Legal Fight for Owner in Charlotte Squatting Case

CHARLOTTE, NC — An empty house. A fake lease. And now an exhausting legal battle for one Charlotte home owner.

Squatting continues to plague Mecklenburg County.

The legal term for squatting is “adverse possession”. It can be extremely difficult to win back control of your property when it happens.

Imagine this, you find a nice home, in a neighborhood you like, and you move in; only to find out the person you’re renting it from is not the owner.

On the other side of the coin, you own this home. You send someone out to try and sell it, only to find out there’s someone living in it.

Situations like this, many times, are a soap opera. And, often, there is no clear ending.

“Apparently, someone had broke into her lock box and started renting, printed up a lease, and started renting the home,” says Charlotte attorney Shawntae Crews.

Crews is the attorney for the homeowner, who lives out of state. According to the lease the woman living in the house provided, that someone was Alvin Stout, a man with a long criminal record in Mecklenburg County, including recent charges for drug possession and maintaining a dwelling to sell drugs.

CMPD officer John Frisk says people are finding ways to get past the lock boxes on these homes.

“People are able to get into these lock boxes by just paying a service fee, a monthly service fee,” says Frisk. “Unauthorized people are able to utilize them.”

Andrea Archie and her two daughters are living in the North Charlotte home. She didn’t want to appear on camera, but did tell me a man in her old neighborhood told about the house, took her there and opened the door with a key.

She says she moved in during January, paid more than a thousand dollars in rent and deposit, and had the utilities turned on in her name.

Crews went to small claims court to file an eviction, but found out it’s not that easy.

“She’s not the landlord, and they’re not tenants,” says Crews. “So they really had no jurisdiction over the case.”

Archie told me she has no place to go, and will just let this drama play out in the system.

Crews says Archie knows the lease is fraudulent, but still won’t leave.

“It’s starting to appear as though they know that this is a grey area of the law, and they’re using it to their advantage,” says the attorney. “Much to the disadvantage of my client.”

Crews is now trying civil trespassing; filing injunctions to get the squatters off her clients’ property. If Archie contests those injunctions, the process could take months.