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Justice

When people move in and refuse to move out, what do you do?


Squatters' rights laws are some of the most bizarrely misused legal realities we have, and something no one seems to have a good answer for. Most of us have heard stories of someone moving into a vacant home and just living there, without anyone's permission and without paying rent, and somehow this is a legal question mark until the courts sort it out.

According to The National Desk, squatters' rights are a carryover from British property law and were created to ensure that abandoned property could be used and to protect occupants from being kicked out without proper notice. It should go without saying that squatter law isn't meant to allow someone to just take over someone else's property, but sometimes that's exactly what happens.

It's what happend to Flash Shelton's mother when she put her house up for rent after her husband passed away. A woman contacted her with interest in the property, only she wanted to do repairs and look after the home instead of paying rent. Before anyone knew it, she had furniture delivered (which she later said was accidental) and set up camp, despite Shelton's mom not agreeing to the arrangement.


But since the woman had expressed her intention and already moved in, the matter was out of police hands, as Shelton found out when he tried to contact the local sheriff.

“They said, ‘I’m sorry but we can’t enter the house, and it looks like they’re living there, so you need to go through the courts',” he shared in a YouTube video.

Shelton rightfully didn't want the expense of a court battle, so he took matters into his own hands—not with violence, but with logic. He had his mom lease the home to him, and then told the squatter that she had to move everything out because he was moving things in.

“If they can take a house, I can take a house," he said.

He was calm and clear about her having to get everything out within the day or he would have people come and take it, and thankfully, she didn't put up a big fight.

That experience made him realize how squatter law can be abused, but that there's a faster system for removing a squatter than to go through the court system. If a squatter can move in and force a homeowner to take them to court to prove they are living there illegally, then he could simply move in alongside the squatter, putting the squatter in the position of having to take the homeowner to court instead.

"The legal process is so slow, and at some point when they're in there, you're going to feel like they have more rights than you do and that's how you're going to be treated. So even though you it's your house and you're paying the mortgage or whatever, at some point squatters feel like they have more rights than you, so they don't have an incentive to leave until a judge tells them to, until they're actually ordered to, and that could take months."

After successfully removing the squatters in his mother's house, Shelton has been tackling similar squatter situations for other homeowners in California, earning him the nickname "The Squatter Hunter."

"All I'm doing is becoming a squatter and flipping this process on them," Shelton told CBS News. "I figured if they could take a house, I could take a house."

According to CBS, he's successfully removed a dozen squatters in the past year. ""I'm not going in and I'm not hurting anyone," he said. "I'm not kicking them out, I'm not throwing them out." He's literally just moving in himself, setting up cameras, and then creating small annoyances until the squatters get fed up enough to move out.

California isn't the only state that has seen issues with squatters. There are squatter stories from all over the U.S. of people moving into a property and refusing to leave without a court order, tying owners up in lengthy, expensive legal battles.

Shelton even has a Change.org petition to try to get squatter laws changed to "make squatting in residential maintained homes criminal." Making squatting illegal "will shift the burden of proof onto the squatter and make the crime punishable with restitution an option for damages," the the petition states.

Watch Shelton share his personal story:

This article originally appeared on 4.5.24

Democracy

Under French law, businesses can’t email employees after work hours

In France, there’s a rule against emailing employees on the weekend.

Image via Pixabay.

France is famous for protecting its employees.

Nothing can ruin a relaxing weekend or holiday like an email from the office. Even if there's no need to take action until Monday, the unwanted intrusion of professional life can really suck the joy out of a Sunday afternoon barbecue.

That's why the country that's famous for giving its employees 30 days off a year and 16 weeks of full-paid family leave in May 2016 made itself even cooler with its new "right to disconnect" rule.


In France, if you're a company of 50 employees or more, you cannot email an employee after typical work hours. The labor law amendment has come about because studies show that in the digital age, it's increasingly difficult for people to distance themselves from the workplace during their off hours.

This new provision allows people to get the full advantage of their time off.

culture, France, labor laws, emails

France Kiss GIF by Robert E Blackmon.

Giphy by Robert E. Blackmon.

"All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant," Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC. "Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash — like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails — they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down."

