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Deployed family returns to squatters, HOA getting rent

Family returns from deployment to squatters, HOA getting rent
"We had no idea someone was living in our home and paying our HOA rent," says Doug Tupper.

A military family returns to their vacant Hillsborough County home to discover squatters had moved in, and the HOA has been cashing in on it.

"We had no idea someone was living in our home and paying our HOA rent," says Doug Tupper.

A viewer reached out to 10 News trying to get help for this family. It's a new twist to the ongoing squatter problem that's plaguing many local neighborhoods. This time it hit a military family and their home on Camden Woods Drive in Hillsborough County.

The HOA's property management company found a way to force the squatters to pay up without the homeowner ever knowing.

The Tupper family believes squatters may have broken in through the garage, then changed the locks, and the surprises just kept coming for the homeowners.

"This is the mess we walked into here," says Doug Tupper.

Doug and Lori Tupper shot video as they found the filth inside their home. The family of six deployed overseas with the Air Force in 2011, leaving the home vacant, because of issues with Chinese drywall. The family insists the house is unsafe, even for these squatters.

"Unfortunately they had a lot of children here, too, so they were living in this condition and living and breathing infected Chinese drywall," says Doug Tupper.

Come to find out, the homeowners association's property manager, Sentry, knew that the squatters had moved in. They provided the company with a bogus lease.

LEARN MORE:Read about the Demand for Rent law

"For the HOA to never let anybody know, really should be criminal," Doug Tupper says.

A receipt shows the HOA has been charging the squatters $1,000 a month since December.

"We get no communication from the HOA that someone is living in the house, and they're collecting rent on the house? That's just another shock to the system," says Tupper.

And it's legal under Florida's Demand for Rent law, because the Tupper's are behind on their HOA dues.

Sentry's president tells me once the $6,000 dollars in back dues and legal fees are paid up, the money would have been forwarded to the homeowner.

"It doesn't authorize them to move someone into the house. It doesn't authorize them to evict someone either. It just allows them to approach them and demand the rent," says Detective Larry McKinnon with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

The Tuppers had deputies trespass the woman and kids from the home. The sheriff's office is now investigating how they got into the home in the first place. McKinnon says its important for homeowners to have someone, like a neighbor, watching a house while it's vacant.