanied by police and found a man named Ramone who claimed that someone at a nearby homeless shelter had leased the property to him. In fact, the Parks had a three-year lease with a military member set to effect in a few weeks.

No explanation was given as to how Ramone entered the locked house.

Police in Prince George’s County told Ramone to leave over the weekend despite his claim he had been scammed, according to the property manager’s account.

The weekend came and went and not only did Ramone and a female companion decline to leave the premises but they claimed they spent all their money on the dubious lease agreement. They offered to leave only if Park’s family would “reimburse” them for the $4,500 they claimed to have spent, the homeowner claimed.

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Park told Fox News Digital she believed Ramone’s demand amounts to extortion and she instead attempted to remedy the issue through the legal system. That meant breaking the lease with incoming tenants, and heading to evict Ramone, his companion, and ultimately a dog that were living on the property.

Police in Maryland, and in many other states across the country, aren’t authorized to remove someone from a home during squatting disputes and the cases instead must be dealt with through the court system, That can take months or even years assuming the squatter shows up to court.

“If somebody is living in a home and saying ‘hey, I signed a lease, I’m paying rent, I have a right to be here,’ whether or not that’s true the police hear that story then they hear a story of somebody who’s not living there and saying ‘this is my place these people don’t belong here,’ the police officer can’t make that legal determination,” Jim Burling, vice president of legal affairs for Pacific Legal Foundation, told Fox News Digital last month.

“I think it’s a fairly big problem and I think it’s pretty hard to avoid,” Burling added.

When Parks, through her property manager, filed an unlawful detainer with Prince George’s County over the “unknown” occupant they were told a court date wouldn’t be scheduled for months so at the recommendation from police the family filed a criminal extortion charge against the occupant.

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Maryland squatter

Carol Park says it took eight months to finally remove squatters from her rental home (Carol Park)

As the standoff dragged on and Park navigated the legal process from thousands of miles away, her mortgage payments on the property continued to come due without the underpinning of rent checks. 

“Our bank account was tanked,” Park said of the experience, explaining that her husband was working 12-hour days as a trucker and she was working full-time using her breaks to follow legal leads and talk to lawyers while also running the sheep farm in Oregon.

The case went into November as Ramone missed court dates and hearings for the extortion case and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Even after an arrest warrant was finally signed, Parks was told by her lawyer the sheriff’s office had to wait until the “weather was right” for an eviction. 

Park said her “jaw dropped” when she was told to expect a March timelines for Ramone’s removal which meant that he had successfully lived on her property for eight months rent free.

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Rental property

Rental property in Prince George’s County, Maryland (Google Earth)

Park also told Fox News Digital that she believed Ramone was arrested sometime in December and released in January for another unrelated crime.

The locked were eventually changed and the squatters removed but the nightmare wasn’t over, Park said. The family discovered the house was full of junk and in disrepair.

Then, on the very next day, squatters returned to the house and were spotted inspecting belongings that had been put in the yard for a junk hauler to remove. It wasn’t clear if Ramone was among the returning squatters.

After being told by the junk hauler, Park said she called 911 to report a crime in progress by people trespassing at her property and when police came “hours later” the squatters used the excuse that they had been given a lease.

Park says the police explained to her she didn’t have the proper eviction paperwork, despite her lawyer’s affirmation that she did, and that the matter would again have to go through the courts. The junk hauler told Park that the squatters stayed on the property and listened to music in their vehicle in the driveway and said that he overheard a squatter brag to a police officer that the locksmith “hadn’t done a very good job” changing the locks.

Park said she frantically called 911 and every law enforcement agency she could but was told that police cannot remove someone from a residence they live in despite the fact an eviction had been served the day before.

Over the next few days, Park watched helplessly as the squatters removed the power meter from the house and moved a dead vehicle to the front of the house.

HANDYMAN TURNS THE TABLES ON SQUATTERS WHO TOOK OVER HIS MOTHER’S HOUSE

Finally, on March 5, the property manager was able to enter the home with police and take back control of the property.

While the squatters have finally been removed, the process is not fully resolved as the Park family must now travel back to Maryland to appear as victim witnesses in order for the extortion case against Ramone in court.

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“It could be your story tomorrow,” Park warned other homeowners across the country. “We have lost a $90,000 rental contract and thousands of dollars of expenses on this property due to this squatter situation. 

“We have had to forego many niceties and luxuries, despite working long hours, and have had to indefinitely postpone a business start-up and much-needed improvements in our own residence,” Park added. “We live a modest life and this situation affects us and our children and our farm in Oregon. It also affects our neighbors in Maryland, who are forced to live next to criminals and sordid squatters because no one cares. The police told us that ‘situations like this are actually pretty common around here, we see this sort of thing a lot.’”

Park said more needs to be done to improve coordination between local police and sheriff’s department, streamlining the legal system, which includes legislation both local and federal.

“A coordinated approach and a proactive, regional game-plan is necessary between all law enforcement, utilities, and property management/realty professionals to combat career squatters,” Park said. 

“Homeowners need solid information as soon as the problem is identified about what to do, what not to do, and what resources are available to them. Fast, supportive action by law enforcement and laws to support that action will assist homeowners in securing their property and minimizing their losses.”

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