The rule stipulates that companies must negotiate policies that limit the spillover of work into their employees' private lives. Although there are no penalties for violations, companies are to establish "charters of good conduct" that specify the times which employees are free from being digitally connected to their workplaces.

This right to disconnect amendment was passed as part of a controversial French labor law that some say will weaken unions and enhance employee job insecurity. The digital disconnect amendment was the one part of the law that's been viewed favorably by the French public.

This article originally appeared on 11.12.17

via Steve Hostetter

A comedian defends himself against a heckler police officer.

Some people just haven't gotten the memo: You really don't want to heckle comedian Steve Hofstetter. He's become one of my favorite stand-up acts both because he's just funny but also because of his brilliant ways of shutting down hecklers and other rude patrons who show up for his live act.

In this case, Hofstetter was in the middle of a bit where he quipped, "I don't like people." It was part of a larger joke recalling how he'd had a bad interaction with a police officer but that he was "still alive" because he was a white male.


Hofstetter was talking about how most cops like the joke but others get offended. His point was that if you get offended by a joke about cops killing innocent people, you're probably not a good cop. Just as he was finishing up the joke, a person in the front of the audience got up. When Hofstetter politely asked the guy to stop talking so loudly, the man said, "I'm going."

He then followed up, telling Hofstetter, "You disrespected me, so I'll disrespect you."

The man then went on a tirade, stealing a drink from another customer and getting into an argument with the club's bouncers. He also got into a shouting match with another patron before finally stepping outside.

Hofstetter tried to lighten the mood, joking, "I think he's mad that the Meghan Trainor concert was canceled last night. Maybe he's all about the bass, I don't know."

He then disclosed to the audience that the heckler had actually approached him before the show, asking Hofstetter to roast some of the friends the man had shown up with, which he refused to do.

That's when one of the heckler's companions told the comedian that the heckler was actually himself a cop. And that the man the heckler was shouting down was actually another cop who was embarrassed by his bad behavior.

"I know to drive slowly when I leave," Hofstetter joked.

But just to make it clear that he wasn't out to give all cops a hard time, the comedian noted that he actually thinks most cops are good people; he just wants them to speak up more when a bad cop does something wrong, comparing it to how comedians call out each other all the time when one of them crosses the line. And that's something we should all be able to get behind without the need for a hilarious punchline.


This article originally appeared on 12.12.16

Democracy

Single mom perfectly explains to Congress why the U.S. poverty line needs a total rehaul

"I'm not asking you to apologize for your privilege but I'm asking you to see past it."

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

Nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population lives in poverty. That's more than one in ten Americans—and the percent is even higher for children.

If you're not up on the current numbers, the federal poverty line is $12,760 for an individuals and $26,200 for a family of four. If those annual incomes sound abysmally low, it's because they are. And incredibly, the Trump administration has proposed lowering the poverty line further, which would make more poor Americans ineligible for needed assistance.


However, debates over the poverty line don't even capture the full extent of Americans struggling to make ends meet. For many people, living above the poverty line is actually worse. These are the folks who make too much to qualify for aid programs but not enough to actually get by—a situation millions of working American families find themselves stuck in.

Amy Jo Hutchison is a single mother of two living in West Virginia, and a community organizer for West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families and Our Future West Virginia. She has also lived in poverty and been part of the working poor herself. In an impassioned speech, she spoke to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about what poverty really looks like for working families—and even called out Congress for being completely out of touch with what it takes for a family to live on while they're spending $40,000 a year on office furniture.

Watch Hutchison's testimony here (transcript included below):

Ms. Hutchison Testimony on Proposed Changes to the Poverty Line Calculation

"I'm here to help you better understand poverty because poverty is my lived experience. And I'm also here to acknowledge the biased beliefs that poor people are lazy and the poverty is their fault. But how do I make you understand things like working full-time for $10 an hour is only about $19,000 a year, even though it's well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour?

I want to tell you about a single mom I met who was working at a gas station. She was promoted to manager within 30 days. She had to report her new income the DHHR within 60 days. Her rent bumped from $475 to $950 a month, she lost her SNAP benefits and her family's health insurance, so she did what poor people are forced to do all the time. She resigned her promotion and went back to working part-time, just so she and her family could survive.

