News Channel 8 has been reporting for the past few days about squatters living in the home of Pasco County veteran–who is stationed in Hawaii after a tour in Afghanistan–that refused to vacate the property. Mr. Sharkey, the veteran who owns the property was quoted as saying that the squatters were “criminals, and I want them out.” He also went on to say that “they [the criminals] have more rights than I do.”
In an update to the story this morning, the squatters were sent an eviction notice yesterday (Wednesday) which gave them 72 hours to leave the premises. According to speculation from News Channel 8, the squatters may have misunderstood the order and believed it meant eviction within 24 hours. The squatters have since left the house.
In a further twist, showing that the story doesn’t always come out until the dust settles and the hype dies down, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (despite the news, this home is not in New Port Richey, but rather Pasco County) released a statement today confirming for us just why this happened and why the Sheriff couldn’t do anything. In that statement, the Sheriff’s Office revealed that the squatters have been in the house since February 2013 and that they were only first called to the house on New Year’s Eve 2013 whereupon they arrested Mr. Ortiz (the squatter) on an outstanding warrant.
The fact that Mr. Sharkey felt the need to complain to a local news station is grossly over-represented. He could have started simple eviction proceedings, or have been more careful about to whom he gave power of attorney of the property. This is really poor reporting on the part of News Channel 8.
Sand Soldiers of America donated legal services to the Sharkeys in resolution of the issue.
Read the full Pasco Sheriff’s statement below:
“For citizens concerned about the recent story about “squatters” in a soldiers home:
The soldier gave power of attorney to a woman to watch the house while he was away. She then supposedly gave these people verbal consent to work on the house to fix it up, possibly even move in, according to the people living there.
They have lived in the house since Feb. 2013, which obviously gives them residency under Florida laws. No one complained for 10 months, until we were called out to the house on New Year’s Eve 2013. The deputy determined it was a civil case, due to the length of time they lived there. We arrested the man for outstanding warrants at that time, but he bonded out.
Although the eviction process was explained at that time, to this day, no one has started the eviction process, even though the people have been living there for 14 months. Had the person with power of attorney started the eviction process at the first sign of trouble, the people would have been out of the home more than a year ago.
Bottom line: Be careful who you give power of attorney to, and ensure that they are capable of carrying out your wishes. Also, always get a signed contract for any legal agreements, especially rental agreements, as the laws are specific in what law enforcement can or cannot do in such cases. We have no way of knowing what was in the verbal agreement, or if there was even a verbal agreement in the first place, but law enforcement cannot just kick people out of homes on someone else’s word. There does not have to be a written contract, verbal consent is permissable for the “renter” to be protected under Florida law.” – Pasco County Sheriff’s Office