Actor Randy Quaid, 59, and his wife Evi, 47, were arrested on burglary charges
Saturday after they were caught squatting at the guest house of one of their former residences in Montecito, Calif.
A representative for the new owner was checking on the residence mid-afternoon, after the security alarm had gone off earlier in the day, and noticed that someone had been living in the guest house, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said
When police first arrived, no one was present. But when they returned that evening to the home on the 1300 block of East Mountain Drive, they encountered the Quaids, who said that they have owned the property since the 1990s. However, the representative of the current owner showed documentation that the client had purchased the property in 2007 from the person the Quaids had sold it to several years earlier.
Whether it's the Quaids or some blond little girl, there are ways to get rid of or take precautions against squatters before they eat your porridge, sit in your rocking chair or sleep in your bed.
1. Change the locks
When you move into a home, the first thing you should do is change the locks. Even if you trust the previous homeowners not to come back, you just never know whom they may have lent keys to over the years. Replacing entire tumblers and dead bolts could cost $20 to $50 per lock, but a cheaper route would be to just to have the locks re-keyed on site, or unscrew them and take them in to a hardware store or local locksmith. Once you have the new key, never leave it hidden outside. Burglars can figure out all the best hiding places.
Also, you might consider taping a note for the first six months, on the edge of the door above the latch, alerting a locksmith that "John Doe no longer lives here." There are stories of former residents using a home's address on their not-yet-updated driver's license
to fool a locksmith into believing that it is still their residence. (They do it with a simple, "Whoops, I locked myself out," and a flash of the state ID.)
2. Update the security system
If the home comes with a security system when you move in, change the access code immediately, and call the security service to officially transfer or register the service in your name. Don't forget to update the password to one of your own. You wouldn't want a past owner to trigger the alarm, only to gain entry by providing the fail-safe password they previously put into effect. Create your own. Also consider adding a web-enabled security system that allows you to view your home through the Internet while you're away.
3. Secure the windows
Lock all the windows in your home, including those upstairs. Also reduce the chance of easy entry through upper level windows by cutting away tree limbs near second-story windows and removing ladders or trash cans that can be used to climb on to gain entry.
4. Stop mail and newspaper delivery
If you're going to be away for an extended period of time, have someone retrieve your newspapers or your mail or put them on hold. In some areas it might take the post office up to 14 days to put the notice in effect, but for quicker service, or if you remember only after you've left town, you can go to the USPS online Hold Mail Service
, which stops your mail within 24 hours of the request.
5. Have the house appear lived in
Turn your telephone ringer down or off, so no one outside can hear any repeated rings. Also don't create a voicemail or answering machine message stating that you're away. Use a timer to turn lights on and off at varying times of the day. Some timers allow for different times on different days, this way no one can watch your home noticing that the lights come on at the same time every day. Also, don't forget to arrange for snow removal or to have your lawn mowed regularly, and outdoor plants watered.
6. Don't announce plans on social media sites
Do not post messages or updates on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, implying or saying that you will be out of town. Wait until you return to post pictures of your vacation
7. Have friends check on the home
Have relatives or neighbors check on the home periodically to make sure there has not been any activity or disturbances.
8. File a complaint with the police
If you find that there has been suspicious activity in the home, contact the police. In the case of the Quaids, a citizen's arrest complaint was filed against the couple, who deputies believe caused more than $5,000 in damages to the guest house. Bail was set for $50,000 each.
See homes for sale in Montecito, CA.
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