Another single mom I know encouraged her kids to get jobs. For her DHHR review she had to claim their income as well. She lost her SNAP benefits and her insurance, so she weaned herself off of her blood pressure medicines because she—working full-time in a bank and part-time at a shop on the weekends—couldn't afford to buy them. Eventually the girls quit their jobs because their part-time fast food income was literally killing their mother.

You see the thing is children aren't going to escape poverty as long as they're relying on a head of household who is poor. Poverty rolls off the backs of parents, right onto the shoulders of our children, despite how hard we try.

I can tell you about my own with food insecurity the nights I went to bed hungry so my kids could have seconds, and I was employed full time as a Head Start teacher. I can tell you about being above the poverty guideline, nursing my gallbladder with essential oils and prayer, chewing on cloves and eating ibuprofen like they're Tic Tacs because I don't have health insurance and I can't afford a dentist. I have two jobs and a bachelor's degree, and I struggle to make ends meet.

The federal poverty guidelines say that I'm not poor, but I cashed in a jar full of change the other night so my daughter could attend a high school band competition with her band. I can't go grocery shopping without a calculator. I had to decide which bills not to pay to be here in this room today. Believe me, I've pulled myself up by the bootstraps so many damn times that I've ripped them off.

The current poverty guidelines are ridiculously out of touch. The poverty line for a family of three is $21,720. Where I live, because of the oil and gas boom, a 3-bedroom home runs for $1,200 a month. So if I made $22,000 a year, which could disqualify me from assistance, I would have $8000 left to raise two children and myself on. And yet the poverty guidelines wouldn't classify me as poor.

I Googled 'congressman salary' the other day and according to Senate gov the salary for Senators representatives and delegates is $174,000 a year so a year of work for you is the equivalent of almost four years of work for me. I'm $24,000 above the federal poverty guidelines definition of poor. It would take nine people working full-time for a year at $10 an hour to match y'all's salary. I also read that each senator has authorized $40,000 dollars for state office furniture and furnishings, and this amount is increased each year to reflect inflation.

That $40,000 a year for furniture is $360 more than the federal poverty guidelines for a family of seven, and yet here I am begging you on behalf of the 15 million children living in poverty in the United States—on behalf of the one in three kids under the age of five and nearly 100,000 children in my state of West Virginia living in poverty—to not change anything about these federal poverty guidelines until you can make them relevant and reflect what poverty really looks like today.

You have a $40,000 dollar furniture allotment. West Virginia has a median income of $43,000 and some change. People are working full-time and are hungry. Kids are about to be kicked off the free and reduced lunch rolls because of changes y'all want to make to SNAP, even though 62 percent of West Virginia SNAP recipients are families with children—the very same children who cannot take a part-time job because their parents will die without insurance. People are working full-time in this country for very little money.


They're not poor enough to get help. They don't make enough to get by. They're working while their rationing their insulin and their skipping their meds because they can't afford food and healthcare at the same time.

So shame on you. Shame on you, and shame on me, and shame on each and every one of us who haven't rattled the windows of these buildings with cries of outrage at a government that thinks their office furniture is worthy of $40,000 a year and families and children aren't.

I'm not asking you to apologize for your privilege but I'm asking you to see past it. There are 46 million Americans living in poverty doing the best they know how with what they have and we, in defense of children and families, cannot accept anything less from our very own government."

In addition to Hutchison's testimony, a coalition of 26 patient organizations, including the American Cancer Society Action Network, American Heart Association, and United Way, wrote a joint letter opposing the proposed lowering of the poverty line, stating:

"The current Official Poverty Measure (OPM) is based on an old formula that already does not fully capture those living in poverty and does not accurately reflect basic household expenses for families, including by underestimating child care and housing expenses. The proposed changes to the inflation calculation would reduce the annual adjustments to the poverty measure and therefore may exacerbate existing weaknesses, putting vulnerable Americans – including those with serious and chronic diseases – at great risk. Further lowering the poverty line would also give policymakers and the public less credible information about the number and characteristics of Americans living in poverty."


This article originally appeared on 03.10